This one is really tough. It is not that Louang Probang doesn’t posses charms. It definitely does (or did). But what has obviously happened in the last few years has been incredibly destructive to whatever “real” town life was here before. Upon arrival, we were immediately run down by at least thirty people who offered us (in perfect english) rooms to let. The main street and its restaurants are impeccably presented, clean and pretty enough for any westerner, and offering all the western foodtypes to boot. One hardly needs to leave the comfort of Paris or New York to experience this gem of a city.
Architecturally, Louang Probang has a lot to offer. The mix of Franch colonial and local architecture give the town a very interesting feel, not dissimilar from New Orleans in fact. Its position on the Mekong and its views are stunning.
Stijn was even more bummed than I was at the crass nature of the tourist trade here. The night market we went to last night had to have been a contrived affair of the communist central planning committee, as the items presented were identical every few stalls and no one really seemed interested in selling anything. This was clearly set up to give tourists a certain impression of a market, but no local person ever shops here. We were fortunate today to find an actual, unsanitized street market that local people shop at, but it was clearly not meant to be seen by tourists.
At the same time, who am I kidding? We brought this here and are partially responsible along with the others. This is really no different than Venice, which stopped being a city and became a museum many many years ago. That said (and although I think Stijn disagrees with me), I think it was worth coming here. But I won’t be back.
See the pics for more commentary.