This is a small city that you will love as soon as you step off the plane. Even if none of the actual activities make your top 10 list, the town itself is a delight. It has a wonderful vibe and the entire city is a UNESCO site.
We only 1 ½ days here but I could have spent at least 3-4 days here. In addition to the below, I would have visited elephants, plain of jars, and done some activities like rice planting, hiking and spent some time on the river.
Morning alms at 0530. This is a unique experience and worth getting up to view. However, remember you are an observer and just by being there you are changing a sacred and ancient tradition that is not for show but still plays a vital role in the local culture. We saw tourist get way to close and act very disrespectful. Stay on opposite side of the street, be quite and just watch. For more information on this topic, I enjoyed this blog.
Climb Phu Si after alms to see the sunrise. This is also popular for sunset but since you are up and it is less busy in the morning go ahead and beat the crowds.
Before or after breakfast, visit the morning market to see the town come alive, locals do their shopping for the day and to experience the vibrant colors and sounds of the city.
Before it closes over lunch, visit the royal place and learn about its place in Lao history during years in between occupations and communism.
Wat Xieng Thong is THE most impressive Buddhist Temple any of us have seen (and we have seen a lot!). It is indescribable with it’s beautiful tile and mosaics.
Nearby Phonheaung for lunch is an outstanding option. It is local, very good and cheap.
For the afternoon I recommend, Tat Kuang Si Falls or Park Ou caves (Buddhist grotto). Throughout town you will see ample tours for both options. You can also work with your hotel to hire a driver for the afternoon in order to do both stops on a quicker timeline if you are pressed for time. For the caves, make sure you have small change for the bathroom.
Returning to town, make sure you visit the large night market and I highly recommend the rooftop of Indigo Café for one of their amazing burgers or bruschetta (we ate there twice). Or I also highly recommend Khaiphaen which is an NGO vocational training restaurant. While we didn’t eat here, we did learn about them and visit two of their locations in Cambodia. I am a huge fan of their mission and the food was outstanding.
Hotels: Mylao Home and Spa was fantastic. They are preserved old homes with beautiful wood and gracious hospitality. (Not thrilled with the bathroom).