Where would you like to go with Indochina Pioneer?
Please click on the countries below to read more about your desired destinations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. These pages provide first-hand local travel information regarding transportation, accommodation, attractions, food & drink, entertainment ... together with some suggestions on ready-made tours to and from those places.
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is frenetic Asian city of markets, street clogged with scooters, street side food stalls, as well as foreig…
The name Nha Trang is a Vietnamese pronunciation of a Cham word Eatran or Yjatan. Ea or Yja means river, and tran means reed. According to the loca…
This is one of the best laid-back getaways in Vietnam. The town of Phan Thiet itself is a bustling little fishing port -- quite picturesque and goo…
120km (75 miles) W (over sea) from Rach Gia (Rach Gia is 250km/155 miles S of Saigon by road). The same size as Singapore, the island of Phu Quoc l…
Hanoi is relatively small and runs at quite an unhurried pace for a capital city. Resting in the Red River delta region, the centre is a mixed of t…
Taking a cruise on Ha Long Bay -- or the Bay of the Descending Dragon -- for many represents the pinnacle of their experience in Vietnam. eas…
The ancient town of Hoi An is located 30 km south of Da Nang on the banks of the Thu Bon River. Occupied by early western traders, Hoi An was one o…
Siem Reap Siem Reap is a cluster of villages with a French colonial centre, and the gateway to the Temples of Angkor. These majestic temples in…
A small market town that has been a gathering spot for many local hilltribes for nearly 200 years. Hmong and Dao people, among others, still come h…
Vietiane With a troubled recent history, Laos has only recently openned to the outsite world and is one of the most untouched countries in Asi…
Set on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue was the capital of Vietnam between 1802 and 1945 under the Nguyen Emperors, and later French colon…
The fourth-largest city in Vietnam, is one of the most important seaports in the central region, and the current booming Vietnamese economy has see…
Located 173 kilometres from Saigon, Can Tho is considered as the heart of Vietnam's Mekong Delta. The city, regarded as "Western cap…
Known as "Le Petit Paris" by the early builders and residents of this hillside resort town, Dalat is still a luxury retreat for city dwel…
Quy Nhon was officially founded more than 100 years ago, although its origins stretch backs much further to the 11th-century Champa culture, the T&…
Luang Prabang Luang Prabang is regarded by many as the most attactive cities (or town would be more accurate description) in Asia, if not the …
Phom Penh Cambodia’s capital city is awakening from a turbulent recent past to become a busy and fernetic Asian city of Southeast Asia. …
Vung Tau is the tourist and commercial center of Bà RịVũng Tàu (an industrial province in Southeastern Vietnam). The whole city ar…
Sihanoukville is all about the ocean, located on the Gulf of Thailand. The pristine beaches, the sparkling clear water, the cooling sea breeze, the…
Luang Prabang is regarded by many as the most attactive cities (or town would be more accurate description) in Asia, if not the world. The former royal capital has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its conbination of Buddhist temples, French achitecture and historic Laotian buildings set among the green hills.
The main road, Xiang Thong, of Luang Prabang is a wonderful patchwork of traditional Lao wooden houses and hints of European architecture - reminders of when Laos was part of the French colony of Indochine. Golden-roofed wats (temples), decorated with mosaics and murals of the life of Buddha sit under the gaze of wrap-around balconies and 19th century shuttered windows.
As a visitor, you cannot help but be amazed by the tidiness and cleanliness of perhaps the most charming city in all of south-east Asia. With UNESCO so closely involved and a largely highly responsible group of local business owners, the pressures of mass tourism development have been held at bay, but for how much longer remains to be seen.
Sisavangvong Road, more easily remembered as Market Street, bisects the thumb-shaped stretch of land between the Mekong and the Nam Khan and lies at the heart of the city -- it is here that you'll find the main tourist necessities and hotspots. Note that this road changes name not twice, but three times within the main tourist track. Toward the tip of the thumb it is Sakkarin and southwest of the centre it becomes Chao Fa Ngum. Many streets in Luang Prabang are guilty of the same navigational trickery. Thankfully, the town is small enough that getting around shouldn't be a problem once you've got your bearings.
