I can sum up my time in Luang Prabang in two letters - GO! Just go. There is a magic to this world heritage listed town that I defy you not to enjoy. At least for a while.

I was really surprised to discover that this former capital is home to only 26000 people. That's the size of a large country town and yet I think this place deserves its' reputation as an important place in the world.

We toured some silk manufacturing and history places on our first day. One of them was featuring details on courting and wedding rituals among the highly diverse regions/tribes of Laos. The one that caught my fancy involved throwing a ball and singing. The girls line up and throw a ball to each other and then to boys to display some interest. Catch the ball to indicate return interest and there's a well ritualised way to reduce teenage awkwardness with the opposite sex. It looks a lot more fathomable than the Blue Light Discos I utterly failed to comprehend. Other options for finding a bride involve stealing her, with differing levels of compliance from your bride to be, or just convincing her family with a large enough bride price. Ah, the romance.

We watched a girl weaving an intricately patterned silk scarf. She averages about 50cm a week and she is certainly not slouching with her fingers flying to move threads around before a pair of back and forth movements of her shuttle. Then more rearranging threads. In comparison the girls doing the basic weave were flying along at about 1m a day.

We visited Wat Phonphao up in the woods on a hill. It is a fairly new venture only being about 30 years old instead of the usual 100+ The ground floor depicts some quite graphic versions of hell for sinners. Hunters have many varied sins to pay for over and above the killing another being problem they have in Buddhism. Some very specific offenses are dealt with in highly specific ways that are displayed in no uncertain terms. The higher levels are a bit more pleasant to view leading up into the dome of nirvana. It was worth visiting in the sense that this place was different from the usual Wat experience.

The evening saw us hiking up to Phousi on the hill that dominates the town. Sunset is very popular up here with a large crowd gathered beneath the stupa. Totally worth it too with plenty of buddha statues and stories on the way up and even the remnants of an anti-aircraft position beside the Stupa.

Down the hill through the night markets. I found myself the perfect memento of my time in Laos. A hand made stamp. They do love their stamping here and so I will take that idea home with me.

Had a really nice dinner at Tamnak Lao restaurant which I will recommend unreservedly. Luang Prabang is a lot more a tourist focussed town and so the waiting staff there are much better at their jobs than most in Vientiane.

AuthorBruce Hardie