It seems like forever that Thailand has hugged world tourism as the country to visit in South east Asia. Then Vietnam was flavor of the month in the 1990s, Cambodia's turn came in the mid-2000s. Myanmar was in the spotlight ten years later….
There is one country amongst all of them that is rarely mentioned… Laos… the forgotten land. To us, Laos is the shimmering country, the last quiet Eden of Asia, what Myanmar was 15 years ago. Even Thai tourists go visit Laos to remind themselves what their own country was like in the 1960s.
Long obscured by its powerful neighbours, landlocked in a continent where water is a way of life, Laos was the world’s most bombed country where America dropped 2 million tons of ordnance between 1964 and 1973, the equivalent of a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes for nine years. Laos is the “poor cousin”, a country that struggles to gain a place at the Asian economic table, bullied by its bigger neighbours. And yet this gorgeous country has gone through so much hardship with a sense of inner strength and belief in the future, helped by Buddhism, Laotians have become proud of their country. And, to top it all, the communist government avoids encouraging tourism, fearing exposure to too many foreign ideas. Massive hordes of tourists in Laos other than in Luang Prabang and on the border with Thailand means Laos is undiscovered, quiet and stunning.
So expect the unexpected on our Longitude 80 itinerary suggestions, where we take you far and wide. Start in Vientiane, the sandalwood city, where a whiff of the French colonies and a hum of Buddhist hymns meet expats who have made a life here, working for NGOs and starting boutique luxury businesses. Go on a three-day cruise along the mighty Mekong as we explore century old temples in the jungle and some of Laos’ “4000 islands” with pit stops in small villages where life is still lived as it was three centuries ago. We take a short flight to Phonsavan for an overnight side trip to explore the mysterious Plain of Jars, hiking amongst thousands of century old stone “jars” scattered over hundreds of kilometres. And of course visit Luang Prabang, the old capital which still remains the best preserved traditional city in all of South-East Asia.
Sip champagne alongside a quiet boulevard and drink the best latte you’ve ever had and then visit a coffee plantation and understand why it was so good. Visit a colourful textile market at night, channel the resiliency of the Hmong mountain tribe, dip into hot springs at the scenic Nam Pak River, spend a few magical hours washing and connecting with elephants and glimpse at the sacred Buddha in the Pha Chiao Sing Kham temple. Wake up before dawn to pay homage to the monks, young and old alike, enjoy high-end French and Laotian cuisine but also play with your food as you assemble your sticky rice ball and dip it in delicious sauce in a local market.
Simplicity and a relaxed sense of grace—this is the beauty of Laos.
November to February are the best months to enjoy Laos in all of its splendour.
Plan at least a minimum of 10 days. A bit more if you want to experience the northern laotian jungle and its eco-resorts.
WHERE DOES IT START AND FINISH?
There are several connections to Vientiane and Luang Prabang from Bangkok which will act as the main hubs for your arrival and departure.
DID YOU KNOW?
The most stunning silk hand embroidered fabrics are woven in Laos, patterns and weaving process in fact differs from family to family.