Travel Tips to Laos, is a Southeast Asian country traversed by the Mekong River and known for mountainous terrain, French colonial architecture, hill tribe settlements and Buddhist monasteries. It the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. Situated at the heart of the Indochina Peninsula, Laos is bordered by Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.]Its capital and largest city Vientiane. have the most population of 1 million of the total 7 million inhabitant country. Landlocked Laos is one of the world’s few remaining communist states and one of East Asia’s poorest and heavily dependent on foreign aid. Most Laotians live in rural areas, with around 80% working in agriculture mostly growing rice. I went there in 2013 with my brother, book a car with a driver and travel from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, and back, 300km one way. Laos is relatively a cheap country to visit as most attractions are near cities and don’t require you to go with an organized group. You can either rent a motorbike or hire of the tuk-tuk drivers.
Laos is a relatively safe country for travelers, although certain areas remain off-limits because of unexploded ordnance left over from decades of warfare. Why is Laos not popular? I never heard anyone I knew been here, it is the least travel country among Malaysian. The US bombed the area so heavily that make Laos, the most bombed country in history. Of all the bombs dropped, around 80 million failed to explode which continue to affect daily life in the country. Clearing the unexploded ordnance (UXO) could take hundreds of years and millions of dollars.
Luang Prabang is 300km (about 7-8 hours by road) from the capital, Vientiane. The only way to travel between the two cities is by minivan or coach which are generally more comfortable and slightly faster. It’s a very long and tiring trip, but the route is very scenic, plus along the route you get an opportunity to eat street food like the roast pork above picture. I tried, really crunchy and tasty, wish I could eat this everyday. You can hire a minivan here at 12go.asia
Pak Ou Caves, (Thousand Buddha Caves)
Pak Ou Caves are an important religious and sacred site for locals in Luang Prabang and one of most popular attraction that it has gathered popularity with tourists. This caves have been used as place of worship for centuries and is still being worship especially throughout the April month which is the Laos New Year when the locals roomed the caves and worship all the Buddhas inside. You can easily see many advertisement for day trip to visit this caves, when you walk down Luang Prabang main street.
Royal Palace in Luang Prabang
The Royal Palace Museum is located on the Luang Prabang between the Mekong River and Mount Phousi. You can rent a motorbike/bicycle for travel or hail a tuk tuk ride from the center of town will cost between 10,000 – 15,000 Kip (about $1.2 – $2). Best time for a visit is in the morning, when the number of visitor is lowest. Also known as the Golden Palace, it was built in 1904 as royal residence of King Sisavang Vong and his family during the French colonial era. The palace was converted to a museum and opened to public after Lao Revolution in 1975. Relics from the period of the monarchy were on display. Entry to the complex costs 30,000 kip,($3) and it’s open from 8am to 11.30am and again from 1.30pm until 4pm daily. For transfer in Laos checkout here
Luang Prabang’s Old Quarter, which is nestled on a peninsula between the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers that have a collection of golden-roofed temples, wooden houses and crumbling French provincial buildings on the main roads, is a lovely area for an evening stroll. The Old Quarter have less traffic and is surprisingly quiet so its good for a stroll at this Old Quarter streets, we loved admiring the mix of Buddhist and French Colonial architecture. Surrounded by lush greenery and tall trees, many of the historic buildings in this area have been converted into luxurious hotels and restaurants
Attend Alms Giving, Luang Prabang
When dawn, the monks from the various monasteries 34 temples in Luang Prabang walk through the streets collecting alms of rice from givers. Alms giving is common in Buddhism and is a way to support the monks by food or donations, in this case food, usually in the form of sticky rice. The act of giving alms in Laos is known as “Tak Bat” and is an ancient daily practice as part of Theravada Buddhism, pivotal to the cultural identity of most Lao people. The practice of giving alms in Luang Prabang has existed for over 600 years. Here is where we had the most interactions with monks living at the wats, and we really enjoyed it every time. They are so friendly and happy that you’re there exploring their home, invite you to explore and take photos. You’ll find many wats spread around every part of the city where you could never miss them when you walk around.
Tha Ngon Floating Restaurant
Tha Ngon Floating Restaurant is just 30 minute drive from Vientiane Capital on the banks of Nam Ngum River near the small village of Tha Ngon, a picturesque village surrounded by small fish farms, serving fresh river fish straight from the river. You can choose to eat at this stationary restaurant or hire your own floating barge and drift leisurely down the river as you eat a spicy tam mak houng (papaya salad), fried river fish, all pair with the ubiquitous BeerLao. Floating restaurants range in price from 100,000 kip (around $USD12) for a small boat (8-10 people) to 200,000 kip (around $USD24 for 14-16 person)), on top of ordering food onboard. This will get you a private floating restaurant complete with boatman for one hour. Its not uncommon to see a huge floating restaurant with just a few people sitting and enjoying an afternoon of karaoke and Beer Lao.
