One of your first stops upon arriving in Luang Prabang should be the colorful morning market. Lao vendors set up in a few alleyways off Sisavangvong Road, west of the Royal Palace and Haw Pha Bang and behind the Wat Mai Monastery. (If you find yourself on Khem Khong, you’ve walked too far.) It’s a thrill to wander through—skinny, naked, headless chickens to your left, live roosters under bamboo baskets to your right. Women in surgical masks hack apart enormous jackfruits; others lay out fresh blood cakes and buffalo jerky. Tables are piled with glistening-wet Mekong crabs and catfish fatter than a caveman’s club. Old women crouch alongside mountains of red and green chilies, bulbous banana flowers, tangles of longan, wee purple eggplants, wild mushrooms, fresh honeycomb, gnarled ginger knobs, sheets of crispy river weed, and the occasional rat or snake (dearly departed, alas). The market gets rolling around 7 a.m. and starts shutting down by 10 or 11 a.m.
If you have time to spare, the sprawling, deeply local Phosi Market is also worth checking out. Pair it with a visit to the Ock Pop Tok Living Craft Centre or ask your tuk-tuk driver to stop by on the way back from the Kuang Si waterfall.