This is the Asia of yesterday, as it has been over the centuries, with the added influence French colonialism, although apart from some grand buildings, France did not pay the same attention to Laos as it did with Vietnam or Cambodia. There are still many villages bordering the mighty Mekong River that can only be accessed by boat.
The focal point of any journey to Laos has to be Luang Prabang, the oldest town in Laotian existence. Located on the foot of Mount Phousi with the Mekong river cutting through the town, many locals still rise at dawn to give alms (offerings) to the hundreds of monks that literally appear out of the early morning mist. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so building is strictly controlled and the wonderful atmosphere is kept in place. A refreshing change in a region where progress seems to be measured in high rise buildings ! The city is interesting and easy to explore but take time to see the countryside, it is rural and unspoilt.
Despite its long history, the town has very few buildings of great age. The town was frequently the scene of battle and was literally put to the torch on numerous occasions. However Laotian tradition dictates that traditional styles have endured and many of the newer building reflect the original architecture. Several of the temples have survived the ravishes of time, nature and man, with one off the most impressive being Wat Chom Si which is at the summit of Mount Phousi. Reached by over 300 steps, but once at the top, the views of the town and the river below are fantastic and well worth the hike.
Apart from the town, the caves of Pak Ou are an unforgettable experience. Reached by long-tail boat, the 25 kilometre journey upstream on the Mekong is an adventure in its own right. The caves are home to literally thousands of Buddha images, many centuries old.
Where the French influence will be noticeable are the numerous café style restaurants (several with internet facilities) that abound in the town and of course in the cuisine.
In addition we can also make arrangement to visit Vientiane, the equally charming capital with its range of boutiques and highly regarded restaurants. It true Laos style, it must be one of the smallest capitals in the world, most certainly in Asia. The suggested hotel here is the elegant Setthe Palace. Built in the early 1930’s, and then closed during the political turmoil’s of the 70/80’s, it was reopened in 1999 and now has just 25 rooms and suites.
[su_heading]Visa On arrival[/su_heading]You obtain a visa on arrival, local payment to immigration. You will need 2 passport size pictures and a clear page for visa insertion. Approximate cost US$35, maybe slightly more on Sundays!
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- > About Laos
- Belmond La Residence Phou Vao, Luang Prabang
- > Cruising The Mekong River, Laos
- Luang Say Mekong 2 Day Cruise
- > Luang Prabang Floating Hotel Cruise Experience, Laos
- > Mekong and Luang Prabang Gibbon Experience, Laos
- So Sofitel Luang Prabang, Laos (Hotel de la Paix)
- Shangri-Lao Explorer and Elephant Camp, Luang Prabang
- Avani Luang Prabang (Formerly known as Azerai)
Then travel across the border into Laos by road, and board the Luang Say cruise for a 2 day (one night) journey down to Mekong. You stay overnight at the Luang Say lodge, a completely adequate rustic riverside lodge with just 17 fan cooled rooms. Then continue the following day to arrive in Luang Prabang late afternoon. Stay in the town for 3 nights, and then fly back to Bangkok, and on to one of the beach resorts in Thailand. We particularly suggest Paradee on Koh Samet, easily accessed by road.