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Luang Prabang, Laos: a peace-seeker’s paradise.
Laos, one of the world's few remaining communist states, opened up to international tourism in 1989 and its official slogan is ‘Simply Beautiful’. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ancient town of Luang Prabang, deemed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995 and considered the best-preserved traditional town in South-East Asia.
The royal capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom (Land of a Million Elephants) until Vientiane took its place in 1545, it remained at the heart of Laotian culture and as the country’s main centre for Buddhist learning, exudes an air of peace and spiritual contemplation.
Luang Prabang's spectacular mountain setting where the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers meet, the charming blend of Lao and French architecture (the French ruled from 1893-1954) and its beautiful Buddhist Temples, have made it the country’s main tourist attraction, but it retains the laid back charm of the ‘original Asia’ fast disappearing elsewhere. The old town is a typical bustling hub full of restaurants (Lao cusine is a great blend of Chinese and Thai), guest houses and artisans at work, reports the Daily Mail.
Must-see places are the National Museum, housed in the former Royal Palace, the view from Mount Phou Si with its small temple at the top, and choose from the list of 32 Wats (Buddhist Temples). A dragon boat ride on the Mekong stopping at the Pac Ou Caves, which has a collection of 5000 Buddhas is also de rigueur.