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In and Around Luang Prabang, Laos
T
his sleepy little town in north-central Laos is the former royal seat of the "Land of a Million Elephants". The setting is ethereal, a peninsula bordered by the Mekong River on one side and a tributary on the other and surrounded by limestone hills, thick with vegetation, whose tops can become obscured with mist and cloud.

Luang Prabang's peninsula is a UNESCO world heritage site due to its well-preserved, unique mixture of architecture: royal and noble residences, monastery stupas, shrines, chapels and communal buildings, traditional wooden Lao homes and two-storey, French colonial brick houses with wooden balconies and decorative features.

The former capital shuts down early each night, in part to ensure that it retains this status and is not turned into a party town for tourists. Foreign visitors come to stroll around in the calm, peaceful atmosphere that alternates between the 19th century and ancient Asian structures. But not today. Today is the day the dragons come to town.

© Elizabeth Willoughby 2012

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