9 reasons to discover Laos
Tom, one of Adventure World Travel’s Industry Account Managers, journeyed to Laos
without too many expectations – having visited the rest of Indochina before he was semi-expecting “same same but different”. Instead he was wowed by what he discovered nestled in the centre of Indochina and the genuine beauty of this fascinating country.
Perhaps due to its status as the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia (it is encircled by Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Myanmar), Laos often gets less attention than its more famous neighbours. We view this low profile in another light: this beautiful country is one of the continent’s best-kept secrets, although it is increasingly on the radar of savvy luxury and adventure travellers alike. Below are 9 reasons why you should discover Laos.
THE INDOCHINA OF OLD
‘Undiscovered’ is perhaps an overused term, but it really is relevant for so much of Laos. Think Thailand and Vietnam 15 years ago… All the glory without the crowds, and a twist of something quite unique.
Whether it be the untouched natural beauty, the Buddhist monks in their saffron robes, delightful cuisine or the hundreds of years of history – everything we know and love about Indochina can be found in Laos.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
The French colonial presence in the region has left behind a culinary legacy; find excellent baguettes to munch on for breakfast all over the country. Enjoy with the strong, local coffee. From the glittering golden roofs of Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang to the little French cafes in antique colonial buildings in Vientiane
, from the glass-tile mosaics on monastery walls to the red Chinese lanterns hung outside houses for luck and prosperity, Laos possesses some of the most stunning examples of heritage and history in what was previously known as the French Colony of Indochina.
OLD MEETS NEW
A French colony for 60 years, the influence remains leaving a beautiful combination of “East meets West”. Coffee shops and bakeries sit alongside stupas and temples seamlessly to give a unique ambience.
is located on a site which has been sacred to at least three cultures – explore the shrines, ruins and unusual geological formations of this mighty complex. Built at a similar time to the famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia, explore the complex without the crowds found by its bigger brother.
The Plain of Jars is a unique sight – huge stone jar-shaped vessels scattered over a dozen locations on a lonely plateau – but what are they? Who built them and why? The view of them at sunrise or sunset is something special.
Laos’s understated crown jewel is the ancient capital of Luang Prabang
, whose fusion of Lao and European architecture UNESCO called a “key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.” Luang Prabang is one of the most romantic cities in the region and a World Heritage Site; its old streets are filled with fine temples and colonial buildings, all set against a backdrop of forested hills and the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers.
A trip to Laos would be incomplete without a few nights in Luang Prabang – don’t miss it!
And not just the “hill tribe” embroidery you see all over South East Asia (much of which now factory made for tourists). Laos has plenty of authentic textiles for sale from local artisans, in both traditional and more contemporary styles. The Hmong Story Cloths which tell creation stories - myths and folk tales in particular - are pretty special.
History and cities aside, Laos is also well-known for its wild and largely untouched scenery. Despite severe forest degradation in the past decades, Laos is still primarily covered in jungles and forests, which have been largely unexplored. In the mountainous Northern Laos, it is possible to take the “100 Waterfall trek” to explore some of these hidden locales. Going on a tour of the Bolaven Plateau in Southern Laos is also an amazing way to experience the landscape while learning about the fertile lands, coffee plantations and incredible surroundings. The high annual rainfall and extensive rivers combine with mountainous terrain to create some of the world’s most impressive waterfalls.
For travellers, the Kuang Si Falls
outside of Luang Prabang are the most accessible in all senses of the word. Not only are they easy to get to, but you can paddle and play in the huge complex of natural falls and pools.
If you venture south to Si Phan Don (aka 4000 islands) you will find the Khone Pha Pheng falls – the largest in South East Asia. Here you can also view the endangered freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin.
With nearly 40 rivers within the country, Laos has many excellent rivers that cross impenetrable jungles, deep gorges, and sometimes flow through extensive cave systems. Lao rivers can range from wild and dangerous to smooth and mild depending on the season, and while some can be navigated all year round, others reveal riverbeds of rocks when the water level is low. As it does in most societies, rivers equal life, and the same can be said in Laos, as most of the people have settled along the Mekong River and its many tributaries.
Taking a cruise on the Mekong or a small boat trip up the Nam Khan or Nam Ou River is a great opportunity to watch local life unfold on the banks of the river. When all else fails, catching a Mekong River sunset is nothing short of breath taking.
Bring your super soaker! Pi Mai, or Lao New Year, will take place April 14–16, 2019. The country celebrates with huge water fights in the streets. Also called Sonkran, this festival revolves around water, the symbol of renewal in Buddhist iconography, and temples and homes are cleaned. Parades, beauty pageants and big parties round out the fun.
Laos has made a huge commitment to responsible tourism and is eager to be South East Asia’s premier eco-tourism destination. With many community based tourism initiatives, social enterprises to visit for meals and shopping, visitors to Laos can travel responsibly without much effort. It’s a win for you, a win for Laos, and a win for the planet.
Need more inspiration to discover Laos? Find our suggested itineraries here
or check out our Asia Tailor-made collection
to discover more of this spectacular country. Alternatively, enquire now,
call (AU) 1300 295 049 or (NZ) 0800 238 368 or see your travel agent to custom make your own tailor-made itinerary.