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Oh My Laos!

Muslim Friendly Indochina Blog Contest Winner Gan Keat Hon shares his experiences in marvellous Laos.

Images: AirAsia

Credit Giancarlo Radice

Luang Prabang is the historic royal city of Laos, where watching hundreds of saffron-robed monks move silently within centuries-old monasteries are truly a unique experience to behold.

     Enjoy a tour around Luang Prabang with the spectacular Mekong River as your backdrop as you cruise the countryside on a humble bicycle. You will soon understand why it deserves the World Heritage title.

     Visit Wat Visoun – the site of impressive, and the amazing Thad Makmo stupa where the rounded dome is stylistically more Sinhalese than Lao. Amongst all the wonders the eyes can take in, Phou Sii Hill stands right in the centre of this small city. Climb its intimidating 350 steps to enjoy commanding views for many miles in all directions. Wat Phou Sii sits atop the great mountain, alongside the skeletons of the Indochina War’s anti-aircraft guns.

     Continue on to visit Wat Mai. Built in 1796, the five-tiered roof of the wooden sim (chapel) epitomizes the graceful Luang Prabang unique architectural style. Wat Xieng Thong further emphasizes & characterizes the beauty that is Luang Prabang, with its numerous roofs sweeping low to the ground. If you’re ever in the region, don’t miss out on the impressive “tree of life” mosaic here. The gilt panel on the exterior of the chapel depicts episodes from the Ramayana.

     Hop on over to the National Museum, once a king’s palace, now houses an impressive collection of personal artefacts belonging to the royal family, including photos, musical instruments and many other gifts received from the dignitaries of foreign countries. By now, your biking journey would have reached approximately 10 kilometres. Phew, what a satisfying ride!

      At night, The Luang Prabang Night Market has perhaps the most extensive collection of handicrafts for sale in the country, with a wide variety of textiles, clothing, carvings, basketry, quilts and much more. The market is open daily from dusk till about 10pm. Strolling through the night market is an enjoyable experience by itself and is something that should not be missed for those visiting Luang Prabang. Vibrant colours shine brilliantly at night as you watch the humble city come to life with excitement.

     I spotted many Muslims at the night market who seemed to be enjoying their shopping time. My fellow Muslim friends will definitely love this place as they are spoilt for choice with the wide array of souvenirs, and they will definitely love the local clothing and textile enterprises that provide tailoring services for baju kurungs and baju melayus.

    Best of all, everything here are priced cheaply! The traders tend to quote pretty low prices considering most of the items are handmade, so even if you’re not good at bargaining, you can be sure that you will get good value for your items.

     For food, I highly recommend the Laap. Laap means luck or good fortune, and it is a local dish that can be made from chicken, beef, turkey or fish, mixed with lime juice, fish sauce, mint, coriander, spring onion, chili and uncooked rice grains that have been dry fried and crushed. It is usually accompanied by fresh greens and vegetables including eggplant, fresh chilies, mustard leaves and lettuce. It can be eaten with ordinary rice or sticky rice, and some delicious fish/meat soup completes the meal. Certainly a dish not to be missed!

     This ancient capital certainly has so much to offer to the unsuspecting tourist who is looking for some quaint old charm mingled with majestic architecture and astounding sights – all in one marvellous city! Enjoy the scenery atop a bicycle, or explore every nook and cranny on foot. Whatever your preference may be, Luang Prabang and its timeless beauty is always there waiting for you. Next time, I’m definitely bringing my Muslims friends over for an amazing weekend getaway!