Immediately upon stepping into Luang Prabang, travelers are mesmerized by the culture of the tiny city set on the Mekong surrounded by jungle. This hidden oasis, though a UNESCO World Heritage site, is like a jewel nestled away from reality; it has a sleepy rhythm as it moves to the cadence of the Mekong River that flows a milky brown throughout Laos. The grinding of sand paper can be heard during the day for houses and children play soccer on the streets with a bamboo ball. People talk leisurely very leisurely without raising their voices. Even butterflies seem to move slowly here.The occasional hum of a moto passing surprises one because of its intrusive noise.

First of all, as indicated with its 33 Buddhist temples Luang Prabang is a spiritual place. Every morning at day break, 5 am, the entire village lines the street to give ‘alms’ or perform ‘merit-making’ to the monks who are studying at these temples. The monks line up in procession with big metal urns over their mustard-yellow robes and as they walk by the villagers who bow on their knees, the villagers drop little offerings of savory dishes, little sticky rice packets in banana leaf and sweets for the monks to provide monks with illumination psychically and spiritually. In this symbiotic relationship, the monks are reliant on this food to survive and the villagers make alms to give back and show reverence to their faith. Such is the harmonious undercurrent of this town.

The Laotian people believe in one true love. In life thus, Laotians can only say they love someone once and they must mean it. As a result, once this profession of love has been made, it is expected one marries and lives and protects each other forever. When a man knows he has found his love, he must pay for his wife and cannot have a girlfriend unless he pays the family $50 to $100 dollars which is a fortune here. If a man is caught kissing a women before this dowry has been made, the man must pay the family for the kiss. If a man can not afford to pay the family, his family will find a girl and arrange the deal for you. Until then, men must not been seen with women. Thus, the Laotian police are also very strict on affairs of lust. It is illegal to watch illicit TV or videos. This belief system makes Laos very different from other Southeast Asian countries, for instance Thailand and Vietnam, which have made million dollar industries from controversial exploits. The strong belief in love and family and obligation is a root  of this family structure; Thus this is a naïve utopia of sorts - where the love is forever and family comes first and while these customs may seem unforgiving for a modern cosmopolitan soul, it fosters a sense of commitment and satisfaction amongst the family system here.

Traveler to Laos will never forget the Laotian smile. The locals here live in a standard that most would consider improverished and yet they display immense, peaceful smiles on their faces. The ideas of capitalistic tourism has not arrived here (neither have DVDs really, except for in some hotels) and thus, travelers can be assured they will not be haggled, instead allured by the laid-back and kind-hearted people of Luang Prabang. It is a simple life here, with rich culture, that spellbinds all visitors.

Check the weather before arriving in Luang Prabang as you never know when you will encounter a rainstorm.