Great views, even better sunsets
Published/Last edited or updated: 2nd December, 2018
Dominating the peninsula and visible from afar, Mount Phou Si is the epicentre of Luang Prabang. The golden stupa at its peak radiates like a beacon beckoning all—predictably, it is an extremely popular spot for sunset.
The vantage point gives panoramic views of the pretty rooftops, radiant temples, the surrounding mountains and on a clear day, the Mekong glowing as the sun performs its dramatic swan song. Sunrise is another special time to visit. Steps (328 to be exact) lead up to Wat Tham Phou Si, a temple built up against a rock. It has a drum chapel, hall and stupa That Chomsi, built in 1804—it’s here that sunset-shippers flock for photos.
The temple mountain is considered sacred and should be treated as any other wat in town, so visitors should be dressed appropriately, there’s no drinking alcohol, smoking or public displays of affection. Unfortunately these rules are largely ignored and vendors even sell beer, as well as live birds since there’s a local belief that releasing the birds (ironically caught for this purpose) earns merit. Please do not buy birds, drink alcohol, climb up the stupa or canoodle with your amour.
There are two main entrances, one stairway on the main road (Sisavangvong Road) directly across from the gate of the Royal Palace Museum, and the other at the back on the Nam Khan river. The conga line of tourists start making their way up at around 17:00. There’s another entrance that hardly anyone uses (and not surprisingly, it’s the way we go). On the main street take the alley beside Opera Bar that leads to the hidden in plain sight Wat Pa Ke.
Pause to admire the exquisite, unusual carving on the door of a Dutch merchant. Luang Prabang is most associated with French colonialists but the Dutch East India Company traded with the Kingdom of Lane Xang in the 17th century. Stairs at the back of the temple compound lead up the hill past a dent in the rock believed to be an imprint of Buddha’s foot (Buddha must have been a giant) and a grotto of Buddha statues before reaching the ticket booth, where you can join the masses the rest of the way.
Address: Between Sisavangvong and Phou Si Roads, Luang Prabang
Coordinates (for GPS): 102º8'13.56" E, 19º53'25.08" N
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Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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