You may not have heard of Luang Prabang, but if you’re looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle, add this UNESCO World Heritage Town to your to-go list for 2019.
Just before sunset, Luang Prabang shimmers like a city in an ancient fable. As the waters of the Mekong turn gold, the rose-coloured tiles and gilded serpents on the temple rooftops high above the river banks begin to glow and glint in the failing light. The serpents, or nagas, are the city’s guardians and are said to have worked miracles. After all, unlike many cities in Indochina, Luang Prabang is a marvel of preservation.
Terraces of faded French colonial houses in eggshell blue lead to laneways lined with sturdy wooden Lao houses on stilts. Yet most enchanting of all are the city’s more than 40 temples. The oldest, Wat Xieng Thong, is built of teak and decorated with intricate carvings and delicate mosaics.
Like Angkor, the vast complex of stone temples in neighbouring Cambodia, Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
And yet the two couldn’t be more different: Angkor, built between the ninth and 12th centuries, is deserted, a magnificent museum, while Luang Prabang is a series of inhabited neighbourhoods, each tied to a local temple by centuries of tradition.
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