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Laos is a small landlocked country, bordered by Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China. It is one of Asia's less explored countries, with two-thirds of its landmass being covered by rugged mountains.

Luang Prabang, is one of the lesser known and beautifully preserved living heritage sites in the world. The peninsula town is located in the north of Laos, 388 kilometers from the capital Vientiane. Formerly the capital of Laos, it has a spiritual soul that many are drawn to and is recognized as a cultural and religious centre for Theravada Buddhism. There are over 30 active temples scattered throughout the peninsula. Groups of saffron-robed monks and novices from age eight to 80 are a common sight at any time of day throughout the town.

The country’s wealth of culture is due in part to its ethnic diversity and Luang Prabang is considered the prize jewel in Lao’s cultural crown. Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995, the small town has benefited from keenly observed preservation regulations and is, today, a destination greatly admired for its unique cultural fusion, for its natural habitat and for its exceptional wealth of sacred and secular architecture. 
 
Unraveling the hidden treasures of this town takes many days. In addition to daily spiritual participation in alms giving rituals, there are a variety of excursions and adventures to enjoy. 
 
These include, among many others, exploring the township on foot or bicycle, visiting a working silk farm and learning the skill of silk dying and weaving, swimming alongside elephants in transparent blue waterfalls, and boat rides along the mystical Mekong River, the 12th longest river in the world. Its source lies in the high plateau of Eastern Tibet from where it flows through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and ends in the South China Sea. Stretching 4,000 kilometers it is the life source of Lao and is referred to by the Lao people as the Mae Nam Kong, meaning ‘Mother Water’. A river cruise allows you to appreciate just how integral this ‘life force’ is to their existence.

history

A tiny mountain kingdom for more than 1,000 years, Luang Prabang is blessed with a legacy of ancient Buddhist temples and French-era colonial villas, & rich history earned it the UNESCO World Heritage status in 1995.

culture

Luang Prabang, meaning literally “Royal Buddha Image”, is a small spiritual town.

history

During the period between the 15th and 19th centuries, wooden monasteries and shrines were constructed, many with gilded features, stuccoes and glistening mosaics. The sacred Wats, or temples, hold several functions in Luang Prabang today. They are used for religious worship, for education and healing, while they become home to young novice monks during their months of spiritual learning. Many of the beautiful Wat compounds have a ‘that’ or stupa that historically enshrined a relic of Buddha, along with the harmoniously synchronized monk’s quarters or ‘kutis’.

As a once remote and landlocked ancient kingdom, then known as Lane Xang, it relied on its sole lifeline, the vast Mekong River. It did, however, have relations with nearby Thailand, Burma, Southern China and Tibet and, in 1828, Laos became a tributary state to Siam. In 1893 it was colonized by the French as part of the Indochinese Union.

The Royal Palace (The National Museum) was known as the Ho Kham, or Golden Palace and is a beautiful blend of the French beaux-arts style and Lao vernacular architecture. This former palace, facing the sacred Mount Phousi, is accessed via an avenue of soaring palm trees off the main street, just minutes from Azerai.

The French brought in a new wave of architecture, building elegant colonial houses and villas in sympathy with the charming traditional Lao home, typically constructed of tropical hardwood or bamboo with high- pitched roofs, verandas and wooden shutters. When UNESCO made Luang Prabang a World Heritage Site in 1995, in order to preserve this unique architectural heritage, most of these buildings were protected and subsequently restored.

Today this fusion of Eastern and Western influences has created a town of exceptional beauty and charm.

culture

Luang Prabang, meaning literally “Royal Buddha Image”, is a small spiritual town populated by monks, locals and international travellers who have chosen to make it their home.

As well as its unique culture, Luang Prabang is exceptional in both its architectural and artistic merit. Both are remarkably well preserved, reflecting the cultural fusion of traditional town dwellings, sacred structures with those of the colonial era.

Hemmed in by the colossal Mekong River on one side and the Nam Khan River on the other, the old town of Luang Prabang emanates an atmosphere of unique spiritual charm and tranquility, as well as being on the pulse of trendy style and celebrated cuisine. There is an under-stated pastel-hued grandeur too, along with a sense of sacred peace.