Following the straight course of the Mekong, Manthatoulat Road is lined with riverfront restaurants on one side and hotels on the other. A general rule: the closer you are to the riverfront, the higher the price of the room. If it's within your budget, some beautifully restored accommodation can be found here.
Another thing to consider as you're finding your way around is that each village is named for the nearby wat, and most addresses include a Ban Something-or-other to indicate it. So, even if there's no exact street address -- as there often isn't -- if you can find the wat (most of which are clearly labelled on maps) the place shouldn't be too far from it.
Money: The BCEL ATMs charge a 20,000 kip service fee for international cards and the maximum withdrawal amount is 700,000 kip (about US$80). The ATMs are not always reliable, so it's wise to travel with a back-up source of funding such as travellers cheques or credit cards. A couple of tour agencies on Sisavangvong Road offer cash advances on your credit card for a commission of 4%. They charge your card in US dollars and give payment in kip at a bad exchange rate, so realistically the fee is closer to 8%.
Internet Service: Many Western cafes and restaurants in Luang Prabang now offer free WiFi to customers, and plenty of Internet cafes still remain around town (standard price of 100 kip per minute). You can make IDD telephone calls, or a local SIM card is very affordable (30,000 kip and up).
Medical services: Are available in Luang Prabang, but facilities aren't exactly up to Western standards. For anything more serious than a scrape you'll want to get to Thailand. It's a one hour flight to Chiang Mai. Travel insurance is a must for Laos and be sure you're covered for emergency evacuations, especially if you'll be trekking in remote areas. Pharmacies can be found throughout town and have quick cures for minor ailments like itchy bug bites, upset stomachs and sore throats.
The Post office -- La Poste -- in the centre of town provides the usual services in addition to Western Union money transfers, though you'll pay dearly for them. An outside company -- EMS -- handles international shipping from an outpost within the office. Their rates for overland international shipping are reasonable but packages will take a long time -- about three months -- to reach their final destinations. Air rates are much higher but come with a speedier delivery.
There are plenty of places in town to buy or exchange books. For new titles, head to Monument Books on a sidestreet off the Mekong. In addition to a smattering of fiction, they specialise in regional books covering everything from cooking to geography. The biggest selection of used books belongs to L'etranger just behind Phousi and next to Hive. Here you can buy, sell, rent and trade books alongside delectable munchies and drinks. The book exchange at Joy's is free to patrons. If you haven't eaten at the restaurant, taken a cooking class or bought art from the gallery (Joy's husband is a photographer), swapping out a book will cost 10,000 kip.
Places to see
Alms ceremony — Monks at dawn collecting alms of rice from kneeling villagers (and early-rising tourists). Ask your guesthouse host to assist you the day before in preparing if you'd like to get up and give alms in the morning. Please note that the alms giving ceremony is one which, while picturesque, is not without its detractors. Unscrupulous local merchants have used the eagerness of tourists to participate in a local tradition as a means of making easy money, and sometimes sell unsuitable, stale and even unsafe food. This has resulted in monks falling ill after having consumed the offerings, and resistance to continuing the tradition. However, the government has made it clear that the monks have to continue the tourist pageant or risk being replaced with lay people clothed in saffron robes in order to keep up appearances and thereby keep the tourist dollars rolling in. So if you wish to participate in this ceremony, prepare the food or fruit yourself, and avoid giving food of unknown quality. Strongly consider only watching this old tradition from a distance instead of using it as a tourist attraction, as this may detract from the beauty of the ritual - both for locals and tourists alike.
Bear Rescue Center — Located adjacent to the way to the Kuang Si Waterfalls, the Bear Rescue Center has a enclosure for endangered Asiatic Black Bears that have been rescued from poachers. There was also an Indo-Chinese tiger, but sadly, the tiger had passed away as of May 2009.
Haw Kham — The former royal palace. There's also sometimes local drama or dance performances in the adjacent theatre. Presently under renovation so closed to public review. Also Haw Kham visitation has specific opening and closing hours, with lunch break closure from 11.30AM to 1.30p. It is important to check the timings and plan the visit accordingly.
Kuang Si Falls — 29 km south of Luang Prabang. A large multi-stage waterfall, accessible by boat or truck hire. You can also rent a motorbike to transport yourself there. There are food and tourist stalls outside the waterfalls. It is worth putting a whole day aside (or more) for seeing these because they are a great place to relax and meet other travelers. There are multiple pools at different levels, all of which are reportedly safe to bathe in, and are extremely picturesque.
Night market — The night market features vendors selling all the typical Lao arts and crafts, some more touristy than others, and is set up every day along the main street parallel to the river. Be warned that it closes down around 9PM, unlike the similar markets in Thailand that go on well into the early hours. Please note that there may be some souvenirs available made from endangered animals. Avoid buying rare pets, leather, ivory, talons, dried sea creatures (starfish, etc.), fur, feathers, teeth, wool, and other products. This is the best place to buy lower end souvenirs and hone your bargaining skills.
Pak Ou Caves — The famous "Buddha caves" are north of town on the Mekong and can be reached by road (approx 1 hr) or river boat (around 1.5 hrs). Alternatively, you can hire canoes and a guide for the day, which would allow you to view the beautiful scenery and visit the caves without throngs of other tourists. It's also possible to finish the trip at the 'whisky village' where the local Laolao (lao rice spirit) is made. There are two caves - one on the entry level and another - the upper caves - on top of the hill. A very steep climb, but worth the efforts. A candle or torch recommended to see the upper cave, as it is dark.
Phou Si — The main hill in the city from which you have a good view of the whole area. It's not a very steep climb from the bottom and sunrise and sunset are the most sensible and rewarding times to go up. There is a near-panoramic view from the top. Entrance fee 20,000 kip.
Vat Xieng Toung — The oldest monastery in town and one of the most beautiful. Opens from 6AM - 6PM. Entry fee 20,000 kip. One entrance on the road along Mekhong river, the other on the by-lane off the main road.
Historic Quarter (Upmarket): The heart of Luang Prabang's historic quarter is home to some of the flashest hotels in town. if you're after more budget-orientated digs, you can still check out this area.
Historic Quarter (Budget): The heart of Luang Prabang\'s historic quarter is given over to some luxurious hotels but there are still plenty of budget and mid range places to choose from. If you\'re after more upmarket digs, see out the Historic Quarter as well
Southern Luang Prabang: Encompassing everything south of the Museum save the area behind Joma and the bank of the Nam Khan, this area -- outside the historic quarter -- has a full range of options for budgeteers and six-star travellers alike.
Behind Joma Bakery: The area directly behind and to the south of Joma Bakery is a veritable guesthouse village with just about every place with a roof offering lodgings. Competition keeps the prices lowish making this a good area for budgeteers to head.
Bank of the Nam Khan: The Nam Kham is attractive in its own right and looking over its waters are some fine establishments, especially clustered near the bicycle bridge. There are some very good deals to be had in this area.
Getting there and away
By Air: The small Luang Prabang airport (airport code LPQ) is located 4 kilometres from the city centre. Like the city itself, the airport is a throwback to simpler times with a single terminal, single runway, and outdoor waiting area. There are plans to expand the airport starting in 2011 to accommodate more flights and larger planes. Until then, only three carriers -- Lao Airlines, Bangkok Airways and Vietnam Airlines -- regularly fly in and out of Luang Prabang.
From the airport, a prepaid tuk tuk service into town costs a fixed price of 50,000 kip/US$6/200 baht. Similarly, from the city drivers will ask for 50,000 kip for the trip to the airport. Opposite the airport terminal is a shop with food, souvenirs, and internet access.
Lao Airlines flies domestically to Vientiane (three flights daily) and Pakse (three flights per week). Flights to Phonsavan were discontinued a number of years ago. Internationally, Lao Airlines links LPQ to Siam Reap (daily except Tuesday and Sunday), Hanoi (daily), and three destinations in Thailand: Bangkok (daily), Chiang Mai (daily), and Udon Thani (three times per week).
