Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Saving Luang Prabang

So I keep traveling with my anthropologist friend, who had to lock herself up in a cabin in Luang Prabang to finish her dissertation. Her thesis had nothing to do with the place nor with the Lao peoples but she could do well to tackle those. The whole place is looking to be led to an alarming state of degradation.

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Westerners have been settling quite comfortably there. In part, that accounts for the modern mélange of traditional and Western architecture. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s expected to welcome a deluge of tourists, all re-done in Orientalist fashion: native skirts with Western tank tops, messenger bags of Lao weave.

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The food, as usual, is superb, and in that regard, we were relieved to be rid of fusion. I was particularly pleased with the congee from Le Petit Nid; it was like a thick bouillon of sticky rice and chicken with trademark herbs. Variations on the papaya salad abound. This salad is normally a Vietnamese or Thai expectation, but the Lao like to toss it in thick fermented fish sauce and chili.

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I also encountered a few good French restaurants here and there. L’elephant is a bit more highbrow, welcoming expat crowds. Some continental-style cafes are situated within market compounds, easily conjured by sweeping couches and cushions in between shops. While my friend wrote like a demon, I gazed out from a coffee shop and waited for real elephants to trundle by. Something that occurs quite often, I was told.

I guess I am going back in less than a couple of years before they attempt to build a commercial complex there. Then we boycott it until they close it off to all tourists, like Tibet.

Hi, I’m Roman Magnus, a small-time tailor from San Francisco blogging with all the free time I have. Follow me on Facebook.

2 comments:

  1. I bought an orange woven bag from the Luang Prabang market for a song and it's been with me eversince, fetching me free compliments all the time.

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