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Luang Prabang Overview

Luang Prabang sits on a narrow finger (or, perhaps more precisely, a thumb) of land formed by the confluence of the Khan River with the much larger Mekong. The old city, where most of the sights are, is just 300 meters (1,000 feet) wide and about one kilometer (0.6 miles) long. One road follows the rivers completely around the city. The town's main road, which goes by many names, but which we call Sisavong Vang Road in this guide, runs down the 'spine' of the finger. Another small lane parallels Sisavong Vang and runs from the Royal Palace Museum up to the back of Wat Xieng Thong. Small brick paved footpaths lead off the main road towards the rivers on either side.

The city's main sights are at either end of the old town. Near the tip of the peninsula is the royal temple of Wat Xieng Thong . At the base of the thumb are Phou Si hill and the Royal Palace Museum . In between are numerous other temples and some former royal residences. You can walk the whole way around town in just one day, but its quite easy to spend several days criss-crossing the city to see everything.

Luang Prabang

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With its many active temples, Luang Prabang is a place to observe the role of Buddhism in the daily lives of people. Many visitors try to rise early (5:30 am) at least one day during their stay to observe, and even participate in, the daily alms giving. Visit the lesser temples at any time of day, and chances are you may find some young novices who want to practice their English. Later in the day, around 4:00 pm, the monks gather for prayers. I particularly liked Wat Pra Buddhabaht for this, where the tall slender sim (prayer hall) resonated with the chants of the monks.

Further afield, there are some popular sights in the countryside around Luang Prabang. The Pak Ou Caves are a shrine of sorts on the Mekong River north of town that make a popular day trip by boat. There are also several spectacular waterfalls south and east of town.


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