Phou Si Hill
At the base of the long peninsula on which the old town of Luang Prabang is sited is a small hill, just 100 meters (325 feet) high. The sides of the hill, as well as the top, is studded with many small temples and shrines. There are several routes up the hill, and a typical tour takes one stairway up and a different one down. The most popular starting point is probably the stairs opposite the Royal Palace Museum.
On a wide terrace overlooking the museum is the abandoned temple of Wat Pa Huak. A large stupa and the closed-up sim is all that remains. Although faded, the intricately carved gable ends of the sim are still quite beautiful.
About half-way up the hill on this path is another large round stupa that is very similar to Thai chedis. This is where you pay the admission fee to get to the top of the hill.
The gilded stupa at the top of the hill is built on a large rock outcropping. An old opening in the base of the rock was sealed up to prevent vandalism. Next to the stupa is a small wiharn (chapel) for prayers. From here, the best route down is along the spine of the hill towards the northeast. A short way down is the remains of a former gun emplacement used to defend the city during the revolution.
Further down is part of Wat Phra Buddabhat — the Buddha’s footprint temple. The entrance from the hill side is watched over by a seated Buddha image and a Kuan Ou (Goddess of the Waters) shrine. You reach the grotto holding the ‘footprint’ by crossing a sort of bridge with a black naga on one rail and a white naga on the other.
Most tours take the route down from the Buddha’s footprint to the temple compound proper. However, you can also follow the path around on the other side of Kuan Ou statue to a stairway which leads down to the Khan river bank. Take this route if you want to press on to Wat Wisunalat. A short way along this path is a small shrine which appears to be dedicated to kick-boxers. A little further on are some new monks quarters for the revived temple of Wat Tham Phu Si (‘the cave temple of Phu Si’). Despite the name, there’s not really a cave, just a couple of niches in the rocks.