Thursday, December 24, 2009

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, a UNESCO world heritage site, is Laos’ most touristy destination. The city is scenically located at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers and is surrounded by mountains. The city also boasts diverse architecture, primarily the French colonial and Lao wooden styles.

Luang Prabang is famous as the imperial capital of Laos. The National Museum (formerly the National Palace) is situated there, with the Pha Bang, the gold Buddha statue that the town is name after, housed inside. There are also numerous temples, or wats.

One highlight of the city is witnessing the morning alms procession by the monks. Every morning, around 6:30am, groups of monks clad in orange robes would march from their temples around a couple blocks to collect alms from people. These alms primarily include sticky rice and sometimes bananas and candy (though the latter is usually thrown out of the alms bowl by the monks to the children). This daily march has turned into a “tourist show” with many people snapping photos and even paying for the privilege of sitting on a mat and handing out rice to the monks.

Similar to what I observed in Vientiane, there were more tourists than locals! It also seems like the French influence is the strongest in this city. This can be proven through the number of French restaurants, cafes, signs and architecture that pervades the city. Because of this, many tourists find it comforting to find Western fare and end up staying longer than they had planned.

Many of the guesthouses in Luang Prabang have undergone renovation and are now posh B&Bs. This is unfortunate as backpackers are being priced out of Luang Prabang. I believe that in 10 years’ time, the city will turn into a retirees’ village, with only the wealthy able to afford staying there.

No comments:

Post a Comment