THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT…Luang Prabang, Laos

THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT…Luang Prabang, Laos

Early morning on the Mekong River

In Chiang Mai I boarded a 22 seat prop plane for Luang Prabang! It has been a great many years since I have flown in anything but a jet and I was looking forward to the flight on a slower, lower flying plane. I was right as it allowed me to see the jungle covered mountains and the Mekong Valley perfectly as we crossed into the hill country of Laos.

THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT…Luang Prabang, Laos

Palm trees line the main shopping street in Luang Prabang

The simple single runway airport was the first indication of the slow paced lifestyle of the fabled city. Luang Prabang was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995 and I understood immediately the reasoning. A stunning mix of ancient red tiled temples and French-Indochinese architecture along its flower lined narrow lanes made me feel immediately that I had arrived in the South East Asia of my fantasies. Images of hot, dusty, sun drenched streets populated by saffron clad monks and poor Lao workers push heavily loaded carts down unpaved streets came to me from the pages of Conrad, Orwell or Greene.

THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT…Luang Prabang, Laos

French Colonial Shop Houses along the Mekong

On my first morning in town I walked along a narrow street flanked on one side by wonderful old French Colonial shop houses and on the other by the Mekong River whose mist shrouded  banks were lined with long tail boats waiting to glide slowly upriver towards the Pak Ou caves or the Thai border.

As I walked I could hear the rumbling of temple drums calling monks to service at Vat Xieng Thong. This wat is one of the most historic and architecturally beautiful temples in Laos. The main temple or Sim, which is located at the tip of the peninsula surrounded by the Mekong and Nam Khan, was built in 1560 when Luang Prabang was the capitol of the Kingdom of a Million Elephants.

THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT…Luang Prabang, Laos

The graceful sim at Wat Xieng Thong

The roof line of the temple observed from a distance is a graceful construct of elegant curves, overlaps and carvings draping nearly to the ground. The inside is decorated with stenciled gold motifs on a black or maroon background. As you enter the dim interior of the sim the patterns seem to float above the background. Somehow this building escaped overzealous restoration during the 19th or early 20th century and remains a must visit for anyone coming to Luang Prabang.

THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT…Luang Prabang, Laos

The entrance to Wat Xieng Thong

It did not take many hours of strolling the streets in the South East Asian sun for me to feel the need of a cool drink and a bit of shade. I stopped at a charming French Café called Le Café Ban Vat Sene which had a cool fan-spun interior and a tasty menu of drinks and café fare. I will confess, that while in town I stopped here many times for lunch, a morning coffee or an evening glass of wine. The owners also operate another restaurant in town called L’Elephant where I went one evening for a truly delectable meal.

THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT…Luang Prabang, Laos

A street beside the royal palace with That Chomsi on the hill.

Laos in general and Luang Prabang in particular are not places where a traveler need feel compelled to always be on the go. Tourist attractions, aside from a temple or two, a river cruise, or shops filled with hill tribe crafts, are limited and the heat can be oppressive. One learns early on to do as little as possible.

What was most enjoyable for me was early morning strolls along one of the rivers followed by a leisurely coffee or two in my favorite cafe and if I was lucky a conversation with a longtime resident about life in Laos…before you know it it’s time for lunch. With not too much effort you could stretch it out till cocktails.

THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT…Luang Prabang, Laos

Temple on the grounds of the Royal Palace

I understand how the French lost the South East Asian Colonies…it was just too damn hot to worry about it.

Having lived in Thailand for 7 month I find the Laotian people a refreshing change. They are beautiful people who are in no way aggressive. One is never badgered to buy in the markets or to hire a tuk tuk. A simple No Thank You does the trick.

THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT…Luang Prabang, Laos

Sunset on the Mekong River

If you are coming to South East Asia be sure to put Luang Prabang on your itinerary….I am sure you will be as enchanted as I am.

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
This entry was posted in Where's Bosco Now? and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT…Luang Prabang, Laos

  1. Libby Voyles says:

    Larry, your picture of the sunset is world class beautiful!

  2. Claudia Hammer says:

    Luang Prabang does look ideal for a visit to see the way life used to be in that area of the world. I love the little shop houses and the picture of that sunset is wonderful! I may have to paint it!

  3. LindaRose says:

    Larry, do you ever read this comments? I cannot figure out if you´re there NOW or if these are old! Yep, I´m blonde! Can u email me and tell me if Derrlyn ever came to visit you? Or is she there, too? I emailed her and haven’t heard back, has everyone left the planet????

  4. Paula says:

    Wonderful shots!

  5. Gene and Charlie says:

    What kind of accommodations are in a place like this, what grade and how much?

  6. I knew you’d love it!

  7. JackieThomas says:

    Larry, you are amazing. Thanks for letting me discover this beautiful place. What is the temp? What season is it. Lovely, lovely. My mom is fine, 91 now!

  8. jim voyles says:

    Great writing and pictures. You just get better all the time.

  9. Maggie says:

    Larry thank you so much just beautiful for the eye and
    Wonderful narrative. Hugs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>