Town of Luang Prabang

Posted: February 2, 2009    Categories: Daily Photo, World Heritage Sites

World Heritage Site #50: Town of Luang Prabang

Town of Luang Prabang: My 50th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Town of Luang Prabang:

Luang Prabang is located in northern Laos at the heart of a mountainous region. The town is built on a peninsula formed by the Mekong and the Nam Khan River. Mountain ranges (in particular the PhouThao and PhouNang mountains) encircle the city in lush greenery.

Many legends are associated with the creation of the city, including one that recounts that Buddha would have smiled when he rested there during his travels, prophesying that it would one day be the site of a rich and powerful city. Known as Muang Sua, then Xieng Thong, from the 14th to the 16th century the town became the capital of the powerful kingdom of Lane Xang (Kingdom of a Million Elephants), whose wealth and influence were related to its strategic location on the Silk Route. The city was also the center of Buddhism in the region. Luang Prabang takes its name from a statue of Buddha, the Prabang, offered by Cambodia.

After the establishment of the French Protectorate in 1893, following a period of turmoil during which the country was divided into three independent kingdoms, Luang Prabang once again became the royal and religious capital during the reign of King Sisavang Vong. It played this role until Vientiane became the administrative capital in 1946.
Luang Prabang is exceptional for both its rich architectural and artistic heritage that reflects the fusion of Lao traditional urban architecture with that of the colonial era. Its remarkably well-preserved townscape reflects the alliance of these two distinct cultural traditions.

The political and religious center of Luang Prabang is the peninsula, with its royal and noble residences and religious foundations. The traditional urban fabric of the old villages, each with its temple, was preserved by later constructions. The colonial urban morphology, including the network of streets, overlapped harmoniously with the previous model. Formerly the town limits were defined by defensive walls.

Prior to the communist takeover in Laos, the Town of Luang Prabang was the royal capital of the country. It is a very sleepy town (well, all of Laos is) on the Mekong river which is becoming a popular attraction on the tourist circuit in SE Asia. In addition to the European style colonial buildings, there are also several Buddhist temples in the area.

One of the most interesting things you’ll see in Luang Prabang is the daily alms ceremony. Every morning at sunrise, the monks of the local temples line up and walk through the streets of the town to get rice and food from the locals. If you wake up early, you can buy some sticky rice and fruit and line up to give something to the monks. The Korean and Japanese tourists took it much more seriously than the Western tourists did.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Laos.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Mar 20, 2017 @ 3:11 am

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