Vientiane is the capital of Laos. It is located on the bank of the Mekong river. Though the largest city in the country. Most travelers are fascinated by the city’s exotic Eurasian setting.
The confluence of several cultures has given Vientiane an appealing ambience. Tree-lined boulevards, French historical dwellings and Buddhists temples dominate the scene of central Vientiane and impart a unique character of timelessness.
Vientiane’s That Luang stupa is the most impressive and biggest stupa in Laos, featured on the Lao insignia. This stupa was constructed in 1566 by King Setthathirat. The Siamese damaged it badly during their invasion in 1828, but it was restored in the 1936s. In mid-November, religious rites as well as a fair are held here during the That Luang festival.
Vat Phra Keo was also constructed by King Setthathirat. It was rebuilt after the Siamese razed it during the Siamese-Lao war of 1828. The building had housed the Emerald Buddha until it was taken to Bangkok following a skirmish with the Lao in 1778. Vat Phra Keo still displays some of the finest Buddha sculptures found in the country.
The Patouxay on Lane Xang Avenue is a large monument reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Its architecture incorporates typical Lao motifs. From the top one can have a panoramic view of the entire city.
Vat Sisaket is the oldest temple of Vientiane which has survived in its original form. Inside the main hall, and along the walls of the courtyard surrounding it, a total of 6840 Buddha images rest in small niches or on shelves. At Vat Ong Teu resides the Buddhist Institute where monks can study their religion under the guidance of senior instructors.
Vientiane province offers impressive scenery. At Vangvieng, 160 km north of Vientiane municipality, breathtaking limestone formations nestle along the Song river. The rocks are honeycombed with numerous caves, the most famous of which is Tham Jang. Many of these caves can be reached by foot from Vangvieng.
Located 90 km north of Vientiane municipality is the Nam Ngum reservoir, a huge artificial lake created as part of a hydroelectric scheme. The lake is dotted with hundreds of picturesque islands, which can be explored by cruising around in small boats. It might also be interesting to watch the locals felling underwater teak trees which were submerged when the Nam Ngum lake area was inundated. Near the lake, at Vangsang, primitive Buddha images, dating from the 11th century, are carved into a rock cliff.
Phonsaly is situated in the most Northern tip of Laos, enclosed three sides by China and Vietnam and cut off to overland travel from Oudomsay to the South. It consists of six districts: Phongsaly, Muangmai, Muangkhua, Samphan, Sombounxay and Yot Ou.
More than twenty ethnicities make up the province’s population of approximately 153,400; among them Iko, Loma, Akha, Pusang, Thai Dam, Thai Deng, Yao, Thai Lu, Khamou, Phai, Solo, Lao Hoy.. etc. All retain distinct cultures, Languages and religious beliefs, though their most obvious difference is their dress of the women of each tribe. Handicraft skills-notably in weaving, embroidery and making silver jewellry are also well developed.
Phongsaly can be reached by road and river, from Oudomsay it is possible to travel by road as far as Muangkhua in Southern Phongsaly then continue from Muangkhua by boat. From Luangnamtha it is possible to travel by road via Muangla (Yunnan province, china). From Luangprabang it is possible throught the Nam Ou river straight north into the hearth of Phongsaly. Another way, you can travel by Lao Aviation which provides two flights per week.
Huaphanh province, a mysterious, beautiful and abundant land, is situated in the North East of Laos, bodered by Xieng Khuang and LuangPrabang to the west and Vietnam to the East.
It was the base of the Lao People’s Revolutionary activities and especially the historic interrest as the geographical heart of the liberation struggle.
The province has a total population of around 247,300; consisting of many ethnic groups, each with their own life styles, costumes, folk ways in wedding and other ceremonies, festivals, folk dances and songs, differing from each other.
Huaphan has six districts: Viengxay, Xamneua, Xamtai, Viengthong, Xiengkho and Huamuang. The principal town is Viengxay the former name known as Nakay, according to the former timer this area had many of birds, reptiles, wild animals.
