First time I came to Laos was in 1989. At that time Laos was mostly closed to foreigners. A few tourists from Eastern Europe, a few westerners as well who were working in the country. I was lucky enough to get a visa through a Thai friend who knew a minister in the government. I was restricted to stay in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. As you can imagine this trip was a true enchantment, getting way back in time in a country that stayed in a different century. One thing that amazed me at that time was how people were walking at a different pace, how slowly life was going on all around.
When I came back to Luang Prabang last december, a few things had changed. First of all a delicate and very successful restoration job had been done. There were now tourists around. But Luang Prabang was still a city where time seemed to stand still, where people walked at the same pace they did 20 years before, like these novices going to school under the morning sun, after the clouds dissolved over Wat Sen.