Magical Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is the former royal capital of Laos. The historic peninsula is situated between the Nam Khan and the Mekhong rivers and lies in a valley surrounded by lush, green mountains. The town's unique charm and slow pace of life makes it a great place to idle away, sipping coffee while saffron-clad monks float along the streets between gilded temples.
The town's Unesco World Heritage status means that buses and trucks are banned from the historic center, making it bicycle friendly, and establishments have a mandatory closing time of 11:30pm.
It's the perfect combination of old world French colonial and traditional Lao, and is one of Southeast Asia's most alluring destinations. It's also home to over 30 Buddhist temples, adding a touch of zen to the already peaceful atmosphere.
Here are some useful things to be aware of while you're here:
- The Laos greeting/hello is 'Sabai Dee' and nearly always said with a warm smile. Usually, this is accompanied with the 'Nop', which is pressing the hands together in a prayer like fashion, much like the Thai 'Wai'.
- Showing the bottom of your feet, touching someone with your feet, or relaxing with your feet raised up on the table is considered extremely rude in Laos culture... don't do it, ever. Feet are for walking or kicking a football.
- A cultural clanger often made by foreigners is touching the head of a Laotian, be that playfully or in a friendly gesture. This is extremely impolite, the head of someone else should not be touched.
- Keep yourself clean and smart.
- Don't plod into someone's home with your shoes on, EVER!
- Physical displays of affection, kissing, even hugging in public is considered impolite. Respect the local customs and be discreet.
- Don't go to the temple bare chested and scruffy. Show some respect... dress neatly and conservatively. Don't go snapping pictures in the temple like a paparazzi... be discreet and ask if it's OK first.
- Women... you must not touch a monk or his robes.
- Do not use illegal substances. As in most countries in the region, the consequences if you are caught are very severe.