Laos – Simply Beautiful

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1 Laos

The beautiful Republic of Laos is bordered by Myanmar to the north-west, China to the north, Cambodia to the south, Thailand to the west and Vietnam to the east. The country is divided into the regions of Northern Laos, Southern Laos and Central Laos. The northern region of Laos is popular for trekking and this area also offers stunning limestone Karst landscapes along the mighty Mekong River. Some of the main tourist attractions in Laos include backpacking in Muang Ngoi Neua and visiting the tribes in areas such as Luang Namtha and Phongsaly.

Muang Ngoi Neua is situated along the Nam Ou River in the Louangphrabang Province, approximately 170 kilometers north-east of Luang Prabang. The Mekong River and the Nam Ou River are used for boat transportation. The Pak Ou Caves, well-known for its Buddha statues, are near the confluence of the two rivers. Notable sites near Muang Ngoi Neua include the Tham Pha Kaew and Tham Kang caves.

One of the most visited sites in Laos is the Plain of Jars, an archaeological landscape located at the northern end of the Annamese Cordillera.

2 Plain of Stone Jars

The Xieng Khouang Plateau is home to around ninety stone jar sites. Legend has it that a race of giants inhabited the area and the jars were used to brew and store rice beer or wine. Others believe the jars were used to collect and store rainwater for the caravan travelers. The location of the jars may relate to mining and trading activities. Site 1, located close to the town of Phonsavan, is the most investigated and visited jar site.

Large cities in Laos include Pakse, Savannakhet, Luang Prabang and Vientiane. The main international airports are Luang Prabang International Airport, Pakse International Airport and Vientiane’s Wattay International Airport. Laos has no railways, except a short link that connects Thailand with Vientiane.

Explore Vientiane – The Capital of Laos

Vientiane is the capital of Laos and is located in the region of Central Laos. The city is situated on the north-eastern bank of a bend in the Mekong River. Chanthabuli is the central district and home to most of the restaurants and hotels. Most of the hotels in this area offer a pickup service from the airport. Thanon Lane Xang is a wide boulevard and will take you from the Presidential Palace to Patuxai towards Pha That Luang or the Great Stupa.

Pha That Luang, Vientiane

3 Pha-That-Luang

Pha That Luang is the national symbol of Laos and also the most sacred monument in the country. According to the local people the golden gilded monument was built in the third century as a Hindu temple and rebuilt in the thirteenth century as a Khmer temple after Buddhist missionaries and Arahata monks brought a holy relic of Lord Buddha to the stupa. The temple was destroyed in 1828 and reconstructed after World War II. That Luang stands about 148 feet tall and is surrounded by high walls. The architecture is influenced by Buddhist beliefs including animal and flower images, red doors and many Buddha sculptures. The country’s most important festival, Bun That Luang, is held here in November each year on the night of the full moon.

 

If you would like to learn more about the Lao history and culture you should visit the Lao National Museum next to the Lao Plaza Hotel in Thanon Samsenthai. The historical exhibits on the first floor are interesting and the second floor will give you great insight into the eighteenth century Laotian Kingdom. Other museums worth visiting include Lao People’s Army History Museum on Kaysone Phomvihane Road and Kaysone Phomvihane Museum on 6 Dongdok Road. Hophakaew Museum is situated on Thanon Setthathirat and is a former royal temple.

 

Ensure to also visit the Wat Si Saket, the oldest standing temple in Vientiane. The temple is now known as the Sisaket Museum and is located on the corner of Thanon Lane Xang and Thanon Setthathirat opposite the Hophakaew Museum. Sisaket Museum houses many Buddha sculptures made of silver, bronze, wood or stone.

Xieng Khuan or Buddha Park, Laos

 

4 Buddha Park

Buddha Park is an absolute must see. This amazing sculpture park is located in a meadow by the Mekong River at Thanon Tha Deua. The famous Buddha Park, also known as Xieng Khuan or Spirit City, is situated approximately 24 kilometers from the city and you can take a Vientiane tuk tuk or bus number 14 at Central Bus Station to get there. Buses leave every fifteen minutes to the park if road conditions allow it.

 

Xieng Khuan is a collection of concrete sculptures of Hindu and Buddhist deities, animals, humans and some bizarre demons. The three levels of the giant pumpkin in the park represent hell, earth and heaven. Xieng Khuan was built in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulitat and is home to more than 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues. Please feel free to contact the park at +856 21 212 248 for more information or to find out about visiting hours.

