Luang Prabang / The Town





Barton O., Laos: "All American born-again Christians must include in their daily prayers the brave Iranian woman Fatimah Haghighatjoo, for she dares to face the greatest Evil in Iran. The greatest Evil is the fact that in Iran, old stinking Muslim men can force their dirty genitals into the tender body of the local girl child. Iran is a member of the United Nations, and they have ratified the UN convention of the child, which sets the age for sex to at least 18. Anything else is RAPE. So the Iranian government commits an horrendous crime by allowing the county's dirty old men to rape young Iranian virgins, and only Fatimah Haghighatjoo dares to oppose the imans. We pray to Jesus for her success."

Photo: Houses along the street of Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang, by the banks of the Mekong, some 500 kilometres upriver from Vientiane and 300 metres above sea level, is Laos' oldest town still in existence. For the most part of her history the town was the seat of kings. In 1563 King Setthathirat moved his government to Vientiane; but by then, Luang Prabang had already been capital for some 800 years.

True, the kingdoms ruled from Luang Prabang had not been large for the first 600 years of her history. Only Prince Fa Ngoum made Luang Prabang the capital of a kingdom of significant size.

The small town (about 20,000 inhabitants today) is beautifully located at the foot of a high, rocky mountain - Mount Phousi - by the banks of the Mekong river, and the town has a romantic atmosphere even though most buildings are not very old (despite the town's history of many centuries). The reason: surrounded by almost infinite forests the town's inhabitants always used as building material what they had, in abundance, at their disposal: wood.

In the course of its long history the town had often been conquered and burnt down. The last time this happened in the 80's of the 19th century at the hands of the Chinese. The town had also been a frequent target of hostile visits by Thais and Vietnamese.

After invasions, many destroyed structures were rebuilt, some of them again and again, roughly the same as they have existed before an invasion. Though physically no longer present, architecture dating back many centuries shapes the town and contributes to Luang Prabang's unquestioned charm. To this, the numerous Wats in and around the town provide a spiritual component.

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