Luang Prabang literally means “Royal Buddha Image” is a is a city in north central Laos. Is was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 for its unique architectural, religious and cultural heritage, a mixture of the rural and urban legacy over centuries, including the French colonial during the 19th and 20th centuries. Its population is approximately 70000 people.
The tiny city centre consists of four main roads being the main Sisavangvong road, where the daily night market takes place:
This road is full of restaurants and from there it is possible to start the climb to the famous Mount Phou Si. Luang Prabang is located on a peninsula at the confluence of Nam Khan and Mekong River.
I recommend visiting the tourist information centre, where there is an interactive screen where tourist can find absolutely anything they need to know about the city, including an overview of the city, tours, festivals, accommodation, activities and transportation.
My first visit after arriving in Luang Prabang: TAEC (Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre),
There are not many places to learn about the tribes living in the country, cultures and textiles in Laos, however, here in Luang Prabang, there is a small museum called TAEC, which I was lucky to visit during my stay in Luang Prabang.
The TAEC building was constructed in 1920 during the French colony, since then it has had many uses, including being a military court and home of many ethnic minorities, before being converted into a museum.
Even though the museum is quite small, it consists of only three rooms, it still allowed me to get an insight into ethnic groups, rural lifestyles, traditional clothes and customs of Lao tribes. The information is orderly exhibited and easy to go through with English labels. It includes feature text, photographs and objects from villages of northern Laos.
I learnt about the distribution of the four ethnolinguistic groups: Tai-Kadai, which includes ten subgroups; Hmong-Yao, which includes three subgroups; Sino-Tibetan, includes in another nine subgroups; and the Austro-Asiatic, includes in another thirty subgroups
The museum also has a small souvenir shop which promotes sustainable livelihoods. It has authentic handicrafts directly sourced from ethnic artisans, primarily ethnic minority women who earn a fair share. 50% of the shop income goes back to the villages across Laos. I purchased a beautiful double-sided textile cap made by Tai Lue women, as a present for my sister Sandra who loves hats, for 200000 kip (£19, COP71000). Tai Lue group is devoutly Buddhist and famous for their handwoven cotton and silk textiles.
If you wish to support them, contact www.taeclaos.org or shop.taeclaos.org. I also bought me a nice red necklace produced by the Akha Nuqui. Which I have been wearing since I bought it, I love it.
TAEC also host half-day handicraft workshops taught by ethnic artisans. When I visited, there was one taking place: