Mount Phousi is a must see attraction when visiting Luang Prabang. Located right in the heart of the city between the rivers of Mekong and Nam Khan, Mount Phousi stands majestically at a height of 100m. As the highest point in town, it boasts the town’s famous and favourite panoramic view. Tons of tourists flock to the summit to catch a glimpse of the gorgeous sunset over the Mekong River and enjoy the mountaineous landscapes Luang Prabang has to offer.
Upon reaching the summit where the viewpoint is situated, the shiny golden stupa of Wat Chom Si sits firmly and greets visitors to the mountain. It was built in 1804 during the reign of King Anourouth and has become a symbol of Luang Prabang’s spiritual significance. During the Pimai Festival, woman carry flower offerings up the stairs and leave as offerings at the foot of the stupa.
Getting to Mount Phousi
Getting to Mount Phousi is easy. If you stay in the town area, Mount Phousi is just walking distance away. There are two entrances to the top. One is located right opposite the Royal Palace and where the night market is on Sisavangvong Road. The second one is much secluded and located by the Nam Khan River. I find that the Royal Palace entrance is far more easier and safer to climb, especially when the sky is dark. Halfway up the hill, you will be greeted by a small booth and that’s where you pay for your ticket. With a small fee of 20,000kip you will have access to the terrace where the famous view of Luang Prabang can been seen.
The viewpoint is easily reachable by climbing a 350 step zig-zag staircase. Anyone with a reasonable health condition will find it a breeze. On the way up, visitors will see some smaller temples, Buddha statues, trees and views of the river. Fann and I ascended Mount Phousi at around 4pm and the summit was already packed with people. Throughout our stay in Luang Prabang, we thought the town was rather empty, but it told a different story when we were here. It felt like the entire tourist population gathered at the viewpoint terrace at the same time. It was rather difficult to maneuver around especially with our camera gears. It wasn’t impossible but just be really careful. I was glad I managed to secure a good spot for my sunset photography and it was worth the squeeze.
At the viewpoint, there is a rock that you will see many tourists impatiently queing up for. It is a solid rock that offers a fantastic view of Luang Prabang. You will see lots of Asian aunties plowing their way through to get to the rock and take tons of selfies of themselves with the view regardless of their own safety. Everyone else was waiting in queue while watching the aunties tackle their way through. However, despite it being extremely touristy, if you have the patience it’s worth the wait. The view is indeed spectacular.
Most tourists visit Mount Phousi in the eveing due to the sunset. As the sun is close to setting, all tourists turns into sunflowers moving their heads and cameras towards the direction of the sun. Now, that’s where Luang Prabang’s magic starts to appear.The sky turns from golden yellow to romantic purple before it gets dark. Try to set up your best spotting scope for 100 yards on your tripod before everyone starts to crowd. The sunset view is just so magical and amazing you shouldn’t miss it.
Visiting Mount Phousi in the early morning to catch the sunrise is also possible. However, please be very careful because it’s extremely dark. There are no lights along the staircase. Fann & I used our headlamps while we climb, it was quite the adventure. Weather in the morning when we were there was rather cloudy, but we managed to capture some moving clouds with slow shutter effect. It turned out pretty good too. Last but not least, when visiting Mount Phousi, make sure to wear appropriate attire. Afterall, it’s a sacred mountain and consists of Buddhist temples. It is a common norm when visiting Asian countries.
Photos of Mount Phousi
I have been up to Mount Phousi during the late evening and early morning to see Luang Prabang at both hours. Below are a list of shots I’ve taken while wandering around the viewpoint.