Wat Xieng Thong
Visit Wat Xieng Thong, a Buddhist monastery considered to be the most outstanding in all of Luang Prabang, featuring a classic sim (ordination hall) and meticulous design. Visit the private chambers of one of the top monks and have tea and snacks with him, and chat with him about his life and his beliefs.
Royal Palace Museum
See the Royal Palace Museum, originally built during the French colonial period as a residence for King Sisavang. This fascinating museum features the original royal chambers, paintings depicting traditional Lao life, a throne room, and four of the old royal cars – including an Edsel.
Enjoy a post-prandial stroll through Luang Prabang’s Hmong Night Market, where various hill tribe people sell their textiles and other handmade creations every evening.
Take part in the age-old tradition of making rounds for alms. Awake at sunrise, and meet a procession of monks as they make their way to homes and shops to receive their daily rice, an event of great merit for all Lao people.
Pak Ou Caves
Board a small boat and cruise up the Mekong River to visit the Pak Ou Caves, famed because they are filled with roughly 10,000 small Buddha statues. When an image of Buddha cracks or is damaged, it is bad luck to keep it around, but it cannot be destroyed. For hundreds of years, old Buddhas in Laos have been retired to these caves.
Wat Phou Si
Climb the steep winding stone stairs to the golden Buddhas at Wat Phou Si, which sits on a hilltop at the highest point above Luang Prabang. The views over the city and the Mekong River valley are terrific at sunset.
Visit a traditional Lao house in a nearby village to participate in a hands-on lesson in religious floral arrangement. A local senior village member will introduce you to the spiritual principles involved in creating bouquets for Luang Prabang’s temples, ultimately helping you create a Buddhist offering for a nearby monastery. He will then bring you to the temple and guide you through the ritual of the floral offering.
Join a local family for a traditional Baci ceremonial dinner. The Baci is used to celebrate a special event, such as a marriage, a homecoming, a birth, or one of Laos’s annual festivals, and combines a blessing in the local folk religion with a festive meal. You’ll be served typical Laotian food, a spicy melange of Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisines, served with sticky rice and the ubiquitous local chili paste.
Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center
Visit the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center (TAEC), an independent, non-profit museum dedicated to the ethnic cultures in Laos. The museum displays and sells a number of local handicrafts, and the center as a whole is also involved in research, preservation and documentation of cultural artefacts, outreach and education, and livelihood development.
Luang Prabang Elephant Camp
Visit the Luang Prabang Elephant Camp, situated approximately 45 to 60 minutes outside the city, and go elephant riding (one person plus a professional mahout, or elephant handler, atop each animal). This opportunity is not only a fun ride, but also the opportunity to learn about recent elephant conservation and rehabilitation efforts in Laos.