WildChina has just launched a new set of tours to Laos. Find out what drew us to this country and how to travel to Laos in style.
Land of the mighty Mekong and kingdom of a thousand elephants, Laos is quietly hidden away between its more well-known neighbors, Thailand and Vietnam. But this country has an inner strength powered by Buddhist traditions and the majestic Mekong that makes it a special treasure among travel destinations.
Laos was once the kingdom of Lan Xang or ‘Land of a Million Elephants’ but it has spent most of its recent history under the influence of one or more of its neighbors. During the 19th century it was a French colony and fell under Japanese occupation during World War II. For all of these outside countries, Laos often acted as a buffer between more powerful states and was left underdeveloped. But today, it is beginning to thrive under a more stable communist government, in power since 1975.
The most striking geographical feature of Laos is the mighty Mekong river that runs the full length of its western edge. The Mekong has been the lifeblood of this country for centuries, providing one of the world’s richest supplies of fresh-water fish and a vital transportation route for commerce.
For travelers, Laos is a land of unexplored jungles, exquisite cultural centers, and unexpectedly beautiful boutique hotels. It is a friendly, hospitable country where time slows. As we spent time exploring and gathering the best of its experiences for our WildChina travelers, we stumbled upon a few that we thought you would particularly enjoy:
- 1. Cruise along a secret Mekong tributary
Laos is filled with ways to escape into beautiful natural scenery. Trek through paddy fields to reach reclusive villages or play in turquoise pools beneath a waterfall outside Luang Prabang. But for a calmer experience with just as much awe-inspiring beauty, enjoy a private long-tail boat cruise down Nam Ou river. Catch glimpses of secluded villages and pass hardly another soul as you soak in the water and its surrounding lush green jungles. Stop and find mysterious caves and small Buddhist temples hidden by the riverside and listen for the call of the river birds.
- 2. Explore the Wat Phu temple grounds
Laos is filled with intriguing traces of the past. Perhaps the most famous, the Plain of Jars, is the only remaining evidence of what must have once been a great civilization. But one of our favorite historic sites is the Wat Phu. The Wat Phu, ruins of a Hindu Khmer temple complex, sits at the base of the mist-covered mount Phu Kao. The magnificent, sunbaked structures here date back to the 5th century and little restoration work has been done. Visitors can experience a true picture of history as you encounter Laotians who still use the temples as a place of worship.
- 3. Stay at the Muang La Resort
Laos is filled with a surprising number of stunning boutique hotels, many of them locally built and run. This is a country of welcoming hospitality, so don’t be surprised if you find special, personal touches during your stay at even the smallest of establishments. One of our favorite hotels in Laos is the Muang La Resort, which sits in the unspoiled and dramatic mountainous region of Northern Laos. Built on the edge of the Nam Phak river, it perfectly combines local tradition and luxury. Find yourself surprised by the culinary pleasures created here whilst you listen to the tranquil sounds of the jungle and the flow of the river from your private veranda.
- 4. Wake up with the locals at the Luang Prabang Morning Market
If after your first day in Luang Prabang, you’re tempted to extend your stay here and forget the rest of your journey, you wouldn’t be the first. This charming Lao town will lure you into a restful tranquility. Coffee shops line the river, serving quality coffee and delicious French pastries. There is even a local English language book shop and of course plenty of restaurants and street-side food establishments to get your fill of Lao cuisine. One of our favorite ways to experience Luang Prabang is the morning market. Wake up bright and early to see monks walking the streets to bless the locals as they receive alms of rice and food from their hands. Then head to the market, and you’ll find the local Laotians on their morning grocery runs, shopping for veggies, meats, and some items you may have never seen at a market before.
Laos has a way of drawing visitors in with its laid-back lifestyle and entrancing them by the incredible scenery and warm and welcoming people. Whether you are looking for a new cultural experience, an adventure or some deep relaxation, Laos is a place that will revive your body and enrich your soul.
Ready to begin your Laos journey?