Laos is a country as yet untouched by the modern demands, stress and peace of life.Its beauty lies in the Lao people, century-old traditions ans heritage, ands its lush, pristine landscape. Laos has a rich history stretching back 10,000 years. At its height, it ruled over present day Laos and much of neighbouring northern Thailand. Landlocked and laid-back, it’s a unique spin on the Southeast Asia experience.
Located on a curve of the Mekong River, Vientiane Capital has a recorded history that stretches back to around 1.000 AD. The area was originally settled because of the fertility of the surrounding alluvial plains, and Vientiane became the capital city of Laos around the mid 16th century.
Vientiane delivers a relaxing riverside break where one of the best things you can do is grab a drink and enjoy the sun’s spectacular show as it sets over the Mekong. Despite being the largest city in Laos and the hub of commerce and administration, Vientiane is still refreshingly laid back.
Patuxai Victory Monument
The city offers a great choice of accommodation, restaurants and pavement cafes some adding a French air with their style of architecture which contrasts pleasingly with the old Buddhist temples dotted around. There are plenty of things to do after dark and bars cater to all tastes from backpacker beer haunts to elegant cocktail lounges. Navigating Vientiane is relatively simple due to its size and sightseeing can be done either on foot, by bike or by hiring a song-teow. The countryside is never far away, with rice paddies providing a backdrop to most streets. Culture buffs should make the Laos National Museum their first stop.
When in Laos, do as the Laos do and the slow the pace right down. A common joke is that acronym PDF (Peoples Democratic Republic) actually stands for ‘Please Slow Down’. A word of warning to the anally punctual, the country is decidedly laid back and some visitors may mistake this for a lack of ambition or impolitesse but regardless, it’s best not to expect things to run like clockwork.
Luang Prabang was the ancient royal capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom until King Phothisarat moved the administrative seat to Vientiane in 1545. Regardless, it has continued to overlook Vientiane as the destination of choice with its amalgamation of crumbling French architecture, glistening temples and extensive natural beauty. Even the hardest of hearts would have a struggle not to warm to the place. The town’s entire historical section is dedicated to tourism, with everything from former royal palaces to over 33 Wats (temples), on the tourist trail. This former Royal capital still remains the main centre for Buddhist learning in Laos and is the perfect location for spiritual contemplation.
Luang Prabang Laos
Alms Giving Ceremony Highlights
Situated in the centre of northern Laos, Luang Prabang is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding cultural, historic and architectural values and its harmonious relationship between the natural and built environment. In the 14th century, the King Fa Ngum founded the first Lao Kingdom, Lane Xang, here in Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang remained the capital of Lane Xang until 1565 when the capital was moved to Vientiaine. It remained to serve as the country’s spiritual and religious centre.
Visitors to Luang Prabang are charmed by the friendly atmosphere of this small town. The town itself offers several unique insights into the history of the region, through excellently preserved Buddhist temples, museum and a variety of Lao, Tai-Lue, Burmese, Chinese and Taui architecture Night Market. In Luang Prabang sell a large variety of traditional goods. The town is famous for its unique textiles and beautiful mulberry paper. Famous foods in Luang Prabang are “Aur Lam” (a thick stew made with the forst herb “Sakhan”, meat and eggplants), “Jaew Bong”, a sauce made with hot chillies and buffalo skin and “khai Pan”
dried river weed lightly fried with sesame seeds and garlic.
The small town of Vang Vieng is located 150km north of the Vientiane Capital. This is a place of a dreamlike landscape of bizarre limestone mountain peaks and scenic cliffs with the Nam Song (Song River) bisecting the town. At the base of the town’s limestone mountains are a network of caves. There are a variety of well-developed tourism services in Vang Vieng and a wide range of accommodations. Water sports such as kayaking and tubing are popular and rock climbing is also a growing pastime. Vang Vieng also offer some peaceful places like several 16th and 17th century monasteries and the small Hmong villages.
Vang Vieng Laos
Just off of route 13 north are two of Vientiane Province’s well known attractions : a small man-made reservoir known as Nong Nok near Ban Sivilay which is a great bird watching site; and the ancient Vang Xang Buddha images and sculptures that are carved into the side of a sandstone escarpment.
Vang Vieng for many travelers is simply a piece of heaven on earth. Surrounded by scenic landscape ranging from mountains to rivers and limestone cliffs to rice fields, this small and scenic town offers a long list of interesting attractions. The Nam Song River is where you will witness the famous tubing – and young travellers sitting in large inner tubes floating downriver is a common sight in Vang Vieng.
Actually it has become a large part of the reason why many young people come here in the first place. The well-known Tham Poukham Cave features the ‘Blue Lagoon’, a nice spot to swim and swing lazily on a rope, while Tham Norn is among one of the biggest caves in Vang Vieng. If time allows, make a stop at the local market to catch a gimpse of everyday life in a typical Lao rural area.
In the northeast of Laos, lying across a flat high plateau is the province of Xieng-Khouang, most commonly known for the intriguing ‘Plain of Jars’. From the early 19th century until 1975, central Xieng-Khouang and the plain of jars was a recurring battle zone. It’s estimated that more bombs where dropped on Laos between 1964 and 1973, than in the Second World War. As a result, visitors are advised to stick close to guided trails as unexploded ordinance still litter the plain.
Xieng Khouang Laos
Xieng Khouang is home to the Plain of Jars, the prehistoric stone megaliths which attract thousands of tourists to the province each year. The Lao government is currently finalising an application for the World Heritage Committee to consider listing the Plain of Jars as a World Heritage Monument. The area is of significant archaeological importance on account also of the standing stones in nearby Huaphan province.
