Go to Razzle Dazzle welcome page. Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang   |   wats   |   waterfall

Laos photo.

August, 2004

Laos photo.
1. Phu Si Hill
Laos photo.
2. French colonial building
Laos photo.
3. Street scene
Laos photo.
4. The night market

— Index —

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One of the first things we did in Luang Prabang was to climb to the top of Phu Si Hill (see photo #1, at left). It is a strenuous climb, and the heat, humidity, and elevation add to the difficulty. We arrived at the top to find that the sky was dark and overcast, and our view of the mountains was obscured by clouds and mist. (We did have a great view of the Mekong River.) So, we went back and climbed up again that afternoon to find a glorious blue sky, bright sunshine, and mountains as far as the eye could see (see the panorama, above). At the top of Phu Si hill is a Buddhist stupa called That Chomsi. It is visible from almost anywhere in the city.

Luang Prabang was the ancient capital of the mountainous region that makes up northern Laos. Over the years, wars have altered the political landscape many times, but Luang Prabang has remained a regional power. The French took control of the area in the late 19th century. During the brief French colonial period, Laos was ruled as a loose collection of kingdoms and principalities. The most obvious remnants of French influence are the colonial buildings (photo #2) and the baguettes that are available at bakeries throughout the country. And, we met a large number of French tourists during our stay here.

Luang Prabang is in many ways typical of cities throughout SE asia. The street scenes and markets are very much like those we have seen elsewhere (photo #3). But, this city is also different. It retains some of the charm of the French colonial architecture. But best of all, there are real sidewalks that are wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. You are not forced to walk in the street by parked cars, piles of garbage, or vendor's carts. This is almost unique in our experience in this part of the world. The sidewalks and other walkways have been recently renovated with grants from UNESCO. They are making a real effort to help Luang Prabang live up to its status as a World Heritage City.

One of the great features of the city is the nightly market on Sisavongvong Street (photo #4). Originally lighted with candles, there are now electric lights, but the atmosphere is still the same. The vendors begin setting up in the afternoon, which may be the best time to shop. With the sunlight you can see the merchandise better, particularly the colors of fabrics that may need to match something else. The vendors had a wide variety of goods on offer, but there were dozens of vendors selling identical products. The market stretches for several blocks. It can take awhile to see it all. Jamie bought a cotton quilt and Jim found a majong set.

We spent about a week in Luang Prabang, mostly relaxing and wandering around the town. We visited some of the city's many wats, and made a trip into the countryside to see a waterfall. You can read our reports on them by following the links at the top of the page, or in the index at the left. Here are some more photos from Luang Prabang:


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Jim and Jamie Richter, http://gotouring.com/razzledazzle/
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Created 8/2004. All text & photos are © 2004 Jim Richter.