TRAVELING TO LAOS
Whether on a package tour or a customized tour, travel to Laos, a tiny country about the size of Utah, offers more magical moments than most visitors expect. It’s one of the least visited of Southeast Asian countries, yet it possesses a most unusual confluence of culture, history and geography.
With 70 percent of the country still forested and with the largest waterfalls in Asia, Laos offers adventures of all kinds–refined cultural and textile tours, archeological and religious trips, zip lining adventures through jungle treetops and cave exploring by kayak.
You can visit hill tribe people on the back of an elephant or trek from one village to another through the forest.
6 NOT-TO-MISS SIGHTS OF LAOS
Along your adventurous way through Laos, there are at least six sights you don’t want to miss.
The two-centuries-old Pak Ou Caves are a sacred pilgrimage site for the Lao people. Ancient cave paintings adorn the walls and thousands of wood or gold-covered statues of the Buddha rest on shelves throughout the caves.
The Plain of Jars in central Laos is a landscape of undulating hills dotted with enormous stone jars. The jars are a kind of “Stonehenge” to the Laotians, dating back to the Iron Age. And, like the prehistoric English landmark, no one knows for certain how the jars got there or what their purpose was.
The cool, green Bolavan Plateau in southern Laos is a nature lovers’ paradise. The land eventually slopes down along the Mekong River, the gateway to Don Khong and other islands.
Also on the adventurer’s agenda is Wat Phu, a Khmer temple that predates Angkor Wat and Khone Phapheng Falls, the largest waterfalls in Southeast Asia. Let your inner Indiana Jones run free!
CRAFTS OF LAOS
Laos is well known among collectors for its handicrafts, especially textiles. A textile and weaving trip provides the opportunity to compare different styles and designs from Sam Neua, near the border crossing with Vietnam, down through other Lao villages as well as in and around Luang Prabang.
You can even create some batik and practice weaving yourself at Ock Pop Tok and wander well-known shops such as Caruso Lao or Sandra Yuck. Visiting the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre guided by with the director is a special opportunity to learn more about Laotian crafts.
In the fall, the “craftie” can experience the Lao Handicraft Festival in the capital, Vientiane, and watch weavers, silversmiths, basket makers and others at work.
PHILANTHROPIC ADVENTURES IN LAOS
For those who like to blend adventure with a philanthropy tour, on the award winning, Laos with a Heart, try The Gibbon Experience, where you overnight in a tree house; bring books to village children with Big Brother Mouse or be a “Mahout for a Day” at the Elephant Village. Profits made by the organizations that provide these experiences support their various efforts, from conservation to education.
LAOS IS FOR FOODIES
If you like “foodie” trips, you can either dine in delightful restaurants or join a family sitting on a reed mat on the floor. Whatever your dining style, don’t go home without trying the following Laotian specialties.
Khao Niaw, a steamed sticky rice that graces the plates of most Laotians daily, is a country staple. Also delicious are Larb or Laap, a minced beef salad seasoned with mint, chilies, kaffir lime leaves, and other spices. Sin Dat is sort of a Lao fondue in which poultry, fish or vegetables are cooked in a broth with greens, onions, mushrooms, garlic and cellophane noodles. Khao Pun is a pungent soup of minced pork, blood sausage, soy bean paste, and spices. Chopped vegetables float in the broth, and it’s topped with soy or chili sauce.
Yes, for the “foodie,” the “crafty,” the adventurer or the philanthropist, Laos is truly magical.