Zen by day. Groovy by night in Luang Prabang

The phrase on the bottom of the receipt at Utopia Bar. Sums up life really; and Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang is host to the upper & lower echelons of the international travelling public. At one end of the scale young, long-limbed, tanned girls & guys wander around the streets killing time until the next excursion leaves to dote on baby elephants or to frolic in the waterfalls just out of town or darkness falls to get to the next bucket of cocktails or the next plate of chicken fried rice. At the other end of the scale classy, more mature travelers sup their breakfast lattes in banana leaf shade beside the rivers around the edge of town, writing postcards home or checking their iPads & discussing how they will get to the airport to move on to their next port of call.

Luang Prabang was the original Lao capital before the French colonised the country and then the Communists took over after the Vietnam War. The royal family were shown the door and the capital moved to Vietiane. It is an elegant city with a neat centre reflecting its colonial past. Wide boulevards & shadey gardens provide a warm backdrop for smart hotels & guesthouses, restaurants with crisp white table clothes & tall glasses for wine. Bijou boutiques stand beside tat shops but both seem at home catering for their particular class of traveller.

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Evidence of a long, impressive past is found in the numerous Wats that exist in the city. The Vat Visounnarath complex also houses the Thad Makmo Stupa.

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Wat Xiergthang, the Golden Temple was built in 1559. The outside of the temple buildings are decorated in brilliant red & gold designs depicting Lao life. One golden fronted building houses the royal barge and mosaics abound on every surface reflecting the sun and adding to the glory of the place. What a spot to have your wedding photos taken.

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