If the monsoon clouds decide to bring rain…what can the traveller do to keep entertained in Luang Prabang? How about standing before a golden throne, sitting behind a wooden loom, or lying on a massage table to be covered in local medicinal herbs?
1. The Luang Prabang National Museum (The Royal Palace)
Built in 1904 during the reign of King Sisavangvong, the Luang Prabang National Museum (former royal palace) is a destination not to be missed by tourists when they visit Luang Prabang…and an ideal place to spend a few hours if the weather is a little unpredictable. Pure gold Buddha statues, ruby-coloured walls covered in bright glass mosaics, swords, crowns, royal garments, and ornate gifts from global dignitaries – all on public display. Original handcrafted teak beds – one for the King, one for the Queen – also remain in the building, allowing you to get a real sense of how the royals lived back when they reigned. The walls of the palace contain photos and paintings of various members of the royal family including an awe-inspiring portrait by Russian artist Ilya Glazunov of King Savang Vatthana which stretches from the floor to the ceiling and has eyes that, similar to the Mona Lisa, seem to follow you around the room.
2. Expand your mind
Why not learn a new skill while you’re on holidays in Luang Prabang? There are a range of classes and workshops you can do while you’re in town. Discover how to make Laap, a Lao pork/chicken salad with mint and lemongrass that is eaten with sticky rice by taking a cooking class. Or learn how to tie-dye silk and then weave with it on a traditional wooden loom. Other classes on offer include bamboo weaving, jewellery making, wood-carving, rice farming…and there’s the chance to brew your own Lao rice whiskey! Pop into the tourism office when you arrive and we can point you in the right direction.
3. Big Brother Mouse
Would you like to give something back to the local community during your stay in Luang Prabang? Many young people in Laos are eager to learn English but don’t have anyone to practice with. If it’s wet outside, why not head to the Big Brother Mouse education centre, located near 3 Nagas on the peninsular, which is open seven days a week and provides local kids with the chance to speak English with foreign visitors. There are two sessions – 9am in the morning and 5pm in the evening – where tourists are welcome to assist the kids. There’s no need to call ahead, just turn up on the day. More information here.
4. Pamper yourself
What better way to let the rainy hours pass away than lying on a massage table with the smell of lemon grass oil wafting from an oil burner in the corner of the room as your body is pampered? There are many five-star resorts with day spas to choose from in Luang Prabang – offering travellers a range of treatments including facials, body scrubs, aromatherapy massages and energy healings. If budget is an issue, there are plenty of places to get a traditional Lao massage that won’t break the budget. There are also fish foot spas that are well sign-posted in various parts of the town.
5. UXO Visitor’s Centre
Did you know that Laos is the most heavily bombed nation, per capita, in history? Between 1964-1973, Laos was hit by an average of one B-52 bomb-load every eight minutes. The US dropped more bombs on Laos during this period than those dropped during WWII. A large percentage of the ‘bombies’ that rained down on this country remain in the earth – unexploded – continuing to cause a devastating impact, with casualties and injuries a regular occurrence. The UXO Visitor’s Centre in Luang Prabang offers you the chance to learn more about the Secret War. There are displays of real-life bombies, compelling survivor stories, as well as a viewing room where you can watch a documentary about the dangerous work being done to clean up the bombies. You’ll find the UXO centre behind Souphanouvong Park (which is on Highway 13 heading towards the Chinese Market).