(in which we finally get to the Laos part of our trip)

Early on the morning of Dec 22, the four of us headed to Laos for Christmas, specifically Luang Prabang, the ancient royal capital of Laos and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ringed by mountains, the town lies at the intersection of the Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers. The first settling dates back to sometime between the 8th and 13th centuries and the first Lao kingdom (whose name translates to Million Elephants, White Parasol) was set up here in 1353. In 1887, the Luang Prabang kingdom chose to accept French protection rather than suffer further attacks by the Chinese, and the town quickly became a favorite posting in French Indochina.

The result is a charming, slightly sleepy town of golden wats (Buddhist temples) and old French colonials, palm trees and frangipani, wandering monks and markets, and really, really yummy food.

Emily photographs Wat Ho Pha Bang, the temple on the grounds of the Royal Palace Museum (formerly palace, now museum).

I loved touring the palace, wandering through cool staterooms and bedrooms in our socks and seeing diplomatic gifts (the US gave a moon rock), the Queen's Limoges china, and the royal car collection (featuring a 1958 Ford Edsel).

Scenes from the night market: setting up, in full swing, and winding down.

Silk on the loom. 

Candle-lit offerings.
 Sunset from Phu Si, the hill in the center of the oldest part of town.