Luang Prabang, Laos

 Pat Dunlap alms Giving Luang Prabang Laos Buddhist Monks
Pat Giving Alms to Young Buddhist Monks
 - Luang Prabang, Laos
Alms Giving Luang Prabang Laos Buddhist Monks
Alm Giving - Luang Prabang, Laos
Buddha Statures Pak Ou Caves Luang Prabang Laos
Buddha Statures at Pak Ou Caves
on the Mekong River - Luang Prabang, Laos
Main Street Night Luang Prabang Laos
Main Street at Night - Luang Prabang, Laos
Sunset Phu Si Hill Luang Prabang Laos
Sunset from Phu Si Hill 
- Luang Prabang, Laos
Nam Khan River Luang Prabang Laos
Nam Khan River 
- Luang Prabang, Laos
Buddhist Temple Bell Luang Prabang Laos
Ringing Buddhist Temple Bell Next to Our Hotel
 - Luang Prabang, Laos
Royal Palace Temple Luang Prabang, Lao
Royal Palace Temple - Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang, Laos (10/26-29/2009) - We fell in love with Luang Prabang. We are so glad we came here!

Luang Prabang (City of the Buddha of Peace) is a Buddhist spiritual center and former royal capital of Laos. It was suggested by numerous travel agents. Amazingly, the whole town of Luang Prabang has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Sleepy, temple-filled Luang Prabang is truly a jewel of Asia nestled next to the legionary Mekong River. With its eventful history, mountain scenery, strong Buddhist religious nature, and a well preserved mixture of both French and Lao Buddhist architecture, it is wonderful to wander Luang Prabang's streets and along the two rivers. 

Especially beautiful at night, Luang Prabang has a calm quaint feel with many wonderful and very affordable restaurants as well as a half-mile long night market (see photos).
Laos Sandwhich Night Market Luang Prabang
Being Served a Laos Sandwhich
in Night Market - Luang Prabang

Boatman Mekong River Laos
Boatman on Mekong River - Laos
In Luang Prabang, you encounter lots of smiling faces and every neighborhood has its own Buddhist monastery and Wat (temple) - more than 40 temples with swooping roofs, inlaid gold doors, and large Buddhas.

Arriving by tuk-tuk from the Luang Prabang airport, we stayed next to a Buddhist temple and heard the chants and bell ringing each morning (pretty cool - see photo). We visited a couple of the largest temples: Wat Mai and Wat Xieng Thong (The Golden City Temple), a 400-year-old royal monastery complex.

Getting up one morning at 6 AM, we witnessed a moving spectacle that embodies the essence of traditional Southeast Asia - long lines of young barefoot male Buddhist monks with heads shaved walking silently along the streets carrying a small bowl on their morning alms rounds. This is not begging. It is a chance for the monks to learn humility and allow residents to do good deeds earning merit to come back in a better life next time. Pat was very busy attempting to offer alms to all of them (see photos) - she earned lots of ‘merit’.

We also visited the former Royal Palace in Luang Prabang, made into a museum in 1976 after the communists achieved power. It includes a moon rock (a gift from Richard Nixon ironically just as U.S. bombing of Laos reached its peak).

Meeting up with a young Belgian couple in Luang Prabang, we took a ‘slow boat’ up the Mekong River to the Pak Ou Caves (see photo), where for centuries, kings, merchants, and farmers have come here to worship, leaving behind more than 3,000 statues of the Buddha. 

We stopped along the way at a tranquil hamlet inhabited by the traditional Khamu people and bought a bottle of homemade rice whiskey. At bit of an adventure... our boat ran out of gas and we had to drift back to a petro station.

We also climbed the 330 steps up the Mount Phu Si hill to view the beautiful sunset over the Mekong River and Luang Prabang (see photo) - well worth the climb.

Sad point of history... in the United States' effort to contain communism in Southeast Asia on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Laos was the most bombed nation on earth with more bomb tonnage (2 million tons) dropped on northern Laos between 1964 and 1973 than the total amount dropped all over Europe by all sides during WWII - hard to image!

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