In addition to admiring the old vehicles, colonial buildings and monasteries, I visited some of Luang Prabang’s sites of historic and cultural significance, including the Royal Palace Museum and the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC).
The Royal Palace Museum, the main residence of King Sisavang Vong (who ruled Laos in the early to middle 20th century) was fairly unremarkable. The rooms were oversized, with very high ceilings; there were the requisite oversized portraits of the King and Queen; there were some pieces of oversized and ostentatious furniture and various objets d’art. In the garage out back were four former “Royal Vehicles” in various stages of disrepair; a sign indicated that photos were prohibited, which was fine with me since the cars were not very photogenic.
On contrast, the TAEC museum was small but excellent. It provided a brief but thoughtfully curated overview of the various ethnic groups in Laos, with particular focus on the hill tribe cultures, of which there are many. I learned that there are over 100 ethnic groups and subgroups in Laos today. About one-third of the exhibit focused on the important role of women in their respective societal groups. There was a nicely detailed explanation of an ongoing project (called “Stitching Our Stories,” in English) in which women and girls are documenting their experiences through digital media and are provided with resources and mentoring to support this work.
I got some exercise by making the short climb to the top of Phu Si Hill, across from the Royal Palace Museum. There is a small stupa at the top of the hill, and when lit by floodlights at night it appears to float eerily in space above Luang Prabang.
I found fascinating images around every corner in Luang Prabang, so in addition to seeing the “official” sights I spent some time each day wandering about and taking photos of anything that looked interesting to me.