Young people in traditional costume wait for the Songkran procession.
The bigscreen romance "Sabaidee Luang Prabang" has thousands of Thais flocking to Laos' former capital, some even hoping to fall in love with a goodlooking tour guide, just like in last year's movie starring Ananda Everingham.
Luang Prabang certainly seems a likely spot for romance, occupying a long, thin spit of land where the Mekong and Khan rivers meet, but we were there instead for a traditional (though not altogether quiet) Songkran.
The old section of Luang Prabang, a Unesco World Heritage site, is considered Laos' religious heart - the finest temples stand side by side with renovated French colonial buildings.
It's serene year-round except for New Year, when water battles erupt and crowds assemble for cultural shows and the Nang Sangkharn (Queen of Songkran) parade.
The residents spend two or three days cleaning their homes, symbolically scrubbing away the sins of the past year. Everywhere people splash water on each other, the younger ones mixing in bright colours.
By tradition, King Kabilaprom had seven daughters - the Nang Sangkharn, but he lost a quiz challenge to Thammakuman and had to pay the penalty - decapitation.
Since a monarch's head couldn't touch the ground, at risk of catastrophe, it was placed on a tray and kept on Mount Krailard, to be brought down every year by one of his daughters for a procession.
The procession is now recreated annually for Songkran, with a vibrant parade overseen by the local woman deemed most beautiful and senior monks seated on a palanquin, over whose hands the faithful pour perfumed water.
Young people run amok in the streets, hurling water and talcum powder at passersby. Thanks to the cooperation and consideration of the celebrants, I managed to keep both my cameras dry.
My first day ended at Dao Fah, the only disco in town, packed with young people having fun. At the stroke of midnight the disco closes, though, leaving no other options except some hot noodles and a return to the hotel.
The next morning we walked along Sisavavong Road to the Royal Palace Museum - the Haw Kham, or Golden Hall built in 1904, when the French ran the country.
The museum blends European and Lao styles. It was the home of Sisavangvong, the last king of Laos, until his death in 1959. The monarchy was abolished 16 years later with the communist takeover.
We paid respects to Prabang, a golden Buddhist statue after which the town is named, and boarded the Nava Mekong, a traditional teak boat with comfortable seats and toilets.
Ninety minutes upstream is the Pak Ou Cave, a spot also known as Tham Ting. It's filled with Buddha images brought there by the boatmen for good luck.
At New Year many people visit the cave to pray and sprinkle water on the statues.
Lunch on board our little ship made the trip back to Luang Prabang seem shorter than it really was.
Our next destination was Wat Xiang Thong, founded in 1560 by King Setthathilat. The sim - the chapel - is a fine example of the local architecture, with a low, sweeping roof of three tiers.
The temple is on a bank of the Mekong River where it's joined by its smaller tributary, the Nam Khan.
It's believed that this is where two hermits who founded Luang Prabang placed the boundary stone for the new settlement.
Another story has Chanthapanit, a betel merchant, building a palace on this site and declaring himself the region's first king.
During the 1960s Wat Xiang Thong was completely re-modelled. On the back wall, a large flame tree, the tree of life, was depicted in a glass mosaic.
During the invasion of the Black Flag Army from China in the late 1800s, many temples were damaged and destroyed, but Wat Xiang Thong survived because the ethnic rebels' leader, Deo Van Tri, was ordained there.
A short walk distant is Wat Saen, built in 1718 and admired for its large standing Buddha. Saen means "100,000" in Lao, and here alludes to the amount of money contributed for the temple's construction.
Also nearby is Wat Wisunalat, alternatively known as Wat Visoun. The original structure of wood was destroyed by the Black Flag invaders, but the That Makmo - the "watermelon stupa" - was rebuilt in the late 1920s.
Wat Phu Si (or Pra That Phu Si) is opposite the Royal Palace Museum, on the hill in the heart of Luang Prabang. The walk up, 328 steps, isn't easy, but it's supposed to signify a test of your faith.
After cloudbursts, people gather rainwater at Pra That Phu Si to use at home, believing it's been sanctified by arriving through the temple on the city's highest promontory.
If you go …Bangkok Airways flies between Bangkok and Luang Prabang. Check for the best prices at www.BangkokAir.com.