Wat Sene & Wat Sensoukaram along Sakkaline Road

When going for a run in Luang Prabang, the ideal option is to wake up early and go out.  The small hotels there likely will not have any gyms, much less treadmills.  Outside, its quite hot in the day, not humid hot but burning hot. Evenings will have the main road closed for the night market, and the other roads hardly have any lamp posts.

Being out at sunrise also lets you observe the alms giving tradition where saffron-robed monks in procession walk past houses for locals to share a bite of food into their baskets.

Though I heard one can also wait out on the side streets, its best seen on the central Sakkaline and Sisavangvong Roads where tourists can also sit on the neatly lined low stools and have their food baskets for a fee on a table on the other side of the road.  Its a weird contrast of old and new.  The monks and locals continuing their tradition since the 14th century, while the excited participants from out of town have their equally excited friends paparazzi the whole event because it needs to be on social media or it never happened.

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View atop Mt. Phousi – old French bridge over the Nam Khan, nearby mountains

Luang Prabang is a UNESCO heritage site, at least the old town part on a peninsula jutting out by the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers.  Its a place stuck in time, or at least a reminder of what it once was.  The national museum was once the royal palace.  Ornate temples and stupas here and there, line up with old houses and shops in a mix of indigenous and French colonial architecture.  The rugged mountains beyond the rivers seem to be hiding this town from civilization like a mythical lost city of gold.  The women walking by with their silk patterned skirts completes the somewhat regal at the same time provincial charm of the place.

Fellow runner under colorful flowers and trees by the Mekong river

Looping on the roads along the rivers, and an out and back on the centre road easily takes 8km of scenic views, or can be longer depending how far you stretch the loop.  There are small roads and alleyways that cut across, running these short paths is good if you want additional elevation as its from one riverbank to another, and more hidden shops and cafes to discover too.  There are no traffic lights, its hardly busy so its quite safe to run anywhere.  As with other places in the region, there are dogs here and there.  In Phnom Penh I was startled by an angry dog that’s about to lunge at me from behind and luckily it was chained to a gate, while I remember a small dog give brief chase in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.  But Luang Prabang being very laid back, that may have rubbed off on its canine residents so no growls from behind.  I did run purposely slower in order to not trigger them

You can also do a short loop going out of town crossing the Nam Khan river over 2 very different bridges.  Going out there’s the “Old French Bridge” as its called in Google Maps.  If Hanoi have Cau Long Bien, then Luang Prabang have this not-as-grand, much shorter, and equally relic-looking bridge.  Its better to walk this as the wood planks actually flex on each step, like your foot sinking on a trampoline.

Then return to town via another bridge upstream.  Instead of huge chunks of metal hanging high up, this is a temporary bamboo bridge that’s closer to the water.  Its seasonal as when waters of the Mekong rises this gets swept away.  Make sure you have LAK 5,000 with you to pay the toll fee which will be used to rebuild the bridge when the waters recede.

So if you are planning to visit Luang Prabang, you definitely can bring your running gears, as long as you don’t mind the heat.  Speaking of which, drinking ice cold Beerlao from the bottle is a great way to deal with it.  Not necessarily to beat the heat, but the coffee there is great too.

Cafe by the Mekong riverbank

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