The World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, in the country of Laos, is one of my favorite towns on Earth. Its authenticity is subtle, yet deep. It seems the foundation of the culture in this area is so strong, it is unshaken by the visitors passing through. The visitors are changed, not the town or its people.
Luang Prabang’s location above the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers gives it an almost magical feel. Defined by the two rivers, much of the older part of town is only 3 blocks wide, so it’s easy to know your way around Luang Prabang in an afternoon’s walk.
Because of its French colonial history, most of the four to six-room hotels are former French residences. This adds a certain intimacy to the whole friendly Luang Prabang experience. There are approximately 30 Buddhist temple/monasteries in town, lending their sweet, peaceful flavor to the mix. At certain times of day, the monks far outnumber other people on the streets.
In some indefinable way, I feel more at home here than anywhere I’ve ever visited. The people are gentle and generous. The pace is slow and the land is subtly beautiful. I found it remarkably easy here to talk with people anywhere, anytime; at the next table in a restaurant, on the street, or in a hotel lobby. When I’m in Luang Prabang, the world seems to be populated with friends, even before we’ve met.