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Laos - New nation with old-fashioned charm
November 29, 2015, 9:42 am
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Often overlooked in favor of its better-known neighbors, Laos remains as one of Southeast Asia’s most enticing places. Once caught in the middle of the two Indochina wars, the landlocked country retains a slow, rather old-fashioned charm. Laos’ lifeline is the Mekong River, which runs the length of the country, at times bisecting it and at others serving as a boundary with Thailand.

For such a small country, it is surprisingly diverse in terms of people. Colorfully dressed hill tribes populate the higher elevations, while in the Lowland River valleys, coconut palms sway over the Buddhist monasteries of the ethnic Lao. Whether you are riding through the countryside on a rickety old bus or leisurely sailing down the Mekong, it is hard not to be won over by this utterly fascinating country and its people.
 

Cities to visit:
Vientiane: An unusually delicate, temple-strewn capital on the banks of the Mekong, Vientiane goes totally against the grain of Asian capitals, being a slow-paced, relaxing spot where you can hang around for more than just the tourist attractions.Home to hoards of ornate wats (temples) and littered with tuktuks and bigger jumbos, tourists spend days in Vientiane drifting out to the incredible out of town Buddha Park, or exploring the national symbol of Laos, the golden-spiked Pha That Luang.

LuangPrabang:LuangPrabang is Laos’ foremost tourist showpiece. The brew of gleaming temple roofs, crumbling French provincial architecture and multi-ethnic inhabitants captivates even the most jaded travelers, and the quiet benevolence of the city’s residents lulls them into somnambulant bliss.

MuangNgoy:MuangNgoy is a perfect spot to track smaller communities in the neighborhood. The site shows a cave and beautiful landscapes with rice fields and Karst Mountains.It is anexcellent trip to go by boat from LuangPrabang upstream to MuangNgoyNeua.

Sights to see:

Royal palace museum: Perfectly framed by an avenue of tall Palmyra palms, the former Royal Palace was built in 1904, blending traditional Lao and French beaux-arts styles. It was the main residence of King SisavangVongwhose statue stands outside. This museum involves a throne room where the former kings used to be seated.

WatXieng Thong: Located near the northern tip of the peninsula formed by the Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers, WatXieng Thong is LuangPrabang’s most magnificent temple. It was built in 1560 by King Setthathirath and was under the royal patronage during the Kingdom of Laos. WatXieng Thong contains a rare reclining Buddha statue that dates back to the construction of the temple.

Pha that luang: Located in Vientiane, Pha that luang is one of the most significant monuments in Laos. The stupa has several terraces with each level representing a different stage of Buddhist enlightenment. The lowest level represents the material world; the highest represents the world of nothingness. It was built in the 16th century on the ruins of an earlier Khmer temple.

Pak oucaves: The Pak oucaves are located north of LuangPrabang on the Mekong River and can be reached by road or river boat. The caves are famous for their miniature Buddha sculptures. Hundreds ofsmall and mostly damaged wooden Buddhist figures are laid out over the wall shelves. They take many different arrangements, including meditation, teaching, peace, rain, and reclining.

Viengxai: The Viengxai caves are an extensive network of caves that served as hidden city during the Vietnam War. Nearly 23,000 people lived in these caves, which contained a hospital, military barracks, bakeries, shops, and even a theater.

Bolaven Plateau: The Bolaven Plateau is located in an ancient volcano that erupted millions of years ago. This area is green all year round and cooler than the rest of Laos and Thailand. The area surrounding the plateau has a number of protected national parks, dramatic waterfalls, remote hill tribes, dense jungles and taste of some of the world’s best coffee beans. 

Si Phan Don: The Si Phan Don is a riverine archipelago located in the Mekong River, Champasak Province in southern Laos. Si Phan Don is characterized by numerous islands, half of which are submerged in the Mekong River flood. The principal islands of Si Phan Don are Don Khong and Don Det and Don Khon.

Adventures in Laos:

Trek the '100 waterfalls':The '100 Waterfalls' hike, which involves scrambling up a series of cascading falls in northern Laos, was only discovered in 2008 and remains off most travellers’ radars. The falls themselves are not particularly dramatic, but their sheer number never fails to impress.

Boat through a 7km limestone cave: One of the highlights of a trip to Laos is a visit to Tham Kong Lo cave. Hidden deep in the wilderness of central Laos, the limestone cave is an awe-inspiring trip 7km long and up to 300 feet high in places. Hop in on a small boat and navigate the vast river passage, stopping off to explore on foot.

Cuisine: The staple food of the Lao is steamed sticky rice, which is eaten by hand. In fact, the Lao eat more sticky rice than any other people in the world. It is often contained in a small woven basket. You can enjoy the sticky rice with other food and sauces.

Larb:Another special cuisine in LuangPrabangis Larb. This dish can be made with chicken, beef, duck, fish or mushrooms. The meat is flavored with lime juice, fish sauce, and fresh herbs. It is usually served with raw vegetables and sticky rice.

National day: The country celebrates its National Day on 2 December with streets strewn with national flags and banners, as parades, processions and speeches mark the day. This day commemorates the establishment in 1975 of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic after overthrowing the royalist Lao government and abolishing monarchy.

 

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