Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Of Beers and Buddhas; Glyn May Drinks in the Atmosphere of a World Heritage Site in Laos

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Of Beers and Buddhas; Glyn May Drinks in the Atmosphere of a World Heritage Site in Laos

Article excerpt

MR YEP and his wheezing 1952 Citroen have both seen better days.

At each crossroad as we painfully trundle into town from Luang Prabangas international airport, itself in dire need of a triple bypass, the ancient French chariot gasps and shudders.

In 30deg heat two of us share the back seat compartment with big suitcases. All the windows are wound down and itas still sweltering. Mr Yep, an obliging, weather-beaten old soul, opens his driver-side door to let in more air.

By sunset weave found a prime riverside spot at the humble Big Tree CafA[c] and ordered a large bottle of internationally acclaimed Beer Lao. It cost only $1.40, but a monumental sin has been committed. Itas marginally warm.

The waiter, mortified at our reaction to the first sip, instantly conjures up a gleaming champagne bucket of ice and starched white napkins with the aplomb (we imagine) afforded a $2000 bottle of 1966 Dom Perignon at Claridgeas in London.

Welcome to the delights of Luang Prabang, population 50,000, a UNESCO World Heritage site, nestling, for the most part, on a tiny (1 km long by about 300m wide) peninsula at the confluence of the Mekong River and its tributary, the Nam Khan. With a backdrop of jungle-shrouded mountains and a surfeit of places to simply sit and contemplate, thereas an immediate sense of calm.

As night falls, the illuminated beauty of this former royal capital of the Kingdom of Lan Xang (The land of a million elephants) is revealed, heralding yet another quiet evening of dining, imbibing, and browsing by the curiously restrained mix of serious travellers and inquisitive backpackers.

They come from around the world at the respectable rate of about 275,000 a year drawn by the cityas historical, cultural, and spiritual significance, natural scenery and authentic village life and, for the more adventurous, trekking, rafting, river cruising, cycling, and Buddhist temples.

Just over 700 kms northeast of Bangkok by direct flights with Bangkok Airways and Lao Airlines, Luang Prabang, one of only a few protected French colonial classics in the region, is facing the inevitable march of progress. …

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