 

Lao Girl Wearing Traditional Attire

Lao Girl Wearing Traditional Attire

Talat Sao is also referred to as the Morning Market and is located at the corner of Khu Vieng Road and Lane Xang Road. The market offers an array of indoor stalls, selling almost everything. There are a large variety of produce, meat and seafood and a number of noodle vendors. You will find that many do not speak any English at the market. If you are hungry, you can choose from a large variety of delicious noodle soups.  The second floor sells gold, jewelry and clothing and the first floor mostly electronics and textiles. You can buy the most beautiful silk and cotton textiles here and you should negotiate for discount. Talat Sao Mall also boasts an array of small shops, a food court and several cafés. Prices at Home Ideal Department Store on Samsenthai Road are reasonable and fixed. This is a large shop selling clothing, stationary, luggage and many other products.

For scarves, shirts, wall hangings and cushion covers you can visit Mixay in Thanon Nokeo Kumman or you can buy naturally dyed and handmade silk products at Mulberries Lao Sericulture Company in the same area as Mixay.

Ban Anou Night Market

Ban Anou Night Market

After sundown you can visit the Ban Anou Night Market near the crossing of Chao Anou and Khoun Bourom Road for a wide range of snacks, noodles, grilled sticky rice and grilled skewered meat. Ensure to try the small rice pancakes filled with minced pork and bean sprouts. It is simply delicious. Pho is a popular dish and is typically made with hand-pulled noodles.  Take care when you buy boiled eggs. Lao love incubated duck eggs and you may be in for a surprise.

Some of the popular restaurants along the Mekong River serve food on low rattan tables and diners sit on mats around the table. Open-air restaurants in this area have been known to use two menus; an expensive one for the tourists and a cheaper one for the locals. Among the best dishes they serve here is the grilled fish.

Once a month the monks gather at Sangha College or Wat Ong Teu to socialize with tourists. Tourists are welcome to visit the Lao Dhamma Center on Route 13 to the south for peaceful Buddhist meditation. Approximately 500 meters north of Patuxay Monument is the Adina Spa at 170 Phonesaath, Kaysone Road. The spa is well-known for its relaxing massage treatments. You can contact Adina Spa at +856 21 414138 if you would like to make an appointment.

You can use 011Now services for making cheap international calls to Laos from your home or cell phone. Visit 011Now.com for more.

Luang Prabang – UNESCO World Heritage City

7 Stairway in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is situated at the confluence of two rivers that almost surround the town and is the former capital of Laos. This is by far the most charming city in South-east Asia and a UNESCO World Heritage City.  The cleanliness and tidiness of the city will amaze you. The Alms ceremony is every day at dawn. The monks collect rice from kneeling tourists and villagers along Sakkaline Road near Wat Sensoukharam. Vat Xieng Toung is the oldest monastery in Luang Prabang and absolutely worth a visit. The golden Vipassana Temple is highly visible from Phou Si and is used by Buddhists who practice Vipassana meditation.

Ensure to visit the Garden of Eden on the Nam Khan riverside. This nice jewelry shop is right next to the Dyen Sabai restaurant. If you buy one piece of jewelry from the shop, you may even get a free jewelry class. The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre is a small museum that will give you a better understanding about the various groups of Laos. For the more adventurous tourists, the Fair Trek Project offers exciting treks and activities. You can also join a Living Land Farm Rice Experience Tour and observe the traditional tools used to process rice.

Monks in Luang Prabang

Monks in Luang Prabang

The hawkers on Sisivangvong Road at the Night Market are selling all kinds of souvenirs. Avoid buying rare dried sea creatures, ivory and leather as it may be made from endangered animals. The pillow sets and duvet covers are really pretty and you can order one in your dimensions. They will make it for you in one day.

Nang Ae Restaurant is located opposite the Dara Market. You can enjoy a delicious omelet and sandwiches here at fair prices. Delilah’s on Chao Fa Ngum Road offers good food at fair prices. Le Banneton on Sisivangvong Road is the best place for tarts, cakes and pastries. One of the backpackers’ favorite restaurants is the Lao Lao Garden. You get to cook your meat on a barbeque in the center of the table.

Visa Requirements for Laos

All tourists not from Russia, Korea, Japan, Switzerland and Asia need a tourist visa. With application one passport photo may be required. Visas can be obtained in advance from Lao embassies or consulates.

 

 

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