The province is also a famous by limestone mountains and caves; more than one hundred caves are located in this area, such as Tham Than Souphanouvong, the former name know as Tham Phapount, in 1964 Mr. Souphanouvong came to set up his residence in this cave. Tham Than Kaysone, the former name known as Tham Yonesong, in 1964 this cave was established for the residence of Mr. Kaysone Phomvihane. Tham Than Khamtay is the part of Tham Xanglot, it was also the residence of Mr. Khamtay Siphandone; consisting of many compartments, such as meeting room, reception room and research room.. etc.
Sayaboury is situated in the North West of Laos; sharing borders with Vientiane and Luang Prabang in the East and Thailand in the west.
Sayaboury is the most attractive destinations with sights and charms peculiar to itself and picturesque North-West region
The landscape of Sayaboury is magnificent by several peaks altitudes of more than 1000 metres; the meadows and pastures with flower in full boom; the thick and tangled virgin forests etc…there are many beautiful things to see in Sayaboury.
The principal town is commonly called Muang Sayaboury, where many impressive temples such as Vat Ban Thin, Vat Ban Phapoun and Vat Ban Natonoy are located.
The area of Muang Phieng, such as Ban Fainamtan, Ban Nakhem and Ban Nampoui have a tradition of agriculture because the land is fertile suitable for agricultural production; particularly rice, water melons, cabbages and sugar cane.
According to the local tradition, people who live in this area have been using elephants for pulling logs.
LuangPrabang is the ancient capital city of the Lane Xang kingdom. According to legend, its first name was Muang Swa.
Later it was known as Xieng Thong. In recognition of the city’s vast array of Lao monuments and its historic and culturally Luang Prabang is situated at the confluence of the Khan and Mekong rivers. It is surrounded by green hills and impresses travellers with its gleaming temple roofs and crumbling French architecture. The town is dominated by the Phou Si hill. On its slopes several vats can be vistied, and it is peaked by a 24-metre high stupa, That Chomsi. The top of Phousi affords astonishing views, especially during the serene sunsets which are characteristic of Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang offers a numerous attractions. Vat Xieng Thong, built in 1560, represents classic local temple architecture. Its sim (chapel) is richly decorated and has a notable roof sweeping low to the ground. Other interesting temples are Vat Wisunalat, Vat Aham and Vat That Luang.
The Royal Palace Museum was constructed 1904-1909 as King Sisavang Vong’s palace. These days it functions as a museum. It houses the royal throne and some interesting royal artefacts. The building itself features a mixtureof French beaux arts styles and traditional Lao motifs.
The spectacular Kuang Si waterfall is situated 29 km south of Luang Prabang deep in the forest. The waters tumble over multi-tiered limestone formations into several cool, turquoise-green pools ideal for relaxation and swimming.
Equally fascinating are the Pak Ou caves which can be reached by a 2-hour boat trip upstream from Luang Prabang. They are located within the steep rock-cliff which rises vertically from the waters of the Mekong river at the point where it meets with the Nam Ou river. The lower cave, called Tham Ting, and the upper cave, Tham Prakachay, shelter numerous Buddha images of varying styles, ages and sizes, which have been
XiengKhouang province offers the awesome beauty of high green mountains and rugged karst formations. The original capital city, Muang Khun, was almost totally obliterated by US bombing and consequently, the capital was moved to nearby Phonsavanh. Of several Muang Khun Buddhist temples built between the 16th and 19th century, only ruins remain. Vat Pia Vat, however, survived the bombing and can be visited.
The main attraction in Xieng Khouang province is the Plain of Jars. Stone jars of different sizes, apparently carved out of solid rocks, are scattered all over the plateau. The biggest one reaches a height of 3.25 metres. Researchers have advanced different theories as to the function of the stone jars, which are estimated to be 2,500 to 3,000 years old. According to local legend, in the 6th century King Khun Chuang had the jars constructed in order to store wine for the celebration of his conquest of Xieng Khouang. Alternatively, some researchers have suggested the jars were crafted as sarcophagi. This theory is supported by the discovery of human bones and daily utensils nearby. To date, the exact use of the jars remains a mystery.
Approximately 52 km north of Phonsavanh, hot spring will appeal to travellers in search of relaxation. The waters of both, Baw Noi (Little Spring) and Baw Yai (Big Spring), reach a temperature of around 60 C.
