BURTON FAMILY - WORLDWIDE TRIPS travel blog

 

 


To paraphrase Samuel Johnson: 'When you're tired of Luang Prabang, you're tired of life' but I am pleased to acknowledge that on our fifth visit, we are not yet ready to throw the towel in.

Unlike the portrait of Dorian Gray, LP does not seem to age with time as so many places revisited tend to, with more crowds, more traffic, more shaven heads (monks allowed), more tattoos, more congestion, more pollution, more urban blight and more Starbucks et al, the risks of returning time and again to places we have loved in their (and our) relative youth.

Now this is not the place for lively nightclubs, all night raves and wet T-shirt parties so it won't suit all, but if you want to recreate those quieter moments in life to ponder its true meaning and your part in it, then this is the place for you to unwind.

Sure, you can take a boat trip up the Mekong river, visit a local village and taste the local hooch from a bottle with a curled-up dead snake in it or take in some waterfalls, but the essence of a trip here is to absorb the Buddhist-inspired serenity of a town whose pace is set each morning by the hundreds of orange and saffron-robed monks who silently and seriously pad barefoot through the early morning chill collecting rice offerings from crouching residents at the side of the road for their last meal of the day at noon. However, over the years there has been a noticeable increase in the commercialisation of the whole process and a vast increase in minibuses bringing in tourists who do not always abide by the guidelines suggested by the authorities.

The pace picks up a fraction as small groups of locals begin cooking on small pavement fires, parents drop off tiny excited primary school children and the mainly young people make their way to work in the shops and restaurants on scooters or tuk-tuk, still the most common form of transport. Vehicular traffic exists, of course, mainly small people carriers used for tourism and a handful of private cars, despite the fact that there must be more millionaires here than anywhere else in the world. Kip millionaires that is, kip being the local currency and you get a million of them for about eighty pounds.

LP is not overrun with marauding hordes of visitors destroying the peacefulness they search, perhaps because flights are still quite infrequent. Those that make it here are made up of mature European couples, a younger crowd seeking spills an thrills kayaking or trekking nearby and a handful of old-style hippies of all ages in baggy shapeless pantaloons, shoulder-bag, de rigueur tattoos and ethnic jewellery. The French are well represented of course as Laos was part of French Indochina until after the war. Consequently baguettes and good coffee is their legacy compared with warm beer and fry-ups bequeathed by the British elsewhere.

So what's the attraction then? After all, nothing much happens here, apart from the mysterious disappearance of the king and his family more than fifty years ago and nobody talks about that.

Above all the outstanding location of this town perched on a promontory surrounded on two sides by the swirling brown Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, a UNESCO site of outstanding French colonial architecture, grey tiled roofs, either white-washed walls or completely wooden structures adorned with aged teak doors and shutters and business signs with gold lettering. As you wander through the quiet (apart from the ubiquitous cock-crowing) side streets, you will most likely come upon scenes of domestic life taking place up narrow flower-strewn alleys replete with clumps of bamboos, pot plants, bougainvillea or palm trees, and then suddenly, one of the many monastery temples dotted around, all red and gold glistening in the sunlight, monks' robes hanging out to dry, or a desultory monk sweeping away a small pile of dust in the courtyard.

But it's not all a scene of domestic bliss. There is a main drag of sorts: a higgledy piggledy assortments of textile and local silver and jewellery boutiques, tour operators and coffee shops and restaurants where mopeds are lined up outside like tethered horses in the American Wild West. Heat keeps the pace of life slow, and the afternoons quiet but at dusk, magic descends as Main Street is cleared of traffic and out-of-towner tribespeople set out their wares under temporary red awnings and naked light bulbs. High above the night market, the faithful have climbed the hundreds of steps to the temple perched on Mount Phousi (pronounced pussy by the way) to watch the blood red sun set over the Mekong, the end of just another languorous day in paradise. LP gives the term 'laid back' a good name.



Advertisement
OperationEyesight.com
Entry Rating:     Why ratings?
Please Rate:  
Thank you for voting!
Share |