Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang Phou Si 2.jpg
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Luang Prabang
</div>Location in Laos
Coordinates: 19°53′N 102°08′E / 19.883°N 102.133°E / 19.883; 102.133
Country Template:LAO
Admin. division Louangphrabang Province
 - Mayor
 - Total 103,000
 - Religions Buddhism
Town of Luang Prabang*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Luang Prabang Rue
State Party Template:LAO
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iv, v
Reference 479
Region** Asia
Inscription history
Inscription 1995  (19th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Luang Prabang, or Louangphrabang (Lao: ຫລວງພະບາງ, literally: "Royal Delicate Buddha," pronounced [luaŋ pʰabaːŋ][tone missing]), Xieng Dong Xieng Thong, is a city located in north central Laos, on the Mekong River about 425 km north of Vientiane, and the capital of Louangphrabang Province. The current population of the city is about 103,000.

The city was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name. Until the communist takeover in 1975, it was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos. The city is also notable as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Muang Sua was the old name of Luang Prabang following its conquest in 698 A.D. by a Tai prince, Khun Lo, who seized his opportunity when Nan-chao was engaged elsewhere. Khun Lo had been awarded the town by his father, Khun Borom, who is associated with the Lao legend of the creation of the world, which the Lao share with the Shan and other peoples of the region. Khun Lo established a dynasty whose fifteen rulers reigned over an independent Muang Sua for the better part of a century.

Buddhist temple at Royal Palace in Luang Prabang

Buddhist Temple at Haw Kham (Royal Palace) complex.

In the second half of the 8th century, Nan-chao intervened frequently in the affairs of the principalities of the middle Mekong Valley, resulting in the occupation of Muang Sua in 709. Nan-chao princes or administrators replaced the aristocracy of Tai overlords. Dates of the occupation are not known, but it probably ended well before the northward expansion of the Khmer empire under Indravarman I (r. 877-89) and extended as far as the territories of Sipsong Panna on the upper Mekong.

In the meantime, the Khmers founded an outpost at Xay Fong near Vientiane, and Champa expanded again in southern Laos, maintaining its presence on the banks of the Mekong until 1070. Chanthaphanit, the local ruler of Xay Fong, moved north to Muang Sua and was accepted peacefully as ruler after the departure of the Nan-chao administrators. Chanthaphanit and his son had long reigns, during which the town became known by the Tai name Xieng Dong Xieng Thong. The dynasty eventually became involved in the squabbles of a number of principalities. Khun Chuang, a warlike ruler who may have been a Kammu (alternate spellings include Khamu and Khmu) tribesman, extended his territory as a result of the warring of these principalities and probably ruled from 1128 to 1169. Under Khun Chuang, a single family ruled over a far-flung territory and reinstituted the Siamese administrative system of the 7th century. At some point, Theravada Buddhism was subsumed by Mahayana Buddhism.

Xieng Dong Xieng Thong experienced a brief period of Khmer suzerainty under Jayavarman VII from 1185 to 1191. By 1180 the Sipsong Panna had regained their independence from the Khmers, however, and in 1238 an internal uprising in the Khmer outpost of Sukhothai expelled the Khmer overlords. Xieng Dong Xieng Thong in 1353 became the capital of Lan Xang. The capital was moved in 1560 by King Setthathirath I to Vien Chang, which remains the capital today.

In 1707, Lan Xang fell apart and Luang Prabang became the capital of the independent Luang Prabang kingdom. When France annexed Laos, the French recognized Luang Prabang as the royal residence of Laos. Eventually, the ruler of Luang Prabang became synonymous with the figurehead of the French Protectorate of Laos. When Laos achieved independence, the king of Luang Prabang, Sisavang Vong, became the head of state for the Kingdom of Laos.

Monarchs of Luang Prabang

  • Khun Lo, warlord who founded the city
  • Fa Ngum, prince of Luang Prabang who founded Lan Xang
  • Oun Kham, king who ruled under the French
  • Kham Souk (Zakarine), king who ruled under the French and who pushed for independence
  • Sisavang Vong, king under the French, and when France granted Laos independence, he became king of the whole country


Luang Prabang pano Wikimedia Commons

Panorama of Luang Prabang, seen from Phu Si hill.

Luang Prabang has both natural and historical sites. Among the natural tourism sites, there are the Kuang Si Falls and Pak Ou Caves. Tourists may also ride elephants. At the end of the main street of Luang Prabang is a night market where stalls sell shirts, bracelets, tea - suitable souvenirs. The Haw Kham Royal Palace Museum and the Wat Xieng Thong temple are among the most well known historical sites. Along with the magnificent wats a significant part of the old town's appeal are the many French provincial style houses.

Kuang Si Waterfalls Luang Prabang Wikimedia Commons

Kuang SI waterfalls, nearby Luang Prabang

As China has recently allowed its citizens to travel more freely to Laos [1], the number of tourists in the area is expected to increase rapidly, creating pressure to modernize the tourist infrastructure, particularly catering to package tourism.


Luang Prabang Phou Si

Luang Prabang with the Nam Khan River

Luang Prabang is served by Luang Prabang International Airport with non-stop flights to

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Luang Prabang is linked by Route 13 with Vang Vieng and Vientiane, and by Route 1 with Muang Xay. Route 13 also connects the city to Cambodia.

The road from Huay Xai (the Laos town across the river from Chiang Khong) to Luang Prabang is poorly maintained, remote, unlit, unmarked and extremely dangerous for the unfamiliar traveler, particularly in the wet season. Regular buses nonetheless do run, taking 14–16 hours [2]

Route 13 from Vientiane, passing Vang Vieng, to Luang Prabang is paved, though the pavement is in poor condition at places. It is also relatively narrow, with sharp curves. There are no markings or lighting on the road. Several daily buses run from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, taking 9–11 hours [3].

The Mekong River itself is also an important transportation link. Travelers from Chiang Khong can hire a barge to cross the river. Huay Xai, upriver near the Thai border, can be reached by slow boat in two days, typically with a stop at Pakbeng.

See also

External links

Coordinates: 19°53′N 102°08′E / 19.883°N 102.133°E / 19.883; 102.133 Template:World Heritage Sites in Laos

Sister cities

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