Laos was a country that did not allow foreign travelers until recently. This authentic, unhurried and peaceful destination is HOT for 2013. This jewel of Southeast Asia is the land of a million elephants, white parasols and a timeless way of life. Because Laos is such an unspoiled and undeveloped country, now is the time to go.
To visit Laos you will need a passport and a visa. Your passport must have 6 months validity left from the day of departure from Laos. You can get a visa upon arrival in Laos if traveling for tourism. You will need 2 passport size photos and pay $35. Visas can also be obtained prior to your departure from the U.S through the Laos Embasssy in Washington D.C. Check out www.laoembassy.com for more information.
The best time to visit is December to February as this tends to be the cooler and drier season.
We will start today in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. This large city sits on the Mekong River with a mix of French architecture and painted temples. Most of the sights can be reached on foot or by bicycle. Vientiane is the country’s only nightclubs, churches and bowling alleys. The two story morning market is a must see. The market really is a shopper’s paradise, you will find silver, jewelry, handwoven textiles and so much more. Visit Wat Si Saket, built in 1818, this is the oldest temple in the country.
A visit to Chinatown is best seen at night when it really comes alive with authentic food stalls and inexpensive but amazing Dim Sum. French cuisine can be found in Laos, you will find crusty baguettes, but they are served Lao style which means they are drizzled with sweet condensed milk. Want to watch the city wake-up? Find a sidewalk cafe along the Mekong and enjoy Khao pirsen, which is chunky rice noodles smothered in a savory broth for breakfast. Yum!
The city is also known for its many buddhist monastary’s, giving you a glimpse into the life of the monks.
Luang Prabang is the best preserved city in the Southeast of Asia, sitting on the confluence of the Mekong and Khan rivers. The town has beautiful gilded temples on almost every street corner. Monks with robes the color of saffron stroll the streets of this quiet and charming city.
For a real special experience visit the serene Wat Sene temple that overlooks the entire town of Luang Prabang. Bring offerings of fruit, candles or incense to offer the monks and nuns before you blessing ceremony. The ceremony is believed to bring you health, happiness and a long life. After your blessing by the monks a white thread will be tied around your wrist and is believed to help you realize your dreams.
Just be aware that Luang Prabang is a very quiet town and the nightlife is non-existent.
The small dusty town of Phonsavan is the gateway to the Plain of Jars. These gigantic stone jars are a real mystery in Laos, similar to the mystery of Stonehenge in England. Nobody really knows why hundreds of stone jars are scattered across several Laotian plains.
Maybe you are looking for some real adventures while in Laos? A visit to Vang Vieng is for you. Here you can kayak, rock climb and go caving. The town is very popular with backpackers for the river tubing, social cafes and bars.
When in Laos, please really disconnect from technology, slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy the peaceful, slow and tranquil life. Be present in every moment to really experience the little surprises, the people and the culture, you will be so glad you did.