Luang Prabang, located in the northern part of the country is a popular stop for backpackers traveling through Laos. Built on a peninsula formed by the Mekong and the Nam Kham Rivers, it is surrounded by lush, green mountains and is the first UNESCO World Heritage Site listed in Laos. Whether you spend a couple days or a couple weeks, here are five unique experiences not to miss in Luang Prabang.
1. Participate in Tak Bat
Every morning locals rise early to give alms (tak bat) to the monks and show their appreciation. The monks only eat before sunrise and all the food is donation from the alms they received that morning. I have read about tourists participating in tak bat as being controversial as some in the past were being disrespectful so I was a little hesitant to try. But after having a beautiful conversation with some local Laotians the night before, they encouraged and insisted that I NOT miss out on this experience.
I rose early at 5 am to buy fresh sticky rice from the store on the corner of the street. I was fortunate that the street of the hotel that I was staying on was a street that the monks walked down so I didn’t have to go far. The reception at my hotel provided us with bowls to put our rice in and invited us to kneel next to him in preparation for the alms. The monks will walk by with their alms bowls open and you’ll put your offerings inside. Offerings can be candy, money, or sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves but only if it is fresh. As long as you show respect, I wouldn’t miss this, it was one of the most humbling and gratifying experiences I’ve ever had.
2. Learn Traditional Lao Weaving
Owed by two sisters Mone and Doi from the Katu Tribe, you can sign up for a workshop and learn traditional weaving. The class you choose will depend on which item you want to make. You can choose from a necklace, bookmark, bracelet, headband, belt or scarf and the length and cost of the class depends on which item you choose. I have a girlfriend who learns a sustainable craft or art in every country that she visits and she highly recommends this. Not only was it fun to learn the traditional Lao weaving craft but the sisters were very friendly, inviting, and spoke English very well.
3. Visit a Water Buffalo Dairy Farm
Ever heard of buffalo mozzarella? I have but never knew that the cheese was actually made from a water buffalo! It’s the first and only buffalo dairy farm in Laos and produces all types of cheese like mozzarella and feta and desserts like ice cream and cheese cake along with other dairy products. Visiting this dairy farm gives you the opportunity to get up close and personal with the water buffalos when you feed them and then give them a bath. You’ll also get to try some delicious cheese. There are 3 different tours you can book starting at 50,000 KIP ($6 USD) and they run frequently throughout the day. Plus the proceeds go towards caring for the buffalo which in return provides farmers who rented out their buffalo with an additional income stream. A win win if you ask me. Here is there website if you want to check it out.
4. Drink Cobra Whiskey along the Mekong Delta
This wasn’t my favorite experience but definitely one that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. If you’ve researched South East Asia travel you’ve probably read something about snake whiskey. There is a man in Luang Prabang that makes snake whiskey and he doesn’t just make it with snakes. He uses cobra, other snakes, scorpions, centipedes, and all sorts of creepy crawly things that you probably don’t want to be tasting in your whiskey. With that being said, its something you must try.
5. Swim in natural infinity pools created by a Waterfall
I’m sure you’ve heard of Kuang Si Falls as it’s one of Laos’ most famous sights and for good reason. Located just 45 minutes outside of Luang Prabang sits the powerful waterfall. You can easily spend the day here swimming in the natural infinity pools, jumping off trees, and pretending to be Jane or Tarzan.
I actually came here during the rainy season and it had been raining hard for weeks so I didn’t get to see the pristine, green water and soft, flowing falls like you see in most pictures. Instead the falls were flowing so hard that the pathway up the falls were flooded out and you could barely see the picnic tables jutting out from the area that in the dry season would be a perfect place to have a picnic. Even though I didn’t have the best of luck when it came to the weather, the Kuang Si Waterfalls are a highlight of Laos travel.
If theres any other unique experiences to be had in Luang Prabang, Laos let others know in the comment secton.
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