Meals price range from 20,000 kip ($USD2) for a khao phat (fried rice) to 45,000 kip ($5) for more expensive dishes. The restaurants cater to Lao taste and the food will therefore be fairly spicy. You can ask for your meals to be prepared phet noi neung (a little spicy) if you don’t wish to eat your meals as hot as the locals.
Visit the Wats
Luang Prabang is home to 34 Wats includes a dozens of beautiful wats, so exploring them is one of the best activities here and if you happen to be here in October be sure to join in Lai Heua Fai Festival, when the rainy season is over. This festival is celebrated on the night of the End of Buddhist Lent. It is held all over Laos, especially where there is a river. The festival in Vientiane attracts big crowds of devotee and tourists but the one in Luang Prabang is even more spectacular. The wats are all decorated so beautifully, lighted and inspire such a feeling of zen as soon as you enter.
Luang Prabang was also the place where we had the most interactions with monks, and we really enjoyed it every time. The monks living at the wats are so friendly and happy that you’re there exploring their home. They smile and wave at you and invite you to explore and take photos. You’ll find many wats sprinkled around the entire city. There is no way you could miss them when walking around.
The Kuang Si Waterfall is about 30 minutes outside of downtown Luang Prabang and is an absolutely stunning set of waterfalls. This is a three-tiered waterfall about 29 kilometers (18 mi) south of Luang Prabang. Not only that, but you can swim in the pools! A must see for photographers and swimmers alike.
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Other attraction places include Pakse, the second most populous city in Laos (after Vientiane) also the capital and most populous city of the southern Laotian province of Champasak, You can reach here by a short flight from Vientiane (680km), operated by Lao Airlines with services from Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Ho Chi Minh City, Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Siem Reap. You can also take bus for saving (if you have the time) Buses from Vientiane need 16 to 18 hr and cost 100,000 to 150,000 kip ($10-15 in 2011).
Spend a day or 2 to Bolaven Plateau a flat elevated region (at 1000 to 1300m) known for its many coffee farms, stunning waterfalls, and traditional villages. You can spend 2 days here, drive in a small loop or a big loop (minimum 3 days). The roads are not always charming but the stops along the way are fantastic and completely worth the journey with breathtaking view. Their 2 waterfalls of Tad Tayicsua and Tad Fane are especially impressive.
From Pakse further south another 130 km is Si Phan Don (4000 island) almost near Cambodia border, try the overnight cruise from Pakse through 4000 Islands to the tipping point of Laos and break-time kayak might be a great idea for adventurous travelers.
You can also opt to do the ultimate kayak challenge from Pakse to Don Khone through Mekong River for 2 days long if you have the fitness endurance.
Spend a leisurely day at Liphi Waterfall, have a chat with local fishermen and try your luck as if you would have a chance to see the freshwater dolphins.
If you are a drinker, you should try their national-pride Laos beer, made from Laotian jasmine rice and is one of the few Lao exports. It maintains a mythical status amongst travellers and world beer aficionados. For coffee lovers, must try their Bolaven coffee (Laotian coffee). where sprawling coffee plantations, mostly in Bolaven Plateau produce refining Arabica and classic Robusta coffee beans, utilizing organic farming method, which allows visitors come to visit and enjoy the fresh coffee any time of the day.
The national dish is laap, a “salad” of minced meat mixed with spices, herbs, lemon juice and blistering amounts of chili using raw meat (dip) instead of cooked meat (suk), and if prepared with seafood makes a tasty, if spicy carpaccio. Another Lao delicacy is tam maak hung , is a spicy green papaya salad, but which the Lao like to dress with fermented crab (pudem) and a chunky, intense fish sauce called pa daek , resulting in a stronger flavor than the milder, sweeter Thai style. Other popular dishes include ping kai, spicy grilled chicken, and mok pa, fish steamed in a banana leaf
The best time to visit Laos is from October to March when its driest and coolest days as well as some of the country’s festival are celebrated. It’s also the tourist season when Hotel price go up and occupancy is high. April is peak months of Holiday and Celebration month with Song Kran, the water festival (like Thailand) so it’ll be a very busy month for tour guides. May and June are very hot and quiet months, everything slow down as well as the price and July, August and September are the rainy season with pour down almost every afternoon’
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Laos has imposed travel restrictions on foreign travelers due to the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, authorities implement regulations in areas where there are spikes of the virus.
Learn how these temporary restrictions affect you. In this article, you will learn: