Luang Prabang is one of the most picturesque towns in Southeast Asia. The name literally translates to Royal Buddha image. Itís rich history, beautiful architecture combined with a strong Buddhist monastic community makes it a place all too tempting to stay longer than planned. On my most recent trip to the former royal capital I was fortunate enough to be* in time for the countryís most important holiday and festival, Pi mai or Laos New Year.Even if your visit is outside of a festival time you will be enchanted by one of the most beautifully preserved towns in Indochina full of French colonial architecture. An ample selection of cafes to spend a carefree afternoon in and a huge selection of restaurants from inexpensive buffets to multi-course dinners.* In my opinion itís one of the best buys for fine dining in all of Southeast Asia.One of the best places to start your exploration of the town is a walk up the 355 stairs of the highest hill in Luang Prabang, Mount Phou Si,* to the Buddhist temple Wat Chom Si. Here you can see the whole town and the peninsula it sits on between the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers.There are a few approaches to the top but I chose to start from the staircase across from the Royal Palace Museum exiting on the other side to see Wat Tham Phou si.Sunset is a popular viewing time so if you don't like the crowds, and it's a tight squeeze at the top,* try a walk in the morning.*Phousi translates to sacred hill and is considered the spiritual center of the town. It's believed that the hill was once the home of a powerful naga serpent deity, lending more spiritual significance to the site.*Another legendary story of Phousi was that at one time there was a deep pit on the hill* that lead to the center of the earth. Excerpts from "Drowning in Buddhism And Laos New Year-Luang Prabang".

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