Located along the three-border intersection of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, from part of the Golden Triangle. It is home to a large number of minorities. Bokeo has five districts: Houixay, Ton Pheung, Meung, Pha Oudom, with 36 townships, more than 450 villages and a total population of 61,000 , consisting of many ethnic groups, each with own lifestyles and customs. The most lucrative occupation in Bokeo is gold panning and digging for precious stones.
This mountainous northern province is wedged between Luang Prabang in the east, Phongsaly in the north east, sayaboury in the south and china sharing a small northern borders. Most of the provincial population of 283,000 is a mixture of 23 ethnic groups such as Hmong, Iko, khamu, lamet etc, each with it own distinct culture, religion, language and colourful style of dress. They are nonetheless hospitable and welcome visitors to their singular cultures are mostly untouched by 20th century.
The capital, Muang Say, lies between two strings of Hmong villages.
Oudomsay is also the ideal base for excursion and trekking to the varied sights and attractions, as well as destination in its own right.
Near Muang Say a waterfall, Lak Sip-Et, attracts visitors, as do the hot springs near Muang La. Muang Say is connected by road to Pakbeng, a rustic town stretching along the Mekong. From there one can continue to Luang Prabang by boat, passing stone cliffs, undulating mountains and little fishing villages.
Luang Namtha, bordering China and Myanmar, is an ethnically diverse and colourful province in northern Laos. Thirty nine ethnic groups coexist in the area, and at the daily market in Muang Sing Thai Lu, Thai Neua, Yunnanese, Shan, Hmong and Mien can be seen.
This province has a picturesque beauty with mountains, and many old temples. Although many temple have been destroyed during the war, there still remains one major attraction, and old temple noticeably different from other classical temples. Usually tour itinerary includes an outing to Baten, the Lao-Chinese border checkpoint.
Borikhamsay is located in the central Laos in the narrow “neck” with moderately high mountains sloping south west into the Mekong River valley.
Vientiane and Xieng Khouang province lie to the north, Khammouane province to the south. Paksan the capital town is a commercial centre. In Borikhamsay province, between Vientiane and the provincial capital Paksan, a ‘footprint of Buddha’ shrine at Vat Phra Bat is an important pilgrimage site.
The most famous attraction of the region is its striking landscape. At Ban Nahin, Poupha Mane, a stone forest featuring thousands of rock pinnacles, can be found. Due to its proximity to Lak Xao, the latter is within easy reach for tourists crossing to Vietnam. South of Lak Xao, the still pristine forests of Nam Thuen protected area with varieties of wild life.
Khammouane situated in the central part of Lao PDR with an area of moderately high mountains sloping down to the Mekong valley. Fertile land here is well suited to plantations of rice, cabbage, sugar cane bananas etc…
A total population of 260,000 is made up of low land and uplanders Lao groups: Phuan, Tahoy, Kri, Katang etc…
Thakhek is the provincial capital and is well-know to day-tripping Thai from Nakhon Phanom, just across the Mekong river. It also has many well-preserved French colonial architecture similar to that found in Vientiane.
About 8 kilometres to the south of the town is the That Sikhotabong or Sikhotabong stupa, constructed around 9th to 10th century by King Nanthasen and restored in the 1950s. Besides, Khammouane province also rich with many caves, such as Tham Xieng Lieup, Tham Nang An, Tham Phanam and Tham Phaya In…
Khanthabouly, the provincial capital of Savannakhet, is a busy market place for trade with nearby Thailand. Numerous examples of French architecture tell of the town’s importance during the colonial era. Khanthabouly’s main attractions are its noteworthy temples such as the beautiful Vat Saya Phoum and That Inghang. The latter is the holiest edifice in southern Laos, housing a hollow chamber with a distinguished collection of Buddha images.
Near Muang Phin, on the route to Vietnam, dinosaur remains are on display. They were discovered by a French scientist in the 1930s. Not as old as these prehistoric relicts, but of no less significance, is the northernmost example of Khmer art at Heuan Hin (stone house). The buildings were constructed between 553 AD and 700 AD. Today little more than unrestored ruins remain.
Visitors interested in the latest period of Lao history may want to visit the former Ho Chi Minh Trail, whose outer edges are next to Xepon, 170 km east of Khanthabouly. North and south along the trail, remnants of downed US helicopters, fighter planes and other war material can be seen.
Champassack province lies to the South Western Laos, the capital of champassack is Pakse which located at the confluence of the Mekong and the Sedon rivers.
