The ‘old city’ is between the Nam Khan river, the winding one, and the Mekong, the big one
To have a look from above you walk up lots of steps, in the heat to the top of the only hill in the area, which happens to be central
The main streets look like this. The national flag and the Party flag, the hammer and sickle, hang side by side. Laos history is very complicated and we’re sure you don’t want to hear about it. However the essential, modern, stuff is that the country was part of French Indochina from 1893 until 1954. The Japanese had a year of occupation in 1945. The French withdrew in 1954/54. The country was massively bombed by the US as part of their North Vietnam efforts and to destroy the N Vietnamese supply line, the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In 1973 Laos was divided between royalists and communists. That year the Soviets helped swing the balance with force and the Laos People’s Front establish communist rule that remains to today.
My World Fact Book app has this bigger picture:
Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th century under King FA NGUM. For 300 years Lan Xang had influence reaching into present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as over all of what is now Laos. After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the domination of Siam (Thailand) from the late 18th century until the late 19th century when it became part of French Indochina. The Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 defined the current Lao border with Thailand. In 1975, the communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam. A gradual, limited return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1988. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997 and the WTO in 2013.
So many of the buildings are French. However most of the Temples and town were destroyed in an earlier era by the Chinese in 1887, which we’ll get to later
Lots of unusual French buildings around, this one from 1960
Off the main drags, the streets look like this. Party flag to the right
The town is so developed that few simple homes remain in the core
And my middle daughter’s favourite coffee shop in Luang Prabang. She was here years ago
The town is scattered with Buddhist temples and monks are everywhere
The Chinese destroyed all the temples but one. So this one is ‘modern’ and on the grounds of the old royal palace, now a museum
The museum. No pics allowed inside
Haw Pha Bang. Inside (no pics) is a 33″ tall Buddha, the Phra Bang, the city is named for. The Phra Bang was supposedly made in Sri Lanka between the 1st and 9th century and (it’s a very long story) ended up here. But everyone says it’s a copy. The original is in safe storage. Plus, it likely wasn’t made then and there, as the upturned hands indicate it was made in the 14th century
houses a cart with wheels in boat form. On it are three urns. When a member of the royal family died, they were placed upright in urns for their funeral procession
Of the many temples in the town dating from the 15th century this is the only one the Chinese didn’t destroy. it was located in the middle of their army barracks and used for some related purpose
Inside. So dark I couldn’t get a focus
On the grounds is a big unnamed sculpture
With this plaque cast into the lower side. CCCP and 1975 are all I could read. It turns out this was made by the Soviets as a sign of respect for the de-throned King Sisavangvong
Smoke and the smell of food down here
Making things out of rice. The big thing here is sticky rice. More later
Forgotten what this is called, edit later
And Mekong river weed drying. There’s a restaurant called Tamarind that does great stuff with this
Just a few random things there.