Luang Prabang – 29th April 1867

LUANG PRABANGnew

Two successive shots of high mountains formed for this picture a somber canvas on which, all flooded with light, the river and the city rose vigorously. A few clouds floated above the highest peaks, and traced an irregular and indecisive line of demarcation, between the bright azure of the sky and the bluish and degraded tints of the most distant terrestrial horizons. On the other side of the river reigned a relative calm and silence; on the bank itself, long rows of bamboos intended to dry the nets and the fish; a little beyond, gardens, a few scattered houses and pagodas; in the third plan, a row of hills with steep, bare slopes. It was noon when our boats stopped in front of Luang Prabang: a senior Mandarin was there to receive us. Our armed men got ashore and formed the hedge on Commander de Lagrée’s passage. Guided by our native cicerone, we climbed the bank and entered the town. For the first time, we found wide and fairly regular streets, intersecting at right angles, and formed by the high palisades that it was noon when our boats stopped in front of Luang Prabang: a senior mandarin was there for us. to receive. Our armed men got ashore and formed the hedge on Commander de Lagrée’s passage. Guided by our native cicerone, we climbed the bank and entered the town. For the first time, we found wide and fairly regular streets, intersecting at right angles, and formed by the high palisades which surround all the houses. After a short drive, we arrived at Wat Pounkeo, a pagoda assigned to us as temporary accommodation.

Garnier, Vol 1: 209

tomb

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The most assiduous of our guests was a niece of the king, a pretty girl of about twenty, whose social situation and consciousness of her charms gave her a boldness and familiarity which never succeeded in displeasing us. She behaved in our home as she did in hers, brought us almost daily some fruit and flowers and took on a comical air of importance when she introduced to us, while recommending them, some of her friends. One of us asked them one day whether such intimate visits of young girls to foreigners did not raise the suspicions of their fiancés. A burst of laughter was the answer and visibly disturbed the questioner. “At your age,” said the naive local girl, “what danger could there be? You are too respectable to upset the most jealous lover.” Alas, we were taken for decrepit elderly people and it was not without a certain dismay that we discovered it. The length of our beards which starts very late among the Mongol race, served as the basis for the calculation of our age and since they had not been touched by a razor for a year, we passed for octogenarians in the eyes of the locals.

Garnier, Vol.1: 306

A little above the city, the river narrows and resumes its wild and tormented aspect. The mountains on the banks tighten their jagged ridges and rocky surfaces; their last steps, which overlook the banks of the river, are often adorned with a pyramid, the tomb of a pious bonze or the shrine of an imaginary relic A little above Luang Prabang, on the left bank of the river, rises one of these Tat, picturesquely situated at the angle formed by the river and a small tributary. The mountain which serves as its pedestal is called Phou Kieo.  A little further, on the opposite bank, and at the entrance of one of those caves so frequent in limestone formations, stands a gigantic statue of Buddha.

Garnier, Vol 1: 351

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