Luang Prabang is unlike any other, well at least no other place we have yet to see. If we had come straight here from China, or from Saigon, the differences would have been even more extreme as in town only one word prevails: calm. The town, because at one third the size of Tromso you cannot really call it a city, sits mainly on an island penninsula, in between the mekong river and the khem river in northern Laos. As we escaped Hanoi to avoid the typhoon, we expected days of torrential rain, but all the rain we got was actually enjoyable. With the exception of our last morning, the rain came in bursts, and lasted only for a glimpse, before leaving the town wet for a few minutes, before it all disappeared and almost seemed like it had never happened. The calmness and slow rythms of the town are highlighted by over two dozen buddhist temples that dot the three main streets of the town. It is a feeling unlike any other where you instead of being afraid to cross the street, or intimidated by the crowds on the sidewalks, you share mud-soaked paths with orange-clad young buddhist monks. The experience was capped off by the choice of our lodging, which was at a relatively new boutique hotel, owned by a Swedish man who decided to move to Luang Prabang and start up his own place, but with scandinavian touches. Housed in an old french villa, but restored to beyond its colonial glory, the hotel had a handful of rooms, with dark wooden floors, windowshades and furniture, and luscious verandas and balconies, but as I mentioned crucial scandinavian touches like 'rainflow shower heads' that were enormous but did not excesivelly spew out precious water(like those in China), a non-alcoholic minibar which was to Anna's disbelief free, and remote controlled, swedish reclinable beds. Not satisfied in this, and in having the absolutely most attentive Lao staff and best breakfast of the trip, the hotel sits on the very tip of the penninsula, so that when we sat on the veranda outside our rooms and had a drink we could see the meeting of the two rivers less than 100 meters away. Things didn't stop there, as we were both picked up and dropped off at the airport, at no extra charge, and were given bicycles to use during the day as we wished, also without having to pay anything extra. Adding to the sense of calm, Laos is also known for its massages, which were mysteriously cheap. However, in the end we did not get to sample them as we ended up being so busy doing.....well doing not all that much specifically. The most interesting 'activity' in town was taking a cruise up the Mekong river to see a buddhist temple inside a limestone cave. The temple itself was quite a letdown, although the upper cave was deep enough that you couldnt see anything at the back and with our flashlight managed to make out a few buddha statues scattered on the back wall. The high point of the stop was instead seeing a huge black scorpion outside the entrance to the upper cave. Nevertheless, the 2 hour journey up the mekong(and 1.5 hours back down) was the reason we really went on the trip, and this was definitely worth it, even though there wasnt as much 'life' as expected between 2 and 6 in the afternoon. The feeling of the town really would have not been the same without the influence of the french. Many places in indochina can say they have a colonial influence and french architecture, but this town was exclusively(thanks to UNESCO heritage status that protects what can and cannot be built) buddhist temples and phenomenal colonial french villas. Again, many places can claim to have french villas, but this was the real thing, and our hotel, as nice as it was, was not exceptional in this regard. Again, there were some cases of architectural fusion at work, epitomized by the national museum, being the former royal palace, when the kingdom of Laos had it seat in Luang Prabang. The large, yet not overly ornate, inmense villa had endless touches of french class but all in all was still a buddhist building. The palace had on its grounds probably the most ornate and only extensively gold-leaf decorated temple, and a car garage, which boasted two lincoln continentals, an Edsel of all cars, an old beautiful Renault, a James Bondesque speedboat, and a rusty old Toyota jeep. Finally, one cannot avoid talking about Lao without talking about the food. Not to be overly repetitive, but many places can claim to have a fusion of french and local cuisine, but without asserting myself too far above the rest of indochina, none do it quite like Luang Prabang. Baguettes, crepes, croissants were all over the places, both in colonial style cafes and boulangeries, but also being sold by people on the street. The restaurants were phenomenal, again mixing french cuisine with local ingredients, or putting some french twist on local flavors like bamboo shoots, fish braised in banana leaves, or anything cooked in coconut milk. You really could do no wrong and we found it was easier to find good french food than it is to do so in Paris. So all in all, from sampling strange fruits, herbs, and spices, alongside pork cutlets in a white mushroom sauce, to cruising down(and up) one of the world's majestic tropical rivers, to being approached by a buddhist youth to talk about football(and his love for Fernando Torres, as I was wearing a Spain jersey), there is really no place quite like Luang Prabang.