What to see and do in Laos?
Luang Prabang is too touristic?
How long should you stay in Luang Prabang?
Luang Prabang is a place that practically everyone includes in their itinerary in Laos (for many is also the only city visited in the country).
It’s easy to see why. The City is charming, and there are certainly several reasons to love it and visit it for a few days.
After almost one month in Laos, mainly visiting the untouched north, we felt that Luang Prabang doesn’t really represent the Country and its atmosphere.
So, we decided to talk about the 5 reasons why we didn’t totally fall in love with Luang Prabang.
1- WHY WE DIDN’T FALL IN LOVE WITH LUANG PRABANG: TRADITION IS LOOSING ITS MEANING
To explain this first point we take for example the rite of the TAK BAT: Every morning, at 6am, the streets of the city get busy with hundreds of monks coming out from temples and walking silently to collect the offerings of the faithful.
This is a religious ritual that we have witnessed several times during our trip to Myanmar and we were often hit and by it.
In Luang Prabang the situation is totally different and we got disappointed because this tradition became a touristic event.
In addition to the hundreds of people who try to get really close to the monks in order to take pictures, the aspect that has bothered us the most is that it is not the faithful who bid.
Sitting on the stools, set up along the sidewalks, you see only tourists (especially Chinese and Japanese). The tourists reach the center by minivan, then they, sit on the chairs and get a kit containing sticky rice and sweets for offers, as well as a scarf. Usually the tour is organized by the hotels.
The charm of this rite is completely lost.
2- WHY WE DIDN’T FALL IN LOVE WITH LUANG PRABANG: HIGHER PRICES
Compared to the rest of the country, accommodations costs are higher.
It is impossible to find a room in a guesthouse for less than 100.000 kip and even hostels aren’t as cheap as expected.
We have searched long and wide and then choose the only cheap hostel at the cost of 35.000 kip a bed in a 8 beds dorm. I know that look like a few euros of difference but on long and low budget trips, like ours, they make a difference.
To give an idea, in the rest of the Country with the same amount (70.000 kip in two), we slept in double rooms with private bathroom and definitely more comfortable and clean.
3- WHY WE DIDN’T FALL IN LOVE WITH LUANG PRABANG: THERE’S A TICKET FOR EVERYTHING
Always related to budget, when you visit Luang Prabang you must bear in mind that a ticket is required basically for everything.
The rate looks fixed. 20.000 kip to enter a temple. 20.000 kip to get on the hill of Phou Si, 20.000 kip to visit the waterfall of Kuang Si, 20.000 kip for a tuk-tuk ride from the bus station to the center. Unlike the other towns in the north of Laos, everything has a price and even high if compared to the cost of living in the Country.
4 -WHY WE DIDN’T FALL IN LOVE WITH LUANG PRABANG: THE CROWD
Luang Prabang is perhaps the most touristic place in Laos and for someone is the only point of contact with this Country. That means most people are located here. Attractions in the city are not so many and so it is normal to find crowd and queue everywhere (even at ATM).
One example are the Kuang Si waterfalls. In the pics this may look like a place of peace and tranquility. In rality, it’s frequented by a lot of people and really crowded.
Another example is the night market buffet where it’s often hard to find a seat.
5 -WHY WE DIDN’T FALL IN LOVE WITH LUANG PRABANG: IT’S NOT THE REAL” LAOS
Getting to Luang Prabang after spending a few days in Northern Laos, for us was a real shock.
It seemed to visit a playground for foreign tourists. Trendy coffee, luxury restaurants and even market stalls seemed designed to sell souvenirs to countless tourists.
In the days spent in town we really missed the smile of children screaming “Sabbaïdē” and the most authentic atmosphere of the places outside the city.
Luang Prabang seemed like a place apart from the Country it’s in.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve a visit (Here 5 reasons to love Luang Prabang)
Our advice is to visit it during a trip that also includes the north of the country, to appreciate both sides of this Laos.