National Geographic : 1954 May
£"C 0/0 . nu eri .iuoore, AationalI eograitllc atair Peace Pervades a Buddhist Grotto-but It Lies on a Natural Invasion Route Loyal troops fortified this place when it was threatened by Communist invaders marching on the royal town of Luang Prabang, residence of the King. The author, on a visit with the governor of Luang Prabang Province, found approaches to the grotto guarded by barbed wire. They picnicked together not far away (page 672). King Sisavang Vong of Laos makes a pilgrimage to the cliffside caves each year to wash the Buddhas with perfumed water. This grotto stands at the junction of the Mekong and Hou Rivers. Flowing out of the troubled north, the Hou forms a logical route for invading Viet Minh Communists. With Luang Prabang threatened, fortunetellers did a rushing business. "I interviewed one, a Buddhist priest at one of the temples," reports the author, "and asked him the burning question. He sat with eyes closed, slowly chewed on his quid of betel nut, and finally opened his eyes. 'Luang Prabang will be safe,' he said. 'The enemy will not take it. It is impossible for them to do so.' "