Surrounded on all sides by steamy forests and paddy fields, Laos lies hidden from the minds of many in the West. Few know much about this beautiful and fascinating backwater, other than it is near Vietnam.
During the American War the country suffered saturation bombing along its border with neighbouring Vietnam. However, those days are gone and once again over 80% of the people of Laos make a peaceful living from traditional agriculture, fishing and forestry, sharing an unchanged friendliness towards all visitors.
WHEN IN LAOS WHY NOT…?
Travel on a converted rice barge on the Mekong River. The Mekong River dominates much of life in Laos and the best way to sample river life is to spend 2 nights on the
Wat Phou. The cruise leaves from Pakse and takes in pre-Angkorian Wat Phu Temple, the main town on Khong Island, Muang Khong and the roaring waterfalls of the 4,000 islands. If you are lucky you will even see the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins.
Travel from the Thai border to Luang Prabang by boat. A great way to travel in northern Laos to appreciate the dramatic beauty of the landscape, is by traditional boat from the Thai/Lao border at Houayxay to Luang Prabang. This leisurely way to start a visit to Laos gives ample time to stop at villages and spend one night en route at Pakbeng, a village located on a hillside overlooking the river.
Go off the beaten track. Trek for three days through northern Laos in the territory of the Akha people. Discover a little-visited region in the remote north east where life is pretty much unchanged and the hill tribes, with unique customs, traditional dress and animist religions eke out a living by subsistence farming, fishing and hunting. Start in Muang Sing and spend two days trekking through the forest, visiting Akha tribe villages and bird watching. Spend two nights in villages before ending up in Luang
Overnight at Kamu Lodge. Tented lodges are generally associated with African safaris, but this one can be found in northern Laos, just 3 hours upstream from Luang Prabang. Get away from it all and try your hand at traditional fishing, rice farming,
weaving and even panning for gold under the watchful eye of the
Kamu people who will find your attempts most entertaining.