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Insider’s guide to the world: Luang Prabang (Laos)

To get to know what wat is what and more, check out our Insider’s guide to Luang Prabang (Laos), thanks to Pookie Suraban Phueakma, Leisure Concierge, Sofitel Luang Prabang.

What is the one thing people should know about your city before visiting?

Luang Prabang is deeply rooted in Buddhism, and you need to wear appropriate attire for entering temples; no sleeveless shirts or short skirts are allowed in temples and most museums.

 

What are three things visitors should do to really see the best of your city?

1. Tak Baat alms-giving: Every morning at 6am, more than 200 monks from 30 temples march on the main streets of Luang Prabang to receive offerings from locals, a tradition that has been going on since the 14th century. Offering the monks the traditional sticky rice is an essential experience.

2. Royal Palace Museum: You have to witness the Royal Palace, which was once home to royals before the communists took over. The palace features exhibits, artefacts and showcases the life of a bygone era.

3. Baci ceremony: Attend this local ceremony conducted on special occasions such as weddings and homecomings. Laotians believe the body has 32 organs (kwans) and when you travel here and there, some are left behind. This ceremony calls upon all the kwans to return to your body and establish equilibrium. The ceremony is done by village elders with prayers and a shot of Lao-Lao rice whiskey.

 

Is there an experience that only locals know about?

It’s not what you’d normally associate with Laos, but locals play a lot of pétanque, perfect for a little competition before a post-match drink. It became popular after a 17-year-old Laotian won gold at the 2001 Southeast Asian Games.

 

Where do locals like to eat and drink?

Real locals eat at home with the entire family. There are a few village elders who open their homes to visitors during baci ceremonies, followed by a shared dinner with their family.

 

What do you recommend doing for the perfect Sunday in your city?

Take a bike ride around town, stop by the French boulangerie Le Banneton for great croissants and Lao coffee. Pass by Wat Xien Tong for some photos and prayers, then grab some Lao-style beef noodle soup at Pho Wat Saen. Fend off the heat with ice-cream at the old royal ice-cream parlour turned hotel, 3 Nagas MGallery by Sofitel. Top off the evening with a buffalo tasting platter at Governor’s Grill, set amidst a lush botanical garden once belonging to the French governors.

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This article appeared in issue 29

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