Champassack’s lush, fertile land encouraged rice cultivation. It’s one of the largest producers of rice in the country. Parts of Bolaven Plateau, which rests on the border of Saravane and Champassack are used for cultivation of coffee, cardamon, bananas and crops.
Other parts, however, still offer pristine nature, especially in the mountainous central part constituting Dong Hua Sao, a proposed protected area. Several waterfalls drop over the escarpment. One of the most spectacular is Tat Phan with a height of 120 metres.
Forty six km south of Pakse, Vat Phou, one of the most important sights in Laos, is located. Vat Phou literally means mountain temple. The different levels of the temple structure, built along the slope of the adjacent mountain, date from the 6th century to the Angkor period of the 9th to 13th century. The upper platform of the temple affords a wonderful view of the Mekong plain. Energetic visitors may want to climb the nearby Phu Passak, whose peak is shaped like a lingam or Shiva phallus. Another Khmer monument, Muang Tomo or Oum Moung, can be visited on the opposite side of the Mekong. It is, however, less accessible than Vat Phou.
At the most Southwestern tip of Laos, along the Cambodian border, the Mekong river reaches its maximum breadth of 14 km (during the rainy season). When the water level falls back again in the dry season, thousands of small islands rise from the river, giving the area the name Si Phan Done (4000 islands). The biggest island with 55,000 inhabitants is Done Khong, a peaceful place for an overnight visit. From here, South East Asia’s biggest waterfalls, Khone Pha Pheng, are within easy reach by boat or by road.
Another interesting island in this area is Done Khone, where the French built a14 km long railway to bypass the rapids. Visitors can follow the old railway line, view an old locomotive, pass a massive French-built bridge and watch a series of huge river cascades called Tat Somphamit, also known as the Li Phi falls.
From the southern tip of Done Khone a small island is accessible from which Irrawaddy dolphins can be watch during the dry season and it is existed only one place in Asia.
A southeastern province situated on the Bolavens Plateau is devoted to agriculture and nature offering idyllic scenery. A prehistoric site exists not far from the cascades where a wonderful scene can be seen. Within a cavern huge stone caskets are piled one on top of the other, providing not only beauty but much interesting thoughts as to how it originated.
Tat Lo, Lodge. It’s located on the Northern edge of the Bolaven Plateau right beside the Sexet Dam, its only 10 metres high. The bungalows are blended into the embankment surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. A tour of the area on elephant back is an exotic attraction, or exploring the ethnic minority villages on the Bolaven Plateau can provide a variety of interests.
Sekong is situated in the heart of the Southeastern part of Laos; has common borders with Saravane to the West, Champassack and Attapeu to the South and Vietnam to the East.
The province has a total population of around 64,200. Overall, the Sekong river valley is characterized by a Landscape of a fertile plain patterned with a patch-work of rice paddies and fruits orchard. Dotted through out are villages and small towns; such as Lanam, Kaleum, Dakchung and Thateng, where the majority of people follow the unchanging lifestyle of traditional farming.
Its also a complex geographical conditions form colourful Eco-Tourism resources because it’s famous by rich of untouchable tropical forest, home to many rare species of flora and fauna.
The most Southeastern tip province of Laos; sharing borders with Sekong in the North, Champassack in the west, Vietnam in the East and Cambodia in the South. The province has a total population of around 87,700; consists of five districts: Saysettha, Samakhixay, Sanamxay and Phouvong. The town is built in a large valley surrounded by mountains and also in the loop of the river, opposite the confluence of the Sekong and Sekhamane rivers. Where the join an island is formed by a small arm of water connecting them upstream.
In early morning you can visit the traditional market, where many different minorities go to by buy and sell their product.
Most of the population in Saravane, Sekong, Attapeu are uplanders minoties. Comprising nine major tribes: Alak, Katang, Kaleum, Katou, Suay, Nge, Lave, Tahoy, Nyaheung.
Laos has one of the most pristine Ecologies in South East Asia. An estimated half of its woodlands consist of primary forest, in particular the topical rain forest. Unlike the vegetation in the bored climate of northern Europe and United States, tropical rain forest is composed of three vegetative layers.