Vietnam Airlines serves Siem Reap and Hanoi five times a week each, with added flights during peak seasons.
By Bus: The bus situation in Luang Prabang can get a little confusing. There are two main bus stations, one serving destinations to the north and the other for destinations to the south. Mini-vans, the transport generally preferred by tourists, leave from a separate station near the southern station, technically increasing the number of bus stations to three.
Bus departures are subject to random changes to time and point of departure, and this combined with the ever-rising fee to get to the bus station (first to buy your ticket, then for the trip itself) means that, unless you're a die-hard do-it-yourselfer, arranging transport through your guesthouse or a tour agency and paying a small commission usually equals out.
By Boat: Boats are a scenic way to travel around northern Laos and a refreshing alternative to long, bumpy bus rides. From Luang Prabang it is possible to travel on the Nam Ou River to Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi, or up the Mekong to Huay Xai and the Thai border via Pakbeng.
The journey to Nong Kiaow takes six to eight hours, depending on water levels. From there, Muang Ngoi is another hour upstream and only accessible by boat. The journey starts with an hour or two up the Mekong then turns into the Nam Ou near the Pak Ou caves. If you're travelling by chartered boat, you can arrange a stopover at the caves en route to Nong Kiaow.
The Nam Ou is stunning, lined with huge limestone cliffs towering straight up out of the water, small white sandy beaches and patches of dark jungle forest. The route drifts past small riverside villages and idyllic scenes of rural life: grazing water buffalo, fishermen and children playing in the water and waving.
The popular border crossing between Laos and northeast Thailand is also the most popular river trip in Southeast Asia: Luang Prabang to Pakbeng to Huay Xai. There are three options for this trip: speedboat, slowboat, and luxury cruise.
Regular passenger ferries no longer run between Luang Prabang and Vientiane.
Luang Prabang is a small enough town that all the main sights and eateries are within walking distance of one another.
Shop to ya drop!!!
Before you can buy anything in Luang Prabang you will need some money. US$ and Thai baht are widely accepted but the exchange rates vary. As of May 2009, there are a small number of ATM's accepting Visa, MasterCard, Maestro and Eurocards. These ATM's are situated mostly in Sisavangvong Rd just near the end of the Night Market. The ATM's dispense currency in Lao Kip and generally allow a maximum withdrawal of 700,000 kip with a charge of 20,000 kip. Multiple withdrawals are allowed to a daily maximum of 5,000,000 kip. If you arrive by plane, there is an ATM and a money changer at the airport which is open for a few hours of the day, so don't count on changing there. Also, their rates are significantly worse than the banks in town.
There are a growing number of money changers, located on Sisavangvong Rd or in the permanent markets further East. One is next to the ATM near the Night Markets, another is about 50m further North along the street, located out the front of one of the first restaurants (looks like a little tollbooth/shack). The rates offered may vary, so shop around before you change. Better maybe to stick with official money changing services at a bank which are easily found.
A night market (on Sisavangvong Road) caters for tourists with every kind of souvenir you could want and closes at about 10 PM. Particularly good are the duvet covers, cushion covers and pillow sets. They can even make one up to the dimensions you require in one next day. Very good are hanging lamps, which are foldable to bring back. It is well worth a look and the hawkers are very pleasant to deal with and amazingly non-pushy by the standard elsewhere in Asia. Traders range from young kids to the elderly who usually made crafts, arts and goods by themselves for sale. Good natured bargaining is the go but don't obsess over this and ruin your experience as well as giving the trader a bad day. It should be understood that the quality and design of goods is lower in the market than in the legions of increasingly chic stores in the town.
Caruso Lao, 60 Sakaline Rd, Luang Prabang. A fabulous gallery store showcasing the very best quality Lao silk and other handicrafts.
Erawan Arts — This two floor showroom is in a traditionally renovated historic house that dates back over 100 years. Displaying the finest 100% hand-woven and naturally dyed Lao silk and exotic wood products from throughout Laos, a share of the profits go directly to supporting Lao communities in need through several initiatives from installing fresh water systems to villages, providing books for schools, and running medical trips to remote areas. The owner is very informative and approachable, and happy to answer questions on Laos and give a tour on the architecture of this beautiful building.
