Sunset in Luang Prabang leaves a lasting impression on travellers, often becoming one of their most memorable experiences. It is not just pretty skies, although that is certainly part of the magic, this time of day captures the mood and feeling of the entire place. It’s the golden light on the mountains, the calm that blankets the Mekong, the gathering of friends, the temple bells and drums heralding evening prayers. For locals and tourists alike, it’s a collective sigh, a pause in time. To understand what we mean, head to these places for sunset.
Atop the hill
Mount Phou Si is the heart of Luang Prabang, gracefully rising in the middle of the town centre. 328 steps lead up to Wat Chom Si on top and it’s no wonder that it’s a popular spot for sunset as you get a stunning view of the surrounding verdant mountains, the river and the pretty rooftops nestled below. Sunset on Mount Phou Si is considered a must-do in Luang Prabang – and we agree, but be aware it can get very crowded and noisy with tourists who also want to take that perfect photo.
There are two main staircases to the summit, one on the main street (Sisavangvong Road) and the other at the back on the Nam Khan River road. Admission is 20,000 kip. While it may be tempting to bring some beers, remember this is a temple and alcohol, smoking and revealing clothing are inappropriate. Save the sundowner for the Mekong.
To the river
In Laos, life revolves around its rivers and you can begin to understand this by heading to Luang Prabang’s riverbanks at the end of the day. Picturesque scenes play out: Fishermen return home with their catch, women wash their hair and do laundry while kids splash in the rapids.
The local beer bars near the end of the Mekong River road are the best place for a sunset beer (starting at Kitsalat Road aka “the Morning Market street” and moving away from the peninsula). The wooden decks have unobstructed views and locals flock here to enjoy Beerlao with friends, Lao pop music and typical beer snacks like barbecued meat and delicious khai pene, crispy fried sheets of seasoned riverweed always served with jeow bong, a spicy chili dip.
Our favourite way to enjoy sunset is to get out onto the river for a sunset cruise. Head to boat landings or anywhere along the Mekong River road and a boat driver will no doubt approach you. The going rate is about 100,000 kip an hour for a typical slow boat (with a roof) and this is fair. You can always ask to see the boat first but don’t enter into negotiations unless you are serious.
If organising a boat is daunting and you want a comfortable experience, book a sunset cruise with Banana Boat. Beer and snacks are included, plus the trip stops at Chomphet Temple so you can get a pretty view of town from the other side of the river.
During hot-dry season (approximately March to June), water levels drop and a beach forms at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong River. It’s a lovely spot to watch boats puttering by, kids playing football and novice monks doing back flips into the water. There is also a bamboo bridge over the mouth of the Nam Khan and on the other side there are boulders on the shore, yet another nice place to take it all in. Bridge costs 10,000 kip round-trip.
Salute the sun
Unwind with Luang Prabang Yoga’s sunset yoga in two beautiful locations: the outdoor deck at Utopia Bar & Restaurant overlooking the Nam Khan and the Ock Pop Tok Living Craft Centre which faces the Mekong.
Classes are only 40,000-60,000 kip making it one of the best value yoga classes in Southeast Asia. A variety of styles are taught and classes are usually open to all levels including beginners. Wear comfortable stretchy clothing, bring your own towel and water, mats can be rented.
By Cindy Fan
Last updated on 14th January, 2015.