“What is your favorite place?” This is a question I get often, and at the risk of sounding pretentious, it is nearly impossible to answer. I have had the great fortune to travel all over the world, and for various reasons, I have dozens of “favorite” places. Asking me to pick my favorite place is like asking me to choose a favorite among my 10 nieces. I love them all the same. (Okay, that isn’t true. There is a hierarchy that I won’t divulge here since I may need one of them to take care of me when I’m old).
If pressed to name one favorite destination, Luang Prabang in northern Laos would be on the shortlist. Situated at the confluence of the mighty Mekong and meandering Nam Ou rivers, surrounded by jungle-clad peaks, and filled with heritage buildings and gilded temples, it is a visually stunning town. Few places on Earth are as beautiful.
Luang Prabang has a chilled out vibe, unlike the hectic cities of Southeast Asia. Take a walk through the town, and you’ll encounter tourists sipping coffee at mellow cafes, locals playing bocce while shooting homemade whiskey, fishermen casting a line in the Mekong, and orange-robbed monks on their way to school. Even the lively main street, which turns into a night market, is a hassle-free place to enjoy an evening.
I first visited in late 2006, after two exhausting months traveling through China and Vietnam. My first morning, I awoke early and went to the banks of the Mekong. As I watched fishing boats criss-cross the river, a captain asked if I’d like a river cruise. When I said no, he merely smiled and walked away. After dealing with the touts of ‘Nam and China, I expected him to launch into a sales pitch, cajoling, pressuring, begging, pleading, and prodding me to go. I’d been in LP for a few minutes, and I already loved the place.
I recently spent 10 days in Luang Prabang, my first extended visit in 13 years. In a future blog post, I’ll write about the changes, which I’m happy to report, are minor – and sometimes for the better. For now, I’ll share with you some photos that won’t do justice to one of my favorite towns but could perhaps whet your appetite to see it for yourself. If you go to Luang Prabang (or have already been) I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.
Luang Prabang Photo Gallery
(Click any photo for a slideshow view)
Have you been to Luang Prabang?
Where are some of your favorite places?