Leisurely Luang Prabang

Tham Ting CaveGay Tours and Travel to Luang Prabang

World Heritage treasures surrounded by unspoiled natural wonders! Charm, history, and two great rivers converge in Luang Prabang, one of the most sought-after vacation spots in Southeast Asia. There is so much to do it is hard to decide where to begin. Trekking? A picnic at a spectacular waterfall? Colorful shops and art galleries? Or just waiting for the baguettes to come from the oven. There is even a modest gay scene. Most people hate to leave.

Step back in time as you soak up the ambiance of Luang Prabang

Some compare Luang Prabang to "Chiang Mai of fifty years ago." While there are similarities, Luang Prabang is a leisurely adventure like no other. The former royal capital of Laos, Luang Prabang reposes gracefully on a peninsula on the confluence of the mighty Mekong and peaceful Khan rivers, ringed by emerald mountains, dotted with more than thirty active temples and hundreds of architectural treasures. Daily life and the relaxed pace of Luang Prabang have barely changed in fifty years and will not change easily in the future.

The town has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, which means nothing new can be built and little of the existing architecture can be modified easily, although the local jail was recently converted to a dazzling hotel. Here, each day still begins in the mists of morning, with wandering monks and ethnic tribes-people heading to market, and ends with jovial dinners at magical twilight.

Day One: Climb the Serpent Stairway

Luang Prabang is situated on the banks of the Mekong RiverTransprtation to your hotel on arrival. In the afternoon, your personal guide will lead you on a short introduction to this ancient, royal capital. Climb the Naga (river serpent) Stairway up Phousi Mountain to Wat Paa Huak (your guide may be able to arrange for a key from the Abbot to view the spectacular murals) and Wat Thammothayalan, an active monastery with a lovely view of the Nam Khan river. As you wander around town you'll discover prime examples of 19th century French colonial villas and Lao-style homes. Luang Prabang has a multitude of charming restaurants offering outstanding Lao, French, and international taste treats.

Day Two: A Parade of Monks, a Palace, and a Psychedelic Waterfall

Be ready by 6:00 am to catch an unforgettable spectacle as hundreds of Buddhist monks quietly parade single-file around the city collecting food offerings from citizens garbed in Lao traditional dress.

Khuang Sii WaterfallAfter breakfast your guide will lead you on a tour of Luang Prabang's temples and city lanes. Wat Xieng Thong is an architectural treasure trove with structures dating from 1560, spectacular mirrored murals on vividly colored walls, a three story high golden funeral chariot, and unique sacred statuary. Take a break from temple-viewing on Sisavangvong Road, lined with open-air cafes, scrumptious bakeries, busy Internet cafes, and shops. If school is in session you might enjoy visiting the students at the Ecole des Beaux Arts.  You may like to visit the former Royal Palace (no shorts allowed, closed Tuesdays). If you are weary of palaces and temples, another alternative is a trip to the spectacular Khuang Sii Waterfall, on the outskirts of the city. (Please arrange this in advance since it requires a special vehicle.)

Because Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site, nothing new can be built there, so hotel rooms are limited to what currently exists. Consequently, hotels in LP are fully booked during most of the year. We recommend making reservations six to nine months in advance if you plan to travel between 10 December and 10 January.

Luang Prabang is very spiritualDay Three: Statues in a Cave

Depart at 9:00 am for a Keong River boat cruise, 25 kilometers north to Tham Ting Cave, famous for its mystical setting filled with hundreds of Luang Prabang-style standing Buddha statues and animist offerings. Along the way marvel at spectacular scenery and the chance to visit a local village or two specializing in producing Lao rice whiskey, paper, or weaving. Stop for lunch near the mouth of the placid Ou River.  On your way back, visit the recently restored Wat Long Khun, where Lao kings went into spiritual retreat prior to their coronations, or the hilltop temple, Wat Chompet, with its beautiful decor and unobstructed view of Luang Prabang and surrounds.

Day Four: It's over (this time)

Free time until we take you to the airport. Are you sure you want to leave this soon?

Stay longer? Of course you can!

Most people who visit Luang Prabang do not want to leave! There is much more to see and plenty to do here, although a longer stay should be arranged in advance since hotels are usually fully booked. How about a cooking class? We have plenty of options to choose from. And do not miss the opportunity to visit Vientiane.


Purple Dragon pioneered
gay travel to Laos but everyone is welcome on our tours!

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Photos: Gordon Crofoot, Francesco Gonora, Jeffrey Wood