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General Information

Luang Prabang is the ancient royal capital of the Kingdom of Lane Xang (one million elephants). It lost its status as the country’s seat of administration when King Sayasetthathirath moved the capital to Vientiane in 1566.

As the ancient home of the Lao monarchy, the town is adorned with magnificent pieces of noble art heritage of the nation. These art heritages are reflected at temples and monasteries, residences of noble men and wealthy families.

With its status as the UNESCO World Heritage Site and preservation policies, Luang Prabang is made to keep the old cultural and architectural heritages and traditional look and atmosphere intact. To some, it is sometimes even felt more of a charming cultural theme park than a real living town, where time seems to stand still. This image reflects the real Laos of ancient time. Nevertheless, its historical heritage is of what Luang Prabang is most proud.

 

Most of the architectural heritages which have become tourist sights nowadays are in the old quarter, on the peninsula bounded by the Mekong and Nam Khane rivers.

After 1975, when the country embarked on a new path of development along the socialist line, the town has evolved through several major periods of development, which see the shift in bustling business atmosphere and liveliness of local livelihood from area to area.

The current prime area of tourism-related businesses lies along Sisavangvong and Sakkarin roads, where major tourist sights of the town concentrate. These include Vat May Souvannaphoumaram temple, the National Museum also known as the former royal palace, Phousi Hill on where the revered Phousi stupa is perched, “Ban Chek” Xiengmouane village where major restaurants, cafés and travel companies are located, Vat Sene Soukharam, and Vat Xiengthong – the most magnificent temple in town at the farthest tip of the peninsular.

This area has become lively since the nineties following the waning of Visoun area plus its neighbouring Mano, which was trendy in the eighties. At the time, the whole town had only a few guesthouses which concentrated in the neighbourhood with a Chinese restaurant offering services for visitors.

Since the past decade, guest houses have sprung up almost in the entire area of Vat That and Hor Sieng, five minutes away on foot to the night market of Luang Prabang.

The night market is a special market organised on Sisavangvong Road since the nineties to promote local handicraft items of both Lao and Hmong ethnic group. It has been very popular among local visitors as well as foreign tourists and a good venue to learn local culture. The majority of vendors can speak English, some can speak French or even Japanese.

An emerging star is the Aham + Aphay area, where bars and pubs as well as foreign restaurants are amassing. Guest houses also make their appearance here, including our Sita-Norasingh Inn. In this neighbourhood, houses in traditional styles are scattered around the foot of the Phousi Hill. The neighbourhood also boasts the green area at the foot of the Phousi Hill and by the Nam Khane River.

The Aham-Aphay area is some ten minutes away on foot from “Ban Chek” (the Chinese quarter) and the night market since it is on the other side of the Phousi hill from the latter (see the map).

“Ban Chek” derives its name from the fact that before 1975 Chinese merchants ran their trade in shophouses in this community.

Luang Prabang is small, and just about everywhere can be reached by foot. So strolling and cycling are possible to see all corners of this tiny town. Getting a map and making your way to the old quarters is a good way to soak up the surroundings and observe the way of living of the local people, and the large monk community. The wonder and magnificence of the ancient temples are apparent at first glance; the gentle and unassuming nature of the locals, will also leave a lasting impression.

 

While in Luang Prabang, the following sights, at least, should not be missed: