Monday 15 July 2013

Mount Phu Si - another 'sunset disaster'

There are places in almost every city, which are must sees for any tourist, like Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Taj Mahal. You have great expectations before you see it, imagining how great it would be to visit the place, how special the experience will be, only to arrive there with thousands of other people, squeezed in a lift or standing in a queue for hours, pushed and shoved. After you finally reach your dream point, you don't actually think of it as special anymore.
This was my exact experience with Mount Phu Si in Luang Prabang.

The 100 meter high Mount Phu Si is one of the main attractions of Luang Prabang. Wat Chom Si temple on the top of its peak overlooks Mekong and Nam Khan rivers and visitors come here mostly for the view.

The Lonely Planet guide mentions the stunning sunset and sunrise you can observe from the top of Phu Si. It is another thing you need to do here, which is suppose to be an unforgettable experience.

I suspected that there would be many people around in the evening, so I climbed the mountain at around 3 o'clock. 100 meters is not that high, so I got to the top very quickly.
The Wat Chom Si takes most of the space, leaving very narrow paths around it and one or two benches to sit on.
I walked around the temple, took a few photos and sat down to admire the views, and waited for the sun to set.

An hour or so passed and other people started to show up. By around 6pm I was surrounded by a Bulgarian group of twenty odd people, whose guide was reading the Lonely Planet out loud over my head; an American family who brought those small cages with birds inside - dad tried to release them, mother was shouting he wasn't doing it right, their children were shouting at them to hurry up; a couple of Japanese ladies who tried to take photos by climbing on the bench I was sitting on and leaning on my back; plus two guys sat on big rocks just in front of me totally obstructing my view.

The time came for the sun to set and I was annoyed and angry and just wanted to shout at everyone to calm down and shut up! I managed to sneak one photo, turned around and tried to look for the stairs.

I did't realise just how many people there were. Because the peak is so small it is really hard to fit people in, so I bumped into 10 other tourists before I found the exit and made my way down. Before I left I looked back and the view just made me laugh - all those poor people who, like me, believed they would find here a perfect spot for contemplation. I felt sorry for the couples that climbed the stairs, looking for a romantic getaway for the evening and found yet another crowded place.

A lesson for the future: think it over before deciding to do something that Lonely Planet recommends and try to find an alternative solution.

Have you been on Mount Phu Si? Would you like to see the sunset from there, despite the crowds? Do you always visit the main attractions in the city you are in, or do you prefer to avoid them? Don't be shy! Leave a comment!


  1. Jo, I have never been to Mount Phu Si and I was incredibly FOR you as I read this! I would like to see the main attractions but I have an IMMENSE aversion to crowds. I don't want to go on a vacation to be around a gazillion people. Unfortunately I realize that I can't have my cake and eat it to so I have to compromise. Because the big ticket items to see are the ones where all of the people will be :)

  2. Every sunset and sunrise in the world have different stories. This one tells one of the stories I can imagine in my own head. Really beautiful how a ray of light can affect our life.
    Great photos...