Magical Luang Prabang (Louang Phabang) is one of Southeast Asia’s most alluring destinations. While lacking any world-beating ‘sights’, it’s thoroughly pervaded by a heady, intangible charm – a unique place where time runs slowly amid fragrances of frangipani and fresh coffee. Silent palms drool over gold and claret wats, while saffron-clad monks seem to float along the tree-shaded streets. Colonial and pseudocolonial buildings emphasise the tropical torpor, with many characterful structures now tastefully reworked into handicraft stores, patisseries and boutique hotels. The whole scene is encircled by hazy green mountains at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong River, whose cafe-lined banks offer a procession of enchanting viewpoints. Unesco World Heritage status means a blessed ban on buses and trucks in the old centre where most road users are on foot or bicycle.