This Luang Prabang travel blog is all you need to make up your mind.
Beyond the frequented, my 2019 has taken me to two offbeat Southeast Asian destinations: the island of Borneo which I happened to visit during a media trip to Sabah, in Malaysia, and the landlocked, unfrequented Luang Prabang.
To be honest, I never imagined myself visiting Laos. And the biggest reason for it was the lack of information available online. Laos, moreover, never felt very intriguing to know about.
Before my visit to Luang Prabang, I had no idea that Laos, in fact, has four international airports across the country. Though it is true that those airports still have no direct flights from most of the countries in the world, the fact that you can actually fly to pretty much any part of Laos is quite a thing to know.
The French colonial buildings, the many ancient wats, and the charms of Mekong River, make Luang Prabang an unforgettably beautiful desitnation in Southeast Asia.
Now, let’s start with this ideal Luang Prabang Travel Blog and discuss…
Is It Worth Visiting Luang Prabang & Laos?
It is easy to overlook Laos when planning a trip to Southeast Asia. I mean when it comes to southeast Asia, the biggest fascination for most travellers remains beaches, and what good can a country be that is landlocked and has no sea at all?
And then, when you have countries like Thailand and Vietnam, which are popular for so many things and have easy direct flights (from India and other countries) why even bother visiting Laos, right?
Well, not really!
It may sound funny but Laos can actually complete your trip to Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia – all in one place. Of course, geographically you will miss those beautiful Thai and Cambodian beaches, but when comes to culture and experiencing the local way of life, you will, in fact, find many similarities.
From language (that resembles Thai) to a cultural and historical past (that resembles Cambodia and Vietnam) to amazing food (that, in fact, can be a better mix of all) Laos resembles its neighbours and has a lot more to offer than you can imagine.
Laos shares much of its history with its neighbours, but also has its own culture that seems more intense and less lost. Its relatively low-key nature makes it a much more offbeat destination than any of its neighbours in Southeast Asia. So, if you’re one of those people who like visiting places whose culture is not washed away by tourists, Laos may just be for you.
Though in no way I am claiming that Laos is better than its neighbours, the fact that it has almost everything that other countries around it has to offer, all while keeping the experience less touristic, cannot be disregarded.
I mean at the end of the day who would not prefer strolling a quiet night market in Luan Prabang which has no mentions on the internet, over Bangkok’s Chatuchak, which feels more multicultural than local?
Luang Prabang: Best Place to Visit In Laos?
Laos is still in the early stages of developing infrastructure for tourism. Land transport in Laos is slow and hard to find (just like in Cambodia, there are still no trains in Laos) leaving flying the only convenient and quicker option.
Since it has an international airport, with regular flights from Bangkok and Changi Airport in Singapore, visiting Luang Prabang is hassle-free. And that’s what makes it the best place to visit in Laos.
Other than easy travelling to Luang Prabang, the old town of Luang Prabang is a designated UNESCO World Heritage city. This makes it a much looked after place, offering clean and safe public areas. A UNESCO World Heritage title moreover means quiet neighborhoods and stern laws to keep things in order, unlike the capital town of Vientiane.
Luang Prabang was moreover the former capital of the Lao Kingdom before Vientiane took the title, giving it enough tourist attractions and a rich history to explore. The town is pretty walkable, with romantic boat rides in the Mekong River adding to the charm.
From hostels to high-end resorts, street food to some fine dining, walking tours to cruising along the Mekong, and temples to nightclubs, Luang Prabang has something for everyone. In short, if you have to choose only one place to get a feel of Laos, Luang Prabang may just be the ideal destination.
Luang Prabang, Laos: Offbeat Southeast Asia
Though Luang Prabang is getting into tourist radar pretty quickly it still doesn’t feel very tourist. Though it’s true that during my one-week trip, I found a European face pretty much everywhere I ate or strolled, there was still enough local vibe around the place.
The building still looked as they emerged from yesteryears, the early morning alms collection walk of the monks still had the same freshness it must have had back in the days.
It may just be because of the fact that Luang Prabang is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, which doesn’t allow the town to tear down any of the old buildings and rebuild them with a modern flair, or open a chain of McDonald’s or KFC around, I saw enough intimate new hotels that creatively got past the strict rules while keeping the traditional feel of the town fairly intact.
All in all, there is something about the town that will take you back in time and bring you across that southeast Asia that you otherwise miss when you’re in Bangkok or Malaysia.
Getting To Luang Prabang
Though Luang Prabang has an international airport, not many flight carriers operate there. The two most popular destinations connecting Luang Prabang are Bangkok and Singapore.
I flew from Singapore’s Changi Airport with Scoot Airlines which has taken over the Singapore-Laos route from Silkair since 1 April 2019.
Scoot has 3 flights to Laos at the moment operating on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and it flies the loop Singapore – Luang Prabang – Vientiane – Singapore. So you can fly directly (from Singapore) to Luang Prabang, and fly back direct from Vientiane, which is great if you plan to visit both cities.
Lao Airlines also operate from Changi Airport, but given that their prices are almost double that of Scoot Airlines, my preferred choice recommendation goes for Scoot. Moreover, I have travelled with Scoot a few times before and have always had a good experience.
Further Reading: My India To Australia Flight Experience With Scoot Airlines
My First Impression of Luang Prabang
Before I visited and wrote this Luang Prabang travel blog, I had no idea about what to expect from it. For some reason, I expected it as one of those raw and rustic places that offer no infrastructure to cater to tourists.
But as I landed there, I was left shell-shocked. Of course, the place looked quiet and struggling to develop but not in a bad way. The roads looked clean, people seemed affable, and the cars… well, they were quite a few in number, but just enough to not honk at each other. Everything was quiet and pleasant.
The outline of the distant mountains, the soothing flow of the Mekong, the fresh smell of the surrounding jungle, the perfectly lit nights of paper lanterns, the red brick sidewalks, and the smiling locals repeating ‘Khop Chai’ – that’s what Luang Prabang was in nutshell.
A romantic traveller’s paradise – that’s what Luang Prabang was in a nutshell!
Recommended Read: Luang Prabang Travel Guide
Disclaimer: I travelled and wrote this travel blog on Luang Prabang on a blog trip with Singapore Air and Fly Scoot. While my trip to Luang Prabang was sponsored, all recommendations and observations about the place are solely personal. I only recommend what I like and find worth appreciating.