Luang Prababang Chinatown
Once upon a time in Luang Prabaung, the capital of the Kingdom of Laos, there was a Luang Prabaung Chinatown.
From the Royal Palace, the King of Laos could see the Luang Prababang Chinatown located on Sisavangvong Street, very close and to the left of the royal palace.
Luang prabang Chinatown was where the Chinese community lived and operated their business.
Luang Prabaung Chinatown disappears
However, it all changed in 1975 when the communist government came into power. Like the Chinese in Vientiane Chinatown, those in Luan Prabang fled Laos after the communist victory and Luang Prabaung Chinatown disappeared from the landscape.
Many fled to France where they along with other migrants from former French colonies in Indochina contributed to the rise of Paris Chinatown 13 arrondissement.
Moving forward a few decades when Laos developed its tourism economy, Luang Prabaung was one of the top attraction welcoming visitors to explore its natural and cultural sites.
The new Luang Prabaung
However, many things have changed for Luang Prabaung. Luang Prabaung is no longer the capital of Laos, the kingdom of Laos and the king does not exist anymore.
The Royal Palace welcomes tourists as the Royal Palace museum and the former Luang Prabaung Chinatown is now the main tourist street with restaurants, shops and tour companies.
The remaining Chinese population refers to the former Luang Prabaung Chinatown as foreigner street 洋人街. There are still some Chinese residents along the former stretch of Chinatown and they participate in the tourist economy running restaurants and shops catering to tourists. You can still see some Chinese influence such as an ocassional bao stall.
The only sign of its former status is the Chinese clan association on the second floor of a shop house.
Other Chinese institutions in Luang Prabaung include the Chinese school, the old theatre and the Chinese Hospital that has since been relocated.
Luang Prabang - UNSECO World Heritage site
In 1995, Luang Prabang was designated as a UNSECO World Heritage site and presented as an “outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries”
While there are no plans to revive the former Chinatown, Luang Prabang’s UNSECO status indirectly preserves the memories of the former Chinatown.
So when strolling along Sisavangvong Street in search of tour packages, souvenirs or a restaurant, think of the days when Chinese communities who once lived there help shaped this tourist street.