Luang Prabang is the former capital of Laos. It sits on a promontory where the Nam Khan flows into the Mekong. We stayed at the Apsara Rive Droite (*), which is on the far bank of the Nam Khan. You get to the main town by the hotel’s small motor boat. A local ordinance insists that the presence of the hotel should be disguised, so to look like part of the village the garden is surrounded by banana groves and bamboo fencing. Out of season in June, we had the place entirely to ourselves.

The town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and still largely undeveloped. The national museum was formerly the royal place until the kings were deposed by the Pathet Lao in 1975. The museum collection is made up largely gifts to the king, including, from the United States, the Lao flag carried to the moon on Apollo 11 and a small piece of moon rock. Round the back in the garage is the collection of royal motor cars: a couple of Lincoln Continentals, a Ford Edsel, a beaten up Citroen DS, a Toyota jeep and a speedboat, used to visit the orchards across the river. The museum has information on the lives of the royal family up until 1975 but nothing later. The last king in fact died a few years afterwards in a re-education camp. The museum also houses the Pra Bang, the small statue of the Buddha that gives the town its name. It was made in Sri Lanka in the 1st century and was a present from the Khmer empire in the 14th century.