I have to admit, I was a bit thrown off when I first arrived in Luang Prabang.
I had heard that it is the second largest city in Laos, so I was expecting it to be a big and bustling city similar to those in Thailand.
I was wrong.
It is a quaint little town, with the old part of the city - protected as a heritage site by UNESCO - that juts out as a pinnacle bordered by the Mekong River on both of its two flanks.
There are a surprising amount of temples, considering the size of the city.
I wandered into quite a few of them, and actually ended up having a really nice long chat with some novice monks at one of them.
I generally keep a respectable distance from monks, especially since women are not allowed to touch them.
They were all grouped under a tree and doing homework since it was the weekend and one of them called out to me and said hello, so I went over to chat.
'You have anywhere to be?' Um, no. 'Please, sit with us'.
It was really nice to chat with them, I told them about Canadian living and they told me about themselves and what they were studying.
One of them was sketching their friend, but when I looked over a bit later he was sketching me. So cute! All of a sudden, he added a Beer Lao bottle to the picture.
Hey, this is water, not beer! 'But you like Beer Lao, no?' Okay fineee.
One of the novice monks that I was chatting with lived at this temple and told me it was the most beautiful wat in all of Luang Prabang.
Obviously I had to check it out for myself ;)
It was preserved in 2008, so the detailing is spectacular on the various pagodas and temples on the premises.
There was even a huge carriage kept in one of the temples, with impressive dragon figures on the front.
Wat Pa Houek
'You have not truly been to Luang Prabang unless you have been to Wat Pa Houek, I think'.
Good advice from the novices, yet again!
It is located at the top of a hill in the middle of the old city, with 310 steps leading upwards.
It was supposed to be the best place to see the sunset, so I made my way there at around 5 to beat the crowds. It got pretty busy, but the funniest part was that the sun actually disappeared (no joke) behind the misty smoke before it even set behind the mountains.
Most underwhelming sunset ever!
It was a really nice view of the city, however, and turns out it is much bigger than I thought.
Royal Museum and Pha Bang Buddha Statue
The previously-used royal palace is now open as a museum of Lao artwork. It has a magnificent throne room, with walls covered in intricate scenes of Lao history made entirely of shiny Japanese glass.
You aren't allowed to take any pictures inside. I know this since I tried to sneak some and thought I had gotten away with it when a lady came up to me and said, very firmly, 'you delete now' and then proceeded to watch me as I deleted them. Sad face.
Anywho, I found it very interesting. There are some great art pieces, you can see the king and queen's old bedrooms, which are very stark and whitewashed but were supposedly very avant garde one hundred years ago.
The temple in the same enclosure holds the most sacred image of Buddha in Laos - Pha Bang, for which the city of Luang Prabang was named after. It is a small Buddha statue made of solid gold. The temple is blocked off and only the king and high Laotian dignitaries are allowed inside on special occasions.
You can see all of these sights in one day if you want, since everything is walking distance. Just remember that entrance fees will be 20,000 kip each ($2.50).