Its unique blend of culture, developed over centuries, is very much alive today in the many festivals, rituals and customs such as the ancient Buddhist tradition of Tak Bat, where hundreds of monks emerge silently from the town’s temples, during the mist of dawn, and walk the streets in single file in order to collect food laid out by the local people.

There are colourful local markets, small shops selling finely crafted textiles, antiquities, andlocal designer ware. Of particular lure is the night market, which assembles each evening at 5.00pm and slips away without fuss at 11.00pm. Regarded as one of the most authentic night markets in Southeast Asia, you can purchase a myriad of items, including; silk scarves, wall hangings, lanterns, jewelry, clothing, silver, bags, hand-stitched shoes and slippers, bamboo lamps, even Hmong applique blankets; in a softly lit atmosphere, at a good price, with minimal heckling.

The restaurant scene reflects the small town’s blended heritage and includes Southeast Asian fusion, Lao traditional and French-inspired cuisine. There are many restaurants around the peninsula, nestled along the banks of the two rivers,shaded beneath canopies and large trees. There are also relaxed open-sided dining pavilions from which to enjoy the classic eggplant dip with fried Mekong riverweed and a sundowner. While cuisine is now well defined on the peninsula, a couple of eclectic dining and bar venues, oozing with exotic sophistication in tropically lush settings, have joined the circuit in harmonious style.

The charming blend of old and new, of bygone and trendy, of spiritual and creative, can be enjoyed at your own pace. Luang Prabang is regarded as the cultural jewel of Laos, but for many, it is one of the few places across Southern Asia that offers a hint of how Asia might have felt a hundred or so years ago. Visitors and locals describe Luang Prabang as a ‘magical’ place, somewhere to lose oneself and emerge feeling more enriched.
 

travel tips

Tips for travellers to Luang Prabang

getting there

Azerai is a little under a ten minute drive from Luang Prabang International Airport. Scheduled flights from the primary international gateways of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Siem Reap & Singapore.

MAP

getting there

Azerai is a little under a ten minute drive from Luang Prabang International Airport, which is serviced by scheduled flights from the primary international gateways of Bangkok (95 minutes), Chiang Mai (55 minutes), Hanoi (55 minutes), Siem Reap (95 minutes), Jing Hong (60 minutes), Singapore (4 hours 30 minutes via Vientiane) and the capital of Laos, Vientiane (40 minutes).

Azerai, Luang Prabang
Ban Hua Xieng,
Sethathirath Road District and
Province of Luang Prabang LAO P.D.R
P.O. Box 1142

travel tips

Immigration

Visas are required to enter, exit or transit through Laos. Visas on arrival are available at the airport and are payable in US dollars with the price based on nationality and subject to change without notice. A passport photo is required and can be arranged at immigration on arrival for an additional fee of US$1. Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry.

Climate

Laos enjoys a warm, tropical climate year-round. The cooler, drier months of the year are from November to March and in the evening, temperatures can drop to 15°C but rarely drop below 25°C during the day. Humidity is highest during the green months from May to September, when sunbursts follow short tropical downpours and temperatures can climb to 35°C. However, the average year-round temperature is usually a pleasant 25°C.

Language

The official language of Laos is Lao, which is similar to the northeastern dialect of Thai. French is still spoken by many of the older generation, while English is commonly spoken around the town.

Currency

The national currency is the Kip. Major credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, quality restaurants and shops. Most currencies are easy to cash but the recommended currency for the most favourable exchange rate is the US dollar. Thai Baht and Euros can also be used. A large range of ATM machines are available in town.

Health

A doctor is available 24 hours a day. There are no particular immunisations required for entry into Laos unless the traveller is coming from a yellow fever-infected area. No vaccinations are required either, but it is advisable to check with your doctor for current information.

Electricity

The standard electrical voltage in Luang Prabang is 220 volts AC, 50 Hz.

Time zone

Luang Prabang is located at GMT +07.00.

Dress

During the cooler months of December and January, guests should pack warm clothes for early mornings and evenings, with lighter clothing for the rest of the day. During the summer months it is recommended that guests wear light yet conservative attire, especially on temple visits. Guests should, at all times, travel with comfortable walking shoes and a wide brimmed hat for protection from the tropical sun.