The total number of hotels, guesthouses, resorts, restaurants and entertainment establishments in the province grew from 98 in 2009 to 140 in 2010.
Phonsavan, the new provincial capital, is located in Paek district and caters to increasing numbers of national and international tourists, eager to experience Xieng Khouang’s natural, historical and archaeological attractions. The new airport in Phonsavan is served by regular flights from Vientiane by Lao Airlines.
Pakse is located at the mouth of the rivers Xedong and Mekong. The term Pakse means the ‘Mouth of the River Se’. This city is inhabited by 70,000 people and the Pakse International Airport serves as a link to the Bolaven Plateau. The construction of this airport was completed in November 2009, and has connections to Siem Reap, Vientiane and Bangkok.
In the Pakse area, there are about 62 tourist sites : 32 natural, 7 historical, and 27 cultural. There are many French colonial style buildings remain in the city. The Sedon Bridge often called “old bridge” by the people of Champasack. From the bridge, you can walk around to see the old French style quarter. The Lao – Japan Mekong River Bridge was constructed in 2002 and is a route to Thailand.
Wat Poratana Sadsadaram (Wat Luang Temple) is located in the center of Pakse district. It is a temple that consists of traditional style and new style constructions. There are library, which was built in the last decades and the shrine with amazing wall painting and excellent sculptors .There are also interesting temple located close to the city including Wat phabat one called “Wat tamfai temple” and Wat chomphet. There are big festivals in Pakse district every year the boat racing festival consists of Miss Nava Competition and many boats from all over the province. There is a parade of big Mark Beng (folded banana leaves) which is held during Ork Pan Sa day(Buddhist day) in mid-October. You may also want to see the Stone Buddha sculpture work of the people in Chomphet village. Stone Buddha here is well know by Lao Buddhists. For people who like going to shopping,there isanew Pakse Market, Shopping center and other markets around Pakse where you can buy local handicraft with reasonable price.
Located on the banks of the Nam Tha River, Luang Nam Tha means ‘The area around the Tha river’. Luang Nam Tha is the largest city in the province of the same name, in the northern part of Laos.
Like Huay Xai, Laung Nam Tha is primarily perceived as a stopover point. Most visitors who come from China to Laos use this city as a starting point instead of taking the uncomfortable and crowded boat ride between Luang Prabang and Huay Xai. The city has two distinct parts; one which is referred to as the old town was bombed during the 1970s and the new town, six km away and which was built as a replacement of sorts for the old one has most of the trekkers’ huts and guesthouses.
Luang Namtha Laos
Famous for trekking and ecotourism opportunities in the Nam Ha National Protected Area and home to over 30 distinct ethnic groups, Luang Namtha is perhaps the most diverse province in the entire country. Akha villages are located in the hills and some are easily accessible. If you are interested in kayaking and rafting, 1-3 day trips can be arranged when you get there or by advance booking through a travel agent. Motorized boat trips on the Namtha River are a popular activity, as is simply renting a bicycle to explore the lush countryside and rice fields surrounding the town. At Nam Ngaen Village, climb the hill to Phoum Phouk stupa for an amazing view of the Namtha valley. In Vieng Phoukha, halfway between Luang Namtha and Chuiang Rai in northern Thailand you can visit the abandoned 16th century settlement known as the Khou Vieng Ruins. For cave exploration, don’t miss the Phou Prasat and Nam Eng caves in Vieng Phoukha.
In Namtha District, visit Tai Dam villages to see sericulture and purchase hand-made silk textiles. If you are interested in watching paper made by hand, stop at one of the Lantaen villages outside of the main town. Because of its concentration of Khmu villages. Namtha is a great place to purchase bamboo and rattan basketry – the Khmu are legendary basket-weavers. Here the bamboo and rattan are used for both handicrafts and food. Bitter bamboo-shoot soup and rattan-heart salad are two delicious local dishes. If you like rice noodles, the “khao soi” in Muang Sing is a must.
Champasak was once, 1400 years ago, the centre of power in the lower Mekong basin, later a revered outpost of the Khmer Angkor empire and later still one of the three kingdoms to rule over the remains of Lane Xang. A fine heritage that, according to the last prince of Champassak, was brought to hard times by a former queen’s indiscretion.
The beautiful Nang Pao ruled over Champasak in the mid-17th century. But it’s lonely at the top and the queen found comfort in the arms of a prince from a neighbouring kingdom. Alas, for the lady’s pennyroyal was ineffective, and Nang Pao fell pregnant. A great scandal ensued and, though the queen remained in power and was succeeded by her illegitimate daughter, Nang Peng, the unhappy Nang Pao decreed that all unmarried mothers in the kingdom must sacrifice a buffalo for their sins. The practice survived in some local communities until the 1980s, the unfortunate women being known as ‘Nang Pao’s Daughters.’
Though the Kingdom of Champasak prospered for a while after the final dissolution of Lane Xang, at the beginning the 18th century, its fortunes faltered quickly and it was reduced to a vassal state of Siam before the century had passed. For its part in Chao Anou’s abortive attempt to win freedom from the Siamese for the Lao kingdoms, Champasak lost all of its territory east of the Mekong. Under French rule the once mighty kingdom became a mere administrative block; its royalty stripped of many of its privileges.
“With an unmarried mother as queen,” Prince Boun Oum na Champasak, the last of the kingdom’s royal line, once said. “Everything started so badly that the game was lost before it began.”
Boun Oum, who died in French exile in 1980, may have griped about his family’s downfall (though he was not a direct descendent of Nang Pao), but it did not stop him from using his remaining royal privileges to loot the nearby Wat Phu. The magnificent Angkorian temple complex was recently made a UNESCO heritage site and is considered one of the finest Angkor-inspired edifices outside of Cambodia.