Ock Pop Tok, 73/5 Ban Vat Nong, Luang Prabang, plus 2 other stores in town. An ethical trading company with superb galleries. Also run classes and visits to village weaving faciltiies.
Food and drinks
Restaurants line Sisavangvong Road and the road along the Mekong. Food runs the line from standard Southeast Asian backpacker fare to more traditional Lao dishes, including buffalo sausage right up to very high quality French cuisine.
Local specialities include:
>> French baguettes and other bakery items. Extremely well done here.
>> Local watercress which is very peppery.
>> Fried dried seaweed with sesame seeds dipped in a chili sauce.
>> Buffalo steaks and sausages.
For more upscale options, try near the end of Sisavangvong Road (end of the Night Market) in a little alley (local buffet for 5000 kip). There are several boutique restaurants which serve quite nice fusion Asian food.
Blue Lagoon Restaurant - A balanced mix of eastern and western delicacies are awaiting you at Blue Lagoon Restaurant. You will find Luang Prabang, Lao highlights and Swiss classics as well as tender local beef and a large variety of delicious snacks and fresh salad creations. The generously compiled drink list provides an exquisite selection of wine, fruit juice, cocktails, mocktails, beer and coffee. Located at the road to the Mekong river who start at the end of the night market, next to the national museum.
Boulevard Restaurant - A new Al Fresco style restaurant under the same wing of New Daraphet Villa behing JoMa Bakery. Owner has recently brought in sound equipment and a new acoustic guitar for music enthusiasts to jam. The restaurant has 2 sides for both proper dining and casual drinking. serves decent draft tiger beer and a great atmosphere for meeting new friends from the guesthouses along the street.
Cafe 5/6 - A nice two-floors cafe to relax and enjoy great and shakes. They have chill background music and WiFi internet access. Located on Chao Fa Ngnum (about 150m West of the Post Office (La Poste).
Hmong Night Market (Vegetarian + Vegan) - One food stall says vegetarian and the other "végétalien" (vegan). Cash only. Market is open 5PM-10PM.
Indochina Spirit- Excellent Lao and Thai cuisine. Great value. Everything is tasty but try the minced fish and aubergines. Has old, stuffy, and not so pleasant odor in the interior tables, so be warned.
L'Elephant - Around the corner from Saffron Caffe. A lovely restaurant with a unique mix of Laotian and French cuisine. The food is extremely good, but has its price. It is directly in front of a small guesthouse, and not far away from Les 3 Nagas hotel and Villa Santi hotel. The ingredients are of the highest quality, ranging from French camambert to Laotian lemongrass and river weeds. The soups are very good, along with the tender and juicy local and french meat. The desserts are mouthwatering, and most of them have chocolate. Be warned though that the menu is both pricey and some items do not justify their price tag. This has a great ambience.
Sala Café-Nice place with a view on the Nam Khan river. This restaurant-bar offers an open air terrace where you can relax while trying homemade Vietnamese,French and Lao specialities. Menu regulars are pastries, Bourdaloue tart,Mango crumble,Chocolate mousse and cocktails including Mojito and Martini dry. Some people think it is a little bit expensive, but the quality has a price...
Scandinavian Bakery- Serves western quality breakfasts, burgers and pizzas. Food must be paid for before eating.
Tamarind - Near the famous restaurant l'Elephant. This is a part of the Stay Another Day organization. The food is all Laos traditional food. The waitstaff explains the menu to you and you have many options to choose from to experience a vast array of Laos food including platter combinations of dips, salads, etc. The waitstaff explains your meal to you when you get it so that you know how Lao people would eat it. In addition to the tasty food, they sell organic and fair trade food products, recipe books, and more. You can also book tours to markets, cooking courses, and more through the restaurant.
Tamnak Lao Restaurant: A great place for traditional Lao food at reasonable prices. Located in the main road opposite the Villa Santi Hotel, it has a fabulous upstairs balcony with a view over Villa Santi and down the main road. If you want to eat on the balcony you might have to book a table. Make sure when you order your food, to order to entree first, and the main course after the entree has been served. Otherwise, it is possible that your salad will come after your chicken main course, and you are expected to eat all together. So if you are in a habit of eating course by course, make sure you order such.
