The Monks Of Luang Prabang, Laos

The monks of Luang Prabang

The sun rose as the rain fell. I could hear the heavy drops as they danced across the hotel roof and onto the wooden verandah. Everywhere else lay hushed. The street outside the room was empty, and beyond it the Mekong rushed by.

At least, I think it was the Mekong. Luang Prabang lies on a sliver of land running between the meeting of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Our hotel, the Xiengthong Palace, was the last residence of the Lao royal family. It rests opposite the revered Buddhist monastery, Wat Xiengthong, away from the bustle of the town.

A walk along the street, around the bend, and one river became the other. Both large, both brown, both soon to be in flood, but the Mekong was far the larger. I never even learnt the name of our street. Everywhere I travel, I steep myself in the history the place, and learn all I can about everything I see; but Luang Prabang cast its spell even as I was in the plane. Continue Reading →

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Traditional cooking pots, Luang Prabang (c) A. Harrison
Traditional cooking pots, Luang Prabang (c) A. Harrison

Flying across Australia is vast, and mostly brown, save for that initial stretch along the coast with endless sandy beaches and a sea stretching to the horizon. The contrast to the tiny mountain kingdom of Laos could not be greater.

This is a land where green mountains rise to the sky, their impossibly steep sides covered with verdant jungle, their valleys hidden by mist. Small patches of cultivation bravely defy the encroaching forest. Rivers and lakes twinkle in the distance. Little wonder then, that in 1353 Fa Ngum returned to Luang Prabang from exile at the Khmer capital of Angkor to establish his kingdom Lan Xang Hom Khao – The Kingdom of a Million Elephants and the White Parasol.

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