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Gorgeous little Luang Prabang in Laos is quite the tourist hot spot these days yet still retains its sleepy Laos charm. The Luang Prabang Night Market is one of the best of its kind in the world and delights tourists with its crafts, trinkets and street food, but every day you’ll see market activity on the streets of Luang Prabang. There are two distinct types of market here and both are fascinating. There’s the night market, which is for tourists, and the food market, which most certainly isn’t. Luang Prabang markets are captivating and diverse at any time of day or night and packed with interesting street food to try while lined with chic little restaurants. Let’s explore.
Luang Prabang Night Market
The main road through town closes in the late afternoon as the stallholders start arriving and setting up.
Everything goes a lot quieter as the traffic stops but getting up and down that street, if you’re not interested in shopping, becomes an obstacle course.
Our guest house is just off the night market, right opposite the monastery, a great spot to watch all the action. Which we do, every day. We based ourselves in Laos for 6 weeks and at least 2 weeks we spent in Luang Prabang observing daily life for locals and tourists and checking out local attractions, hotels and restaurants.
We have a lot more Laos content on our site and it’s one of our favourite countries.
The Luang Prabang night market is one of the biggest tourist markets I’ve ever seen, it seems to go on forever and compares well with other big night markets such as Chiang Mai.
My favourite market is still Anjuna, Goa, but this one is really good.
Every night we’ve browsed the stalls, and every night we find something new and interesting.
Comparing this night market to that in Hoi An, Vetnam, another market tourists will know well, Luang Prabang is far less tacky and the crafts are much more authentic and better quality.
Laos produces some beautiful hand-woven fabrics and decorative hand-sewn items, I’d go for those if I were in the market for souvenirs, unfortunately, our packs can’t get any fuller.
There are hundreds of stalls selling hippy trousers, bags, soft toys, beautiful jewellery, artwork and decorative nick knacks along a few more unusual items. The sort of items you could never get past customs even if you wanted to buy them.
This lady was selling everything you shouldn’t buy. She told me these teeth and claws were tiger, I really hope they’re not, but they’re from some unfortunate big cat.
Decorated tortoise shells, tops and bottoms. Another thing not to touch.
Snake, scorpion and gecko wine. You’ll find this all over South East Asia these days. Not very nice for the animals involved.
There is a separate alleyway stuffed with food stalls and buffets every evening during the night market.
I’ve already talked about it in Struggling with Food in Luang Prabang, it’s spectacular to photograph but poor Chef got hit hard by some sort of tummy bug.
There are other, much nicer, spots to eat if you have a dig around, the baguette and smoothy stalls on the main night market street seemed pretty safe and we had no problem with hot street food in the night market area, such as noodle soups and Laos doughnuts.
The Food and Produce Market in Luang Prabang by Day
This is where the markets in Luang Prabang get really interesting for us, we love our food!
The produce market has just about everything edible that you could imagine. Plus some stuff that you wouldn’t imagine, ever.
There are a lot of farmers and gardeners in the Luang Prabang area, smallholders producing pineapples, blue corn, bananas and pumpkins.
Surplus fruit and veg and any wild foods they can collect go to market.
A handful of chilies a few banana flowers, whatever fish they can catch, a bucket of live frogs, it’s all there.
Stall after stall laid out on the ground, fruit, veg, fish, the odd live chicken or pig. It’s a fascinating place to wander around.
Wandering around the markets is a peek into a way of life. I love it. I haven’t seen ant eggs yet, I’ve heard that Laos is famous for ant egg soup, if we can find it the chef has to try it. So far no sign.
What do you think about the animal parts on sale as souvenirs at Luang Prabang night market? It can’t be illegal here although it’s very much against the rules to take them back to Australia and to most countries. I wonder who buys them?
So where’s your favourite market? I’m really looking forward to the European Christmas markets when we go home in December and I used to work at Port Douglas market, Far North Queensland, it’s a brilliant one, but Asia always wins for me. We loved our time in Laos and Luang Prabang night market was a daily part of our life. Do you have any recommendations for other great night markets?