Sunday 31 October 2010

Luang Prabang

The easiest places to write about are the ones you hate. There's nothing like having an axe to grind to get the literary juices gushing; you drink a few beers, plug the brain into the keyboard and let the vitriol pour forth. Spellchecker does the rest.

When I like a place I hesitate. It takes time to let my thoughts crystallize; even the most heartfelt praise needs empirical evidence to prop it up. It's not enough to say I love you, I need to tell you why.

Waiting for the thoughts and words to shuffle into some kind of order, you risk losing them. With Luang Prabang, the superlatives began suggesting themselves long before I even crosssed the Mekong to Huoy Xia. In my dreams I saw the reflection of a glorious city shimmering on the surface of a dull brown river, but instead it crept up on me, as dreams often do. Modest, subtle and unannounced.

Luang Prabang, Luang Prabang. Let me rummage in this old bag here and see if I can't find some words to describe you.

I love the smell of your twilight fires, and the sound of their crackling. I love peering through your fence as orange robed monks warm their hands by your glow. Across your tree lined streets, I love the sound of clashing metal, as the energetic voices of invisible tuk-tuk drivers play boules upon your hallowed ground.

I love your wooden houses. I love the stains that streak down your walls. I love the children that play in your streets, that stand naked in your doorways and laugh as you walk past. I love your smiles, transcending the moments through which you shine. That make a mockery of poverty, race, creed and culture. Smiles that turn your heart inside out and show the deepest warmth of your soul right where I can see you.

Luang Prabang, you are a beautiful woman who grows more beautiful with age. You don't fight time, but embrace and dance with him instead. As the years slip from you, the wrinkles augment your beauty; heightening your grandeur, not diminishing it. You are timeless, graceful, unforgettable, and I hope with all my heart you don't change before I return.

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