Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, with nearly three-quarters of its landmass covered in mountains and forested hills. National parks comprise 13% of the country. The Mekong River winds through the country for 4,180 kilometres before reaching Cambodia and, finally, the Vietnamese Delta. Laos has a reputation for being most laid back country in Southeast Asia.
Luang Prabang is a delightful UNESCO World Heritage Site, until 1975 the royal capital of the Kingdom of Laos. It is an ancient city, located at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, with Buddhist temples and monasteries where hundreds of monks rise at dawn to walk the streets collecting alms. The 500 year old temple of Wat Xieng Thong is an excellent example of what is known as the classic Luang Prabang style. We recommend a visit to the National Museum, housed in what used to be the Royal Palace. Other nearby attractions include the Kuang Si Waterfalls, Pak Ou Caves and the village of Ban Sang Khong, renowned for its silk weaving.
For a capital city, Vientiane is pleasantly quiet and laid-back. Compared with other southeast asian cities it has virtually no traffic and only becomes crowded during festivals. The architecture is a mix of Lao, Chinese and western-style buildings, and there are many temples and pagodas scattered throughout the town. Wat That Luang with its central lotus-bud spire and 30 surrounding stupas is the most sacred structure in the country while Wat Si Muang is a much more vibrant example of living Buddhism, used for everything from new car owners requesting monks to bless their new vehicles to women hoping to become pregnant.
The province of Champassak, near the borders with Thailand and Cambodia, has a rich cultural heritage. The most important sight is the Wat Phou Temple, located at the base of Mount Phu Kao. It is known that a pre-Angkorian temple was constructed here as early as the 5th Century although the surviving structures date from the 11th to 13th centuries.
This is a serene river archipelago in the south of Laos. An estimated 4000 islands protrude from the Mekong river before the rainy season, about half of which submerge over the course of the summer months, when the river is in flood. The legacy of French colonial rule can be seen in the narrow-gauge railway connecting the islands of Don Det and Don Khon. We recommend a boat trip along the “Devil’s Corridor” to the Liphi waterfalls. Keep your eyes peeled: endangered freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins can sometimes be spotted in the river.
Pakse was founded in 1905 as an outpost of French administrative rule but today has a population of around 90,000, making it the largest city in the south. We recommend a visit to Wat Sadao, the largest market in Pakse and a walk up to the giant golden statue of Buddha with magnificent panoramic views over the city and the Mekong River. Pakse is the gateway to the Bolaven Plateau.
In the northeastern region of Champassak province, rising 1500m above sea level, are the rich volcanic soils and cool climate of the Bolaven Plateau. It is an ideal altitude and climate for the production of tea and coffee, home to impressive waterfalls and local tribal people. The Champi and Pak Koot rivers come together here to create the Tad Fane Waterfall, which drops 120 metres.
Other Destinations in South-East Asia and beyond
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