Laos: Luang Prabang
Fly in/out: Luang Prabang International Airport
Recommended ages: 8 and up
Ball Park Price: $800/person for up to five travelers (airfare not included)
Currency: Lao Kip, but US dollars are welcome
Timezone: 12 hours ahead of CST
DAY ONE: Fly via Bangkok, Thailand or Vientiane, Laos to Luang Prabang International Airport (LPQ). Drive to Satri House, a boutique hotel located near the town centre.
DAY TWO: Walk to the Old Quarter area and visit many of the buddhist temples including Wat Xieng Thong and the Royal Palace. Enjoy the beautiful area and views of Mt. Phousi. In the evening, explore the unique night markets.
DAY THREE: Take a tuk-tuk ride to the Kuang Si Waterfalls and hike, swim and visit a small bear sanctuary.
DAY FOUR: Wake up early (by 6:00 a.m.) and buy sticky rice and bananas from a vendor and participate in an alms giving ceremony and offer to Buddhist monks as they walk by. Visit the Living Land Company to learn about the traditional way rice is grown harvested, try planting rice, steer a water buffalo as you prepare the paddies for planting, eat some of the many local products made with rice and learn about the farm.
DAY FIVE: Enjoy a long-boat ride on the Mekong River to the Pak Ou caves housing many Buddhas.
If you have more time
If your family has not had an opportunity to take an elephant ride, then experience a ½ day elephant tour ride with Elephant Village Sanctuary and Resort. Laos is called the “Land of a Million Elephants and the Parasol.” Going on a ride on one of these gentle and gigantic animals is not only a pleasure, it supports the protection and rehabilitation of these wonderful creatures.
- A relatively undiscovered and unspoiled former royal capital of Laos, Luang Prabang maintain its status as one of Asia’s best-preserved cities, with exquisite Buddhist temples combined with a French colonial architecture and charming and gracious people.
- The views of Luang Prabang are breathtaking. Without the crowds that other picturesque Asian towns experience, Luang Prabang offers tropical forests, natural wildlife, rugged mountain tops and pristine temples all in a serene setting.
- It feels very safe and easy to travel with children and explore the town without the need for a guide. There are many beautiful temples and palaces in close proximity to walk around and explore and essentially go “temple hopping.” Wat Xieng Thong (The Temple of the Golden City) and the former Royal Palace, now a museum, are among two of the most beautiful sites to see. The Wat Phousi provides excellent views of the town with the two rivers merging. There are other gems to just stop and see like Wat Mai and Wat Nong, Wat Sene and Wat Khill.
- Getting up early to take part in the alms giving ceremony, an ancient tradition providing rice and bananas as a way to give food to the poor through the monks was a peaceful and memorable sacred ritual to be a part of for the family.
- Every night a market exists on a closed section of the street. It’s a great tourist attraction but unconventional in that it’s low-lit and quiet and without any hard sells. Many traders are there selling original items to take back as mementos and gifts to enjoy at home.
- Spending the morning on a rice farm learning how rice is grown and experiencing the life as a farmer was very memorable for the kids. They participated in the activities of farming including planting, harvesting and steering a water buffalo. They developed great appreciation for the Lao farming and planting of rice paddies a major sustainable harvest for the Lao people.
- We loved the slow boat ride down the Mekong River to the Pak Ou Caves. It was a scenic 2-3 hour boat cruise to observe life on the river. Where the Mekong and Nam meet are the Pak Ou Caves which sit along the limestone cliffs. They are both filled with Buddha statues and were fascinating to explore. This trip was arranged in advance through our hotel.
Places to stay
We chose the Satri House because it has a pool for the kids, and it was overall a lovely luxurious boutique hotel. It’s now part of Secret Retreats, an organization that recommends unique boutique hotels across Asia. The staff were very helpful in arranging activities and sharing with us great things we could do while in Luang Prabang.
- Luang Prabang is still relatively unspoiled and cheap. We paid for everything in USD including paying for the visa entry fee which was required at the time.
- The midday heat can get intense so it was great for us to have a pool at the Satri House located just 10 minutes to town. The closer hotels on the peninsula, are not allowed to have pools.
- Travelling with kids to Luang Prabang was a very favorable experience because of the lovely and gracious people and an uncrowded town that is protected as a UNESCO heritage site. There were not the usual “tourist traps” with scam artists and hard sell traders. Instead, we had a peaceful and relaxing vacation while we fell in love with the Lao culture. The Sabretoothed Chickens Tour is blog to learn more about other things to do with children from a family who lived there for two years is also a nice resource.
Before You Go
- You must have both a passport and visa to enter Laos, and your passport must also have at least six months validity remaining beyond the date that you enter Laos. You can get a visa on arrival in Laos if you are traveling for tourism, have two passport-size photographs and pay $35 at the following ports of entry. Double check with U.S. Department of State-Bureau of Consular Affairs.
- Watch “The Rocket” a great tween and teen kids (unrated but probably would be PG) movie that received great reviews featuring beautiful scenery set in the northern mountains of Laos.