The Mekong aka Mae Nam Khong (Mother of Water) is a mighty river that twists over 4,000 kilometers from the Tibetan Plateau through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The river is a vital part of Laos – providing a means of transportation and trade as well as a bountiful source of food, including fish and riverweed.
The Mekong also has a rich mythical history as it is the home to many Naga, the great snake deities found in Buddhism and Hinduism. Legend says that the Naga are the protectors of Laos and you can see the dragon-like snake gods in temples all over the country.
Ban Xang Khong – Saa Paper Village
Saa Paper village is located about 3km up river and specializes in manufacturing and selling product made from silk and Saa paper. Saa paper is made from the bark of the Mulberry Tree. If you are interested in a setting of weaving looms and local craftsmen and women, textile shops selling beautiful silks and other handicrafts this may be a stop for you.
Ban Channeua – Pottery Village
Pottery Village is about a 10 minute cruise downstream from Luang Prabang. Ban Chan village is a small local village on the Mekong riverbank specializing in manufacturing pottery, bricks and terracotta tiles. The local manufacturing techniques have stayed a natural craftsmanship and are worth while seeing. Perhaps, you can try and create something for yourself with a little help from the locals experts.
Wat Longkhoun & Wat Sack Kalin & Caves
Wat Longkhoun was built in the 18th century and holds historically significant connections to the royal family of Luang Prabang. All new Kings would retreat here for three days of cleansing and meditation before being crowned at Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang. The original meditation room once used by kings is still intact along with the living quarters for monks built as a traditional wooden outhouse.—–Inside, the temple features decorative deities and a variety of other statues and carvings. The ancient murals tell the story of the 547 lives of Lord Buddha and depict local myths sharing Buddhist morals of kindness and the importance of giving. Wat Longkhoun shares a rich history and is also known as the “Monastery of the Happy”.—–The joy of visiting ancient Sack Kalin caves is that often the local kids hold the key and are there to lead you inside. Caves are considered sacred in Laos and acted as safe havens for thousands of Laotians during the “Secret War”. A variety of old Buddha statues are often seen in caves of all sizes throughout the country.
Wat Kokpab boasts stunning landscapes and manicured gardens. The Sathoo (senior monk) at Wat Kokpab is well respected in the community and is known for a more disciplined level of practice. This is reflected in the beautiful and peaceful setting one is surrounded with when visiting the temple. Do note there are several resident dogs that act as the temple’s door bell. They don’t bite and they do stop barking. Keep an eye out for the cute little pug.
Wat Chomphet was built in 1888 and offers stunning views over the Mekong and Luang Prabang. There is often only one monk here slowly working away on renovations when possible. It’s a peaceful place to sit and relax while soaking in the magnificent scenery. Note: There are a lot of steps to conquer before reaching Wat Chomphet but if you’re up for it…it’s worth it!