15 October 2004

Luang Prabang, a Laotian Oxford

Nth Position offers an engaging travelogue entry. Here's just one paragraph.
Luang Prabang is a sort of Indochinese Oxford, smaller and prettier and classier than the capital. It has the culture. It preserves the identity. It thinks well of itself. It has specialities. It remains a slightly twee but notable relic of Asie Française, which is nothing like the British India I'm used to, all that sweat, duty, and cell-block architecture. The French relished princely Luang Prabang, so poised within its confluence of rivers, so elegant, with its pagoda roofs sweeping down like golden wings. Typically they found Buddhism the religion smug and institutional but loved what it looked like, that ascetic Buddhist aesthetic. They built villas and cafes to admire this gorgeous East from; and today the monks, ever graceful in sunset orange, still twirl their parasols along the promenade by those cafes, where French tourists sit all afternoon in wicker chairs amidst the retro décor, eating tuna-and-watercress baguettes and drinking Beer Lao from imported tumblers. For one long lunchtime moment it's Indochine as it never was but should have been.
via Arts & Letters Daily

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