Having said all this about the town, don’t get me wrong. Luang Prabang is indeed an absolutely lovely place, very peaceful, very tranquil, quite possibly quintessential Lao PDR (which stands for People’s Democratic Republic, but is often referred to as Please Don’t Rush). The main attraction is the many authentic Buddhist temples, some hundreds of years old. Just behind our hotel is a small Wat – the local word for temple -, a really nice small complex, and a little further on is the most famous temple of the town, Wat Xieng Thong. A wonderful place with a lot of gold-coloured roofs, with glass mosaic walls depicting village scenes and other happenings from life on some of the outside walls, and with various Buddha sculptures and frescoed walls inside. There are many other temples around town, often populated with orange- and saffron-robed monks which give these places an extra colour impulse. And everybody is so nice, so friendly, so helpful; and curious, eager to talk – and eager to sell you their specific tourist trade, of course, but always with a smile, never pushing, and quite prepared to back off if you are not interested. Hope they can keep it this way.
I am sure one can spend days exploring all the temples in Luang Prabang, but just wondering through the streets, with its mix of Lao and French colonial architecture, is also rewarding. No doubt UNESCO has something to do with that; old houses are fairly well maintained, new buildings – guesthouses – easily blend in, lots of wood, lots of balconies, lots of shutters. And everybody seems to keep plants, which are lining the streets in pots of different sizes. As I said, a lovely town, which is completed by the many terraces along the Mekong, serving a wide variety of excellent Lao food, and even – finally successful – gin tonics.
photos: 1. Wat Xieng Thon, the main temple of LP; 2. temple window of small Wat behind our hotel; 3. Buddhas inside theWat Xieng Thon temple, 4. frescoes, id.; 5. monks in town, and 6. monks on the river; 7. street scene in Luang Prabang, with old wooden houses; 8. gin tonics....
Apologies for the length of this first impression, but obviously, it has made an impression!