BY SAM TAN LuangPrabang, Laos TheBeautyof

Luang Prabang swept us off our feet with its unexpected blend of stunning pagodas and romantic colonial architecture, the devoted monks in the Buddhist temples and the timeless villages. We rose early to observe the morning ritual of monks walking through the streets at sunrise to collect alms, known in Laos as tak bat . It’s a beautiful ritual and a must-see experience for travellers to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed town, home to nearly 80 Buddhist temples. Staying still and quiet so as not to disrupt the ritual, we watched in awe as hundreds of monks clad in mustard- coloured robes strolled past the locals, who were offering them flowers, incense and sticky rice in reverence. Having heard so much about the Kuang Si waterfall, we decided to rent a tuk-tuk for US$40 for a day-trip out of the city. The scenic fifty-minute drive from Luang Prabang took us through mountainous farmland to the famous waterfall. Upon reaching the spot, we plunged off the rope swing at its biggest pool and swam in the mineral-rich turquoise waters, which was a refreshing welcome to counter the humidity. The water tumbles down a large drop and cascades gently into several cool, clear pools. Feeling adventurous, we trekked to the top of the falls via a steep track where we explored the source of the waterfall – a spring – on a makeshift raft. Back in Luang Prabang, with the sun setting behind the majestic mountains of Laos, we ended our day with a short 15-minute hike up Phousi Hill to enjoy a spectacular panorama view across the city and its many temples. As we watched the last ray of light disappear behind the mountains, we secretly counted our blessings for the beautiful experience.

FACT FILE Getting there: There’s still no direct flight between Singapore and Luang Prabang; SilkAir flies via the Laotian capital Vientiane (4 hours 30 minutes total), or you can connect easily through Bangkok. Trivia time: A popular local dish in Luang Prabang is a spicy buffalo- and-vegetable stew known as or lam . | Em7


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