Holiday in Laos
Tourism has magically broken down barriers around the globe and even Communist Laos opened its doors to visitors during the late 20th century. The recent decade has seen drastic development through the establishment of different tourism-related businesses as a result of increasing demands from tourists all over the world.
Although geographically land locked, Laos remains as enticing to vacationers from all walks of life---from the luxury tourist to the down-to-earth backpacker---with two of its provinces belonging to the much coveted World Heritage Sites listing, namely Wat Phu and Luang Prabang. The country is aiming to add the legendary Plain of Jars to the said list as well, as if its natural and striking mountain peaks, surrounded by low lying clouds all year round, and endless valleys inhabited by rare wildlife are not enough to make it a worthy destination for adventure seekers. Add to this the nation’s fascinating Buddhist culture and innate respect for nature and you are sure to find that virgin quality of a vacation destination perfectly set against the authentic, rural setting found nowhere else in the Southeast Asian region.
Yes, Laos tourism and vacation amenities are not quite comparable to those found in Thailand but for those who would like a fresh alternative to dense tourist spots, you can’t go wrong when choosing this dynamic country which offers many just discovered sites. But if you’re the more conservative traveller and want to stick to the safer and frequented tourist sites, this nation nicknamed “Land of a Million Elephants” has plenty to offer that are still remarkably undiminished in appeal.
If you’re set to see Laos, go during the months from November to February when it’s not too hot and the river waters are at its highest. Laos’s rainy months runs from May to October. If you end up going in April, it’s the country’s hottest and smokiest month (due to the annual burning done by farmers) but well worth the visit because it coincides with Lao New Year, when the whole nation parties like it never has before.
To Do in Laos
Start and see what is called the land of Pathet Lao --- the area situated in between the mystifying Plain of Jars to the northeast and Hua Phan to the north --- the site of United States bombing activities over three decades ago, remnants of which are still evident despite the locals’ efforts to rehabilitate the area.
Go on to the dreamy province of Luang Prabang, also up north and site see the many towering and glistening temples dotted by monks garbed in the Buddhist red robes. You may want to try to go on an elephant trek while watching the sun sets or sign up for a boat ride on the river Nam Ou, the typical Laotian and slow-paced routine. But the slowness of life in this area has picked up a notch as trendy shops and cafes multiply exponentially as a result of the influx of visitors hungrily gobbling up all types of Laotian crafts, jewellery and local dishes.
Still farther up north are the provinces of Udomxai, Phongsali and Luang Nam Tha, known for their self-sufficient trekking options. Still considered a neophyte in the trekking industry, the trips available in these provinces are very much arduous but equally satisfying.
Provinces located down south, on the other hand, offer a totally different kind of activity for the average traveller. Trekking is also being promoted but those who find themselves at Don Khon, Don Khong, Si Phan Don or Don Dhet islands get to taste the even slower life spotting for dolphins. But if this is not your cup of tea, you may try the more challenging cave watching treks at Savannakhet and Tha Khaek (the Konglo cave near the latter is highly recommended) and then spend the days following your active exploration at the sites found in Salavan, Attapeu, Champasak and Pakse.
These are just the top layers of activities to do while in Laos. There are several more layers to offer. You have to visit the thriving capital city of Vientiane and the backpacker central city of Vang Vieng, famous for its rivers, vistas and gorgeous limestone formations.
After a long day’s worth of site seeing and immersion, the best way to wind down is through sampling Laotian delicacies like their curries and fish, noodles, sticky rice and hot protein salads vis-a-vis French colonialism inspired gourmets. You can try both sides of the taste and price spectrum for the latter, from the affordable crispy baguettes lathered with pate and the usual side salad to the more eloquent high-end French restaurant menus. And last but not the least, do not leave Laos without trying the local brew called Beerlao, dubbed as the best not only across the nation but throughout the whole of Asia.