Things To Do In Luang Prabang, Laos

A formal portrait of a Buddhist monk, bathed in window light, in Luang Prabang, Laos.

If you’re looking for things to do in Luang Prabang exploring the more than thirty Buddhist temples in this lovely UNESCO listed town should be at the very top of your list.

Laos is a landlocked South East Asian country. Sandwiched between Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam the nation of Laos regained autonomy from France in 1949 prior to achieving full independence in 1953.

Laos is governed by a communist government.

Luang Prabang Monks

I photographed this monk in Laos in the beautiful world heritage listed town of Luang Prabang way back in January 2000.

From memory there are around 33 Buddhist temples in and around the town. I think I managed to visit around 30 of them.

I created the original film based image with the following kit:

  • Leica M6 camera

  • Leica 35 mm f/2 Summicron-M Aspherical lens

  • Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

Making the photo was challenging. It was around midday, on a hot day when I arrived at the temple.

I asked the monk’s permission to make his photo and immediately moved him into better lighting.

That meant moving out of the bright, hard sunshine into more gentle lighting inside the temple.

I positioned the monk in front of a Buddha statue and utilized window light as my main (i.e., primary) light source.

Light hitting the subject from one side is wonderful for emphasizing shape and texture.

Look how the side lighting has helped to bring out the shape of the monk’s head and the structure of his face.

The fact that the light is relatively bright results in all shaded areas photographing much darker than they would have appeared to the eye at the time of making the image.

I’d recommend you assign the following mantra, from the Book of Glenn, to memory.

The brighter the light, the darker the shadows will photograph.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

I originally made this image on 35 mm color transparency film. After scanning I employed Adobe Photoshop to process the digital color file and render it into black-and-white.

I love the dual sense of serenity and strength within the subject. Duality is one of the recurring themes in my photography.

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Photography Begins With Light And Shadow

Notice how the window light has produced luminous skin tones, while the dense shadows have added a somewhat sombre, mysterious quality to the image.

The secret to the quality of the light in this image is due to the fact that it's been softened by a large window.

It's good to remember that the larger the light source, the softer the quality of the light will be.

Window needs a clean? Leave it alone. The more the light is disrupted the softer the quality of light reaching the subject will be.

Shadows, on the other hand, conceal information and, in doing so, add a sense of mystery to our images.

What's more shadows enhance shape and bring a sense of three dimensional space to our photos.

Light and shadow are the most fundamental elements in photography composition. Paying attention to them can only enhance the impact of your photography. 

I hope you enjoy the final result as much as I do.

Luang Prabang Weather

The weather in Luang Prabang is hot and humid. The summer months, from March to May, are particularly steamy with average maximum temperatures around 34C/92F.

From December to February the cooler winter months in Luang Prabang have maximum temperatures of around 26C/81F with evening temperatures at that time of year getting down to around 15C/57F.

Best Time To Visit Luang Prabang

If you’re considering a holiday in Laos you’ll find the best time to visit Luang Prabang is most likely going to be in the cooler winter months from December to February.

As most of the rain falls during the summer the cooler and drier winter months, particularly during December and January, is probably the best time to visit.

I visited in December and found the weather similar, though more humid, that what I’d normally experience in Melbourne, Australia.

What To Do In Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang attractions include over thirty UNESCO Buddhist temples. It was the temples that motivated me to visit Luang Prabang.

Other attractions in and around Luang Prabang include the following:

  • Night market

  • Oak Ou Buddhist Caves

  • Kuang Si Falls

  • Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre

Because I've been photographing for so long most of my images go back to the days of film-based photography.

I have hundreds, if not thousands, of negatives and slides I hope to scan one day. And I'd love to share those photos with you here, on this site.

Now there's a project I’m really looking forward to undertaking.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru