Although it is developing quickly, landlocked Laos still retains the slow, old-fashioned lifestyle that has been lost from the majority of South East Asian countries.
Simple, traditional ideals have been preserved due to the relative lack of westernisation, perhaps because many travellers overlook Laos for its better known neighbours. Those who do pay Laos a visit are rewarded with one of the most enchanting, unspoiled landscapes in the whole of Indochina, populated by a rich diversity of friendly people.
Visually Laos is stunning, its landscape dominated by mountains and rivers. Forest-clad highlands cover the north, and the highest peak is found in Xieng Khuang. The rugged Annamite Mountains straddle the eastern border with Vietnam, homing a diverse range of flora and fauna. The mighty Mekong River runs the length of the country, flowing down from China along the Lao-Thai border.
Tourism in Laos spiked massively when backpackers began to flock to Van Vieng for its tubing. Young revellers would hire out inner tubes and ride them along the river, stopping at rowdy bars on the way. Fortunately, due to the amount of injuries caused, the government stepped in and the notorious tubing scene was ended, and Laos has reverted to its lovely, lazy self. Van Vieng is beautiful, defined by bright green rice fields, jutting limestone karsts and the lazy Nam Song River.
Right on the border with Thailand lies capital city Vientiane. Cradling a wide bend of the Mekong, the city appears more like a cluster of villages rather than the capital of a country. Vientiane is charming, dotted with French colonial architecture and vibrant Buddhist temples. A French influence remains, especially when it comes to cuisine – it’s not unusual to smell the familiar aroma of croissants and coffee in the morning, and many of the old shophouses have been converted into fine French restaurants.
The most beautiful city in Laos is without a doubt the royal city of Luang Prabang, which delights with its colourful markets, traditional architecture and centuries-old monasteries. The spiritual heart of Laos, the Luang Prabang peninsular is defined by its many glimmering temples and large population of saffron-robed monks. The silent monks going about their business amongst the fusion of Lao and colonial architecture paints a greatly romantic scene, and watching life pass by whilst enjoying a baguette and a coffee is a much-enjoyed pastime.
A trip to the south is often left off backpackers’ itineraries, but the cooler region offers a wide range of trekking and adventure options. Many islands lie in the waters of the Mekong, and the feeling here is a sense of blissful serenity. To get away from it all, visit one of the palm-fringed islands, rent a hammock and enjoy your own peaceful paradise.
15 hours 10 minutes
Best Time To Go
October to April