We had made a list of the things that we definitely wanted to do whilst we were in Luang Prabang. Climbing Mount Phousi to watch the sunset was definitely one of them.
Mount Phousi (meaning Sacred Hill) sits in the middle of the peninsula in Luang Prabang, between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. It is a bit of a climb to the top (some 300 odd steps), but worth it for the panoramic views across the city and to the mountains beyond.
There are a few different staircases that will take you up there, we chose to ascend from the staircase which can be found opposite the Nam Khan river and descended via the staircase towards the Royal Palace Museum.
We had been out all day, wandering across the famous bamboo bridges, over to the opposite shore of the Nam Khan river to see what we could find. It was very peaceful in that area, with hardly anyone around. There were a few wats to explore, one of which had great views back to the peninsula across the river.
It had been a fun but exhausting day. However, despite being tired, we had decided that this evening would be the time we tackle Mount Phousi. So after a short revival break at our hotel we headed back out again with sunsets in mind!
Finding the staircase, we started to climb…it was a hot and sweaty ascent, there’s no denying that! But it’s really not that far and despite the heat (do take water with you, it will be needed!), is a fairly steady ascent.
Along the way, we found ourselves surrounded by naga who snaked their way up the staircase with us. There were a few shrines and wats to explore and look out points where we could take a breather and enjoy the views. It’s definitely worth taking your time so that you can enjoy the sights on the way up!
We finally got to the top to find the small temple of That Chomsi and a couple of viewing platforms…and an absolutely stunning view!!
We wandered around a little bit and then claimed a good spot in front of some railings to take in the sunset spectacle. We had arrived fairly early so the show hadn’t really started at that point!
As we sat there, more and more people arrived. This wasn’t unexpected, after all it is THE place to watch the sunset in Luang Prabang.
As the time ticked on, the space around us grew more and more crowded and we were squashed into place on the little steps where we’d claimed out spot!
I have said this before, but it really doesn’t make for the most relaxing experience when people are jostling for space and reaching right across you to try to snap the perfect photo!
We stood our ground for a while and took in the sun slowly disappearing in front of us. I can’t deny it wasn’t spectacular, it really, really was!
But I was distracted by all the other folk around us, who were milling around, pushing and shoving to try to get that perfect shot, or selfie.
I was particularly distracted by one girl, who decided it was fine to suddenly stand up on a bench right in front of lots of other people. When challenged by a disgruntled person behind her, she retorted “Well, I’ve been waiting here for 2 hours, I think it’s fine!”
Hmm…that just about finished us off.
We had noticed that there was a group of people sat on some steps who had no real view thanks to the crowd and that girl – and they looked resigned to the fact. We caught their attention and motioned that we were leaving so they could try to scurry across and take our places before anyone else did.
I took another last few lingering looks at the sunset before we left, as I knew we wouldn’t be coming up there again.
We started our descent down a different staircase that would take us towards the Royal Palace Museum, leaving the throngs of people behind us. We managed to capture a few more photos along the way from different vantage points on the way down. The sunset was truly spectacular from wherever you viewed it!
By the time we reached the bottom, dusk was setting in and the night market was getting in full swing. We both breathed a sigh of relief to be out of the crowds above us.
Climbing Mount Phousi is a bit of a must do experience when in Luang Prabang, which means it will always be busy – and for good reason, the views are spectacular! Maybe we should have gone for sunrise though, which I imagine might be a bit quieter (and less stressful!) affair.
The next evening we took ourselves off to the bottom of the large sweeping staircase which leads from the Mekong up to the Wat Xieng Thong (built in 1560 and deemed to be one of the finest temples in the country).
From there we had a perfect view of the sun setting across the Mekong river, with only a few other people for company – whilst they weren’t quite the sweeping panoramic views as from Mount Phousi, it was a much quieter and more relaxed sunset watching affair…but no less beautiful!
There is no doubt that the views from the top of Mount Phousi are absolutely stunning (and worth the hike to see them) but, due to the behaviour of a few of the crowd on our visit, it was not exactly the experience I had been expecting!