Nighlife and entertainment
There are a number of places to drink around Luang Prabang, although the club scene isn't really existent. Most restaurants have tables outside where you can sit back with a beer or two.
Books and Tea L'Etranger - downstairs is a book shop/swap and upstairs there is a bar selling drinks and cake in a room covered in cushions for lazing around and reading. Movies everyday at 7PM. A tad greedy and unfriendly on the book exchange business.
"The Hive Bar" or the "Lao Lao Beer Garden" are the places to go at night and to meet people, if everything closes (at about 12PM) you can go to the "Vietnam Bar". This is invariably reached by all the remaining people at The Hive and Laos Beer Garden clubbing together and getting one or two tuktuks together. Lao residents are beginning to complain about the Hive and Laos Beer garden because of roudy foreigners and offers of drugs and prostitution. The Lao Lao Beer Garden also shows live sports in the day (unlike the 'Sports Bar' next to the night market, as we found out despite an earlier promise that it would!).
Mekong Sunset Beach Bar - The place to go to watch the sunset. Located at the river mouth of Nam Khan and Mekong, you have to cross the bamboo bridge behind Wat Xieng Thong and walk 3 min. Very simple but unbelievable. Floods in the wet season.
Morning Glory Cafe - On the quiet end of the main street, after 3 Nagas. Run by a laid-back couple. Thai and western food, Good wine, by the glass. Garden seating. Temple in front and street life can be seen.
Saffron Caffè - (around the corner from L'Elephant restaurant in Wat Nong village) - The Best coffee in Luang Prabang, if not in all of Laos! Fresh roasted coffee from the mountains of Luang Prabang itself, and an array of hot espresso drinks (we like the Caramel Macchiato) and iced coffees, including some Luang Prabang original recipes. Try the Banana Shake Macchiato for the most delicious drink experience in Luang Prabang! Delicious fresh baked goods such as their Cinnamon Swirls and Banana muffins go quickly. Granola and salad wraps are good. Saffron has now begun selling their coffee in gold foil bags again.
Tamarind - Kind of hard to find, but worth the effort of getting the tuk tuk driver to ask around where it is. This is a part of the Stay Another Day organization. They offer a variety of traditional Laos drinks including local fruits and tea. Also the cooking classes and local products such as creams, jam and so on are worth checking out!
What is the Climate, Average Temperature/ Weather in Luang Prabang?
Whether you wish to travel to Luang Prabang, Laos (Latitude & Longitude: Altitude: 290 m or 951 ft) on holiday, business or vacation, are interested in buying property there or are looking to migrate the following Luang Prabang climate, temperature and weather information should prove helpful:
- The average temperature in Luang Prabang, Laos is 25.9 °C (79 °F).
- The average temperature range is 8 °C.
- The highest monthly average high temperature is 36 °C (97 °F) in April.
- The lowest monthly average low temperature is 14 °C (57 °F) in January.
- Luang Prabang's climate receives an average of 1306 mm (51.4 in) of rainfall per year, or 109 mm (4.3 in) per month.
- On average there are 100 days per year with more than 0.1 mm (0.004 in) of rainfall (precipitation) or 8 days with a quantity of rain, sleet, snow etc. per month.
- The driest weather is in December when an average of 13 mm (0.5 in) of rainfall (precipitation) occurrs across 1 days.
- The wettest weather is in August when an average of 299 mm (11.8 in) of rainfall (precipitation) occurrs across 19 days.
- The average annual relative humidity is 82.2% and average monthly relative humidity ranges from 72% in March to 87% in July, August & September.
- Average sunlight hours in Luang Prabang range between 4.0 hours per day in July, August & December and 7.0 hours per day in October.
- There are an average of 1883 hours of sunlight per year with an average of 5.2 hours of sunlight per day.
There are an average of 0 days per year with frost in Luang Prabang and in January there are an average of 0 days with frost.