The entrance to the exquisite Hotel, the Residence Phou Vao, which overlooks the exotic views of the Mekong Valley and the town of Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang, with its population of about 100,000, is situated in the center of Laos on the banks of the Mekong River. This ancient capital, a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site since 1995, still has the provincial architecture from the days of French Indochina. Although now mostly decaying wooden buildings, the ambiance of the town is a unique site in South East Asia, where Buddhist spires and straw covered roofs imitate the tropical landscape. The nearby Kuang Si Waterfalls, the many temples, the Hmong people’s night market with their village handicrafts, the monasteries and elephant villages, draw visitors who wish to experience a Southeast Asia without the commercial development.



A  moment of rest for a young monk.


The Pak Ou Caves, which can only be reached by a two-and-a-half- hour boat ride on the legendary Mekong River, have been revered since the 16th century. Within these cavernous rocks the devout, rich, royal and faithful made their pilgrimages to the Buddha. Over 5000 Buddha statues in various positions of meditation (and disrepair) are stacked in these caves where the pilgrimages continue.


A ride to school for two lucky kids. Motorcycles, bicycles and “tuk tuks” are the transportation in Luang Prabang.


The highlight of Luang Prabang is its over 100 monasteries and 30 wats (temples), populated by about 10,000 monks. Each male Buddhist spends a period of time during his life, sometimes during his childhood, in a monastery. As a monk, all worldly possessions are renounced. Even daily food must be “donated” and can be consumed only in the morning because the rest of the day is devoted to meditation and studies. Early each morning, a procession of hundreds of saffron-robed monks appears just as the mist is rising over the Mekong Valley. Villagers and tourists scoop the daily rations (mostly rice and bananas) of food into their baskets. This regimented ritual, where men may stand and women kneel and do not look into the face of the monk, allows the donor to “make merit” and offers good karma. It is a gesture that is equally helpful to the monk and to the donor.


Local food vendors selling rice, bananas and blossoms to be offered to the monks by pilgrims.


The gem of hotels in Luang Prabang, or anywhere, is the Orient Express La Résidence Phou Vao, with its Laotian architecture, nestled on a hill overlooking the magnificent Mekong Valley. The bungalows offer exquisite and luxurious accommodation. With the expert guidance of General Manager Philippe Bissig, a sense of Laotian tranquility and style is in every detail of the service. A shuttle to the village is always available where shops and food stalls are happy to serve.

Comments are closed.