Visiting Luang Prabang, located in northern Laos, was both an unlikely destination for me and a memorable one. It was an opportunity to relax in a quiet mountain town and recuperate from the hectic chaos of Bangkok. There were a lot of memorable experiences, but these seven photos encapsulate the week spent in Luang Prabang from my eyes.
1. Buddhist monks – The former capital of Laos, Luang Prabang has long been home to scores of temples housing thousands of Buddhist monks. Today there are slightly more than 30 active temples and about 1,000 monks in Luang Prabang, many young novices who are training under the more senior monks. The modestly attired monks are a constant fixture in town and indeed define the experience of visiting Luang Prabang for many.
2. Modest living – Luang Prabang is a relatively small town, home to about 50,000 residents and seemingly just as many motorbikes. Although the chaos of Bangkok or Vientiane doesn’t permeate this far north, it’s hard not to be struck by the austere living conditions of many in town. Scenes like this one drove home how important tourism is to Luang Prabang, while at the same time threatening its very existence.
3. Beautiful scenery – Bordered by mountains and rivers, there is no shortage of gorgeous views in Luang Prabang, especially at sunset. Staying at the luxury hotel La Residence Phou Vao, it was a pleasure every night to enjoy the peace and quiet of night in Luang Prabang while meditating over vistas like this one.
4. Night market – Like most cities in Southeast Asia, Luang Prabang has an active and interesting night market. While the goods tend to be geared towards the tourist market, the food is decidedly for the locals. You can find everything from roasted meats and noodles to delicious iced drinks, perfect for a hot and steamy night in the tropics.
5. Ancient beliefs – The naga image pictured here is found throughout Luang Prabang, a mix of ancient animist beliefs with the newer Buddhism. According to legend there are 15 naga guardians in the river and land surrounding the city, protecting it from harm. I found the images to be oddly beautiful, unusual but powerful.
6. Temple Life – Given the number of Buddhist temples in town, it’s hard not to find yourself wandering the grounds of them, an odd interloper into a serene lifestyle. I couldn’t help but imagine the life this very young monk will lead and how he will see Luang Prabang and all of Laos change over his lifetime.
7. Night market food Part II – The night markets were so important to my visit that I had to include another image of them. I have no idea what this gentleman’s name is, but he sold me my nightly ration of cooked meat. I wasn’t always certain what I was eating, but with delicious grease dripping off the skewer few things had ever tasted as good.