Gay Travel Laos: Luang Prabang, Capital of the Kingdom of Laos
Charm, history, and two great rivers converge in Luang Prabang, one of the most sought-after vacation spots in Southeast Asia. There is so much to do it is hard to decide where to begin. Trekking? A picnic at a spectacular waterfall? Colorful shops and art galleries? Or just waiting for the baguettes to come from the oven. There is even a modest gay scene. Most people hate to leave.
Idyllic, gay-friendly Luang Prabang is full of World Heritage treasures surrounded by unspoiled natural wonders
Some compare Luang Prabang to "Chiang Mai of fifty years ago." While there are similarities, Luang Prabang is a leisurely adventure like no other. The former royal capital of Laos, Luang Prabang reposes gracefully on a peninsula on the confluence of the mighty Mekong and peaceful Khan rivers, ringed by emerald mountains, dotted with more than thirty active temples and hundreds of architectural treasures. Daily life and the relaxed pace of Luang Prabang have barely changed in fifty years and will not change easily in the future. The town has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, which means nothing new can be built and little of the existing architecture can be modified easily, although the local jail was recently converted to a dazzling hotel. Here, each day still begins in the mists of morning, with wandering monks and ethnic tribes-people heading to market, and ends with jovial dinners at magical twilight. Step back in time as you soak up the ambiance of Luang Prabang. You do not have to be gay to enjoy Leisurely Luang Prabang. Many of our mainstream guests travel with Purple Dragon because they know they will get something better from a gay tour company.
Day One: Climb the Serpent Stairway
Arrive in Luang Prabang and transfer to your hotel. In the afternoon, your personal guide will lead you on a short introduction to this ancient, royal capital. Climb the Naga (river serpent) Stairway up Phousi Mountain to Wat Paa Huak (your guide may be able to arrange for a key from the Abbot to view the spectacular murals) and Wat Thammothayalan , an active monastery with a lovely view of the Nam Khan river . As you wander around town you'll discover prime examples of 19th century French colonial villas and Lao-style homes. Luang Prabang has a multitude of charming restaurants offering outstanding Lao, French, and international taste treats (be sure to try a tasty Luang Prabang watercress salad and aromatic Lao coffee).
Your guide knows the best restaurants for Lao, French, and international fare and would be pleased to make some recommendations or even join you for dinner if you like. The gay scene is small, although there a number of gay-owned mixed bars and restaurants.
Day Two: A Parade of Monks, a Palace, and a Psychedelic Waterfall
Early risers should wake and dress by 6am to catch an unforgettable spectacle as hundreds of Buddhist monks quietly parade single-file around the city collecting food offerings from citizens garbed in Lao traditional dress. In the quiet morning it is fun to simply wander about, watching the city come alive. Paper-makers pound mulberry bark into mulch, families tend to gardens and wood burning stoves, vendors offer a tasty breakfast treat called "khao jii pat?" - freshly baked French baguettes filled with sweet and savory spiced pork.
After breakfast your guide will lead you on a tour of Luang Prabang's temples and city lanes. Wat Xieng Thong is an architectural treasure trove with structures dating from 1560, spectacular mirrored murals on vividly colored walls, a three story high golden funeral chariot, and unique sacred statuary. Take a break from temple-viewing on Sisavangvong Road , lined with open-air cafes, scrumptious bakeries, busy Internet cafes, and shops selling fabrics, silver and ceramics. If school is in session you might enjoy visiting the students at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Purple Dragon may also arrange for you to visit a temple project where young monks are being trained in the fast-disappearing traditional Lao painting and sculpture. You may like to visit the former Royal Palace (no shorts allowed, closed Tuesdays), now a museum haunted by specters of Luang Prabang's former glory. Purple Dragon guests should pay special attention to a couple of the floor-to-ceiling paintings in the first exhibition hall! If you are weary of palaces and temples, another alternative is a trip to the spectacular Khuang Sii Waterfall , on the outskirts of the city. (Please arrange this in advance since it requires a special vehicle.)
Day Three: Statues in a Cave
Depart at 9am for a Keong River boat cruise 25 kilometers north to Tham Ting Cave , famous for its mystical setting filled with hundreds of Luang Prabang-style standing Buddha statues and animist offerings. Along the way marvel at spectacular scenery and the chance to visit a local village or two specializing in producing Lao rice whiskey, paper, or weaving. Stop for lunch near the mouth of the placid Ou River . (There is a cute but touristy restaurant along the river, or we can arrange for a picnic lunch.) On your way back, visit the recently restored Wat Long Khun , where Lao kings went into spiritual retreat prior to their coronations, or the hilltop temple, Wat Chompet , with its beautiful decor and unobstructed view of Luang Prabang and surrounds. You'll be back in town in the early afternoon with plenty of free time for more shopping, wandering, or just rest and relaxation.
Day Four: A Teary Goodbye
Free time until we take you to the airport. Are you sure you want to leave this soon?
Stay longer? Of course you can!
Most people who visit Luang Prabang do not want to leave! There is much more to see and plenty to do here, although a longer stay should be arranged in advance since hotels are usually fully booked. How about a cooking class ? We have plenty of options to choose from. And do not miss the opportunity to visit Vientiane .
Prices and Hotels
Prices depend on your choice of hotel and when you want to travel.
We offer a number of different hotels in Luang Prabang, ranging from three to five stars. If you have a specific hotel in mind, please let us know. All of the hotels we use are carefully chosen for location, amenities, quality of service, security and value. We only use hotels are gay-owned , gay-managed or gay-friendly. We inspect most hotels at least once a year.
To see prices and compare hotels please click on the "$" button on the left. If you have questions or suggestions about the hotels we use, please email us .
Custom vacations are our specialty. If this travel package is not exactly what you are looking for, we may be able to modify it to make it a perfect fit.
Club Sanook Members can take an instant discount when you combine our Luang Prabang and Vientiane packages. For details click on the icon and join the club !
Where We Shine
: With Purple Dragon you'll never be herded around on a bus with 40 strangers. We use only
LGBT- friendly hotels
, so couples never suffer embarrassing moments. Your tour is private and you have the undivided attention of our guides, all of whom speak excellent English. Our guests often remark that the highlight of their holiday was the charming company of our trained guides and their friendly introduction to Lao life and culture.
Photos: Gordon Crofoot, Francesco Gonora, Jeffrey Wood