Buddhist monks account for about 10% of the Luangprabang population; the saffron and sienna of their robes dot the landscape. To witness these benevolent devotees carrying out their morning ritual, rise early for alms-giving. Along the footpaths, the town's devout Buddhists kneel with heads bowed, as monks file past to have their small bowls filled with a morning meal of sticky rice.
The quaint town centre sits snugly on a peninsula between the Nam Khan River and the mighty Mekong. Enjoy the peace and quiet of the early hours with a meander around the town's restored French colonial buildings and many temples(31 in all). The gilded, sloping rooftop of Wat Xieng Thong temple is particularly mesmerising, set against a backdrop of lush, tropical vegtation. It is one of the old town's most intact temple.
Across the road from the Royal Palace Museum, at the other end of town, is the golden stupa crowning the top of Phu Si Hill. The steep ascent and small fee are more than enough reward for the panoramic view at the top. Rice barges putt-putt their way down the Mekong and , in the distance, the dense jungle and rock massifs puncture the horizon. Follow the path down the other side of Phousi Heill, where you will pass various oversized homages to Buddha, including and imprint of his foot!
Walk west along Phousi Road until you see L' etranger Books and Tea. This charming two-storey shop is packed to the rafters with new and old books to buy or rent. There's a gallery upstairs; alternatively, sit on the patio and enjoy breakfast. Across the road sits a collection of shop, which offer quality Asian antiques and certified works by local artisans.
L'etranger Books and Tea, Th Kingkitsarat, Old Town.
Back on the main road, scout down a local tuk-tuk for a excursion to the Kuang Si Fals, roughly 30 kilometres out of town. Enjoy the scenery as you pass through villages with thatched-roof huts and miniature stupas. Don't forget your bathers. The main waterfall, with a 10-metre cave behind it, drops from a great height into a central pool then cascades into three or four more ponds. The water is a pale, tropical-island green and an ideal temperature for a refresing swim. As you leave, drop a few kip in the donation box at the rescue den for Asiatic black bears. these furry creatures have been saved from hunters and the infamous bile farms that operate in Asia.
Have the taxi stop near the tourist office on the main road. Nearby, a cluster of stalls compete to sell the best lunch you can buy for 2$-French baguettes stuffed with roast chicken, pate, pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber, spring onion, coriander and mayonnaise. Alternatively, take a walk down the tiny lane behind the tourist office where a motley collection of tin sheds can be found dishing out beef noodle soup. Be sure to dunk the side-serv of bean shoots, herbs and chilli into the broth.
Buddha statues that have served their purpose in Luangprabang temples are ritualistically retired to the Buddha caves recessed into the limestone cliffs along the Mekong. Thousands of these statues, in all shapes and sizes, are venerated by locals who visit them to pray and light incense. Thogh the caves are fascinating, they're worth visiting for the boat trip alone. Broad-bases wooden rice barges and skinny longboats trawl the Mekong, shunting passengers between the town centre, the caves and villages downstream. Get a berth from tour guides touting their wares on the main street or try your luck along the Mekong.
While markets are ubiquitous across Asia, few are as well-kept and orgnised as Luang Prabang's handicraft night market.
It begins near the tourist office and continures right down Sisavangvong Road. Underneath red-and -white striped awnings you'lll see locals sitting across-legged on rugs and sellling every thing from clothes, Hmong slings and woven stiky-rice baskets to silver trinkets and toys. You'll find several places sell the same thing, so be sure to barter.
It would be a shame not to sample the French cuisine wile in former Indochina. Overlooking the Mekong, near the Wat Xieng Thong, Le Calao Inn is a beautifully restored, French colonial mansion built in the early 1900s. Its arched balconies front on to an exquisite terrace with twinkling fairy lights where Auberge, a traditional French restaurant with alll the trimmings, serves classic dishes matched with Bordeaux wine and fine from age.
Sit back and relax- You are on Laos time.