The top layer is dominated by single-trucked, high reaching trees, so-called dipterocarps. The middle canopy consists of hardwood such as teak. Beneath, small trees, grasses and some time bamboo can be found.
In addition to fascinating vegetation, Laos plays host to a diverse animal kingdom. Several exotic mammals are endemic such as leopard cats, Javan mongoose, goat antelopes, rare species of gibbons and langue, Malayan sun bear, Asiatic black bear, gaur and others. The discovery of the Saola Ox, a breed of deer-antelope, in Vietnam a few years ago caused a sensation. This extremely rare animal inhabits the eastern border regions of Laos, too. And these remote areas probably still hide other unknown species. In the south of Laos, near Khong Island, in Champassack Province, Irrawaddy dolphins inhabit the Mekong River.
While many species of wildlife are shy and can rarely be seen, spectators will generally be able to the Mekong is lowest. Laos is also rich in resident migrating birds. One of the more notable ones is the rare Green Peafowl.
Tropical forests, home to many rare species of flora and fauna are found in comparative abundance throughout Laos. As a consequence, Laos offers great attractions to a growing number of eco-tourists. By establishing necessary facilities, Laos intends to position itself as a unique travel destination. It wants to avoid the negative impact on its environment which are a feature of traditional forms of tourism. In particular, Laos intends to preserve its typical culture and natural habitats. These measures shall help avert the imminent threats to nature in Laos such as shifting cultivation, chasing of rare animals, and widespread logging of primary forest.
A model for a resort operated in an ecologically friendly way is Tat Lo. Located in Saravane province on the banks of the Se Set river, it is constructed almost entirely from native materials using local techniques. Trekking and river rafting can be arranged in the area. Other regions such as Dong Hua Sao area in Champassack province are currently being surveyed with regard to their suitability for eco-tourism.
Most of the forests which are good for promoting sustainable soft adventure travel are still under the study. Below are a brief information about off the beaten tracks travel in Lao provinces.
Phongsaly: There have so far been no proper study made on its forests and rivers for Eco-travel. Travel by boat and on foot from village to village can be arranged to see its hill tribe people lives and landscape.
Luang Namtha: Namtha protected forest area contains dense forested land rich with wildlife such as guar, banteng, Asian wild dog, bear, gibbon and clouded leopard.
Bokeo: So far the most popular soft adventure trip is boating to Luang Prabang along Mekong river. Along the Mekong river there are villages and hills offering walking tours.
Oudomsay: Near Muang Say district there are fine waterfalls. Oudomsay offers hiking to hill tribe villages, forest covered hills, river boating, etc.
Sayabouri: This is the land of agriculture and timer extraction. In the north and west Sayabouri has un-discovered hills higher than 1000 meters with thick forests.
Luang Prabang: Already famous for boating, excursion to waterfalls, caves and hill tribe villages, Luang Prabang still have forested hills which need to be studied.
Huaphanh: Famous for the limestone mountains and caves which were homes to the Lao people’s revolution. Huaphanh offers travel to such historical places, hiking into its dense forests and visiting villages.
Xieng Khouang: Home to the three highest peaks in Laos, Xieng Khouang offer a great opportunity of outdoor travelling. It needs careful study and development for sustainable Eco-traveling such as camping, hiking, climbing, wildlife watching.
Vientiane province: Nam Ngum bio-diversity protected area surrounding the Nam Ngum Dam Lake has significant amount of flora and fauna. High mountain peaks and rich rain forest offer good hiking and camping.
Borikhamsay: Nam Thuen protected forest area to the south of Lak Xao district contains rich forests and wildlife. A very good place for jungle hiking.
Khammouane: Famous for its fine caves. Some are very deep and never been explored. Boating into the caves is one wonderful activity.
Champassack: Dong Hua Sao forest reserve areas is under survey for its development. This areas offer dense forest and animal life. There are remains of ancient Khmer stone temples there. Irrawaddy dolphins can be viewed in Mekong river near Khong island. River boating, excursion to waterfalls, etc. are popular.
Saravane: Tad Lo area offers trekking, river rafting and boating, elephant riding, etc. There are a few good guesthouses there. There are waterfalls, jungles to explore, etc. Other areas in the province are being developed.
Sekong and Attapeu provinces have rich rain forests which are mostly untouched. Careful development is necessary.