Top 5 places to visit in Laos - 10/21/2014

Luang Prabang

            During a trip to Laos, if there is one city you must visit, it is Luang Prabang. This ancient capital, located in the heart of a mountainous region in lush greenery, is dotted with many temples (not less than 32 pagodas).  The best way to visit Luang Prabang is by foot to be immersed in the tranquil atmosphere of the city, which is very different from the other big Asian cities.   The city is exceptional for its rich architectural and artistic heritage that reflects the fusion of Lao traditional urban architecture with that of the French colonial era.  The Wat Xieng Thong (the temple of the golden city) dating back from the 16thcentury, comprises an ensemble of the most complex structures of all the pagodas in town.  It is remarkable both in terms of religious and traditional art.  Another natural wonder is the magnificent Khouang Sy Waterfalls.  Its crystal clear water flows along several stages before falling to a natural pool.   So for those who are passionate about history and lovers of temples, this quiet town, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a destination not to be missed.   Another site to discover near Luang Prabang is the Pak’Ou sacred caves, overlooking the Mekong River, 25 km to the north of Luang Prabang.  It is a true natural wonder dating back from over 300 years and the home of thousands of Buddha statues.

 

The plain of jars

                Travelers eager for adventure will certainly love the Plain of Jars in Northeastern Laos, a megalithic archaeological landscape of the Xieng Khouang Plateau, surrounded by mountains and green valleys.    Not far from Phonsavan, several hundreds of stone jars dating back from over 2000 years appear in cluster, ranging from a single or a few to several hundred jars at lower foothills surrounding the central plain and upland valleys.  More than 90 sites are known within the province of Xieng Khouang.  Each site ranges from one upto 400 stone jars and vary in height and diameter between one and three meters high with weight from 600 kilos to 1 ton. Nobody knows where they came from or what they were used for.  It remains an unsolved mystery until today and in fact, they are the only archeological remains present, so there is nothing that can help determine their origin.

 

Wat Phu, Champasak

                Champassak is a small town that can be reached by following the Mekong River from Pakse, nearly 30km. Its most famous temple complex is, without a doubt, the Wat Phu Temple (“the mountain temple”) built in Laos under the Khmer Empire which dominated much of Southeast Asia in the 10th-14th century.   It was certified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002.   The Wat Phu Festival takes place every year on the 15th day of the 3rd month of the Lao Lunar calendar (in January-February) which attracts many tourists and pilgrims from all over the country. Based on traditional Buddhist practices, the festival is held for three days and three nights.  It hosts displays of traditional music, dance, sports and a variety of local produce.  For those who don’t have the chance to visit the temple during the festival, there is no need to worry because Wat Phu Temple is fascinating throughout the year and the view from the top of Phu Pasak Mountain where the temple lies is amazing! Art lovers will find something to satisfy their interest like its outstanding architecture, many containing great works of art and all expressing intense religious conviction and commitment, away from the crowds of tourists, since  Wat Phu is by far quiet than many other temples in the region which are too touristic.

 

Boloven Plateau

                The Boloven Plateau is an elevated region in southern Laos 50km from Pakse – the third largest city in Laos.  It has a pleasant climate due to its altitude. In fact, the plateau is approximately 1,200 meters above sea level.  The name Bolaven makes reference to the Laven ethnic group which has historically dominated the region.  The plateau is crossed by several rivers and has many scenic waterfalls and the most popular waterfalls visited by tourists are the Tad Fane, Tad Lo, Tad Hang and Tad Suong.  The discovery of the coffee plantation is another attraction. During colonization, the French introduced the production of high quality coffee.  The cooler climate of the plateau and abundant rainfall makes it the perfect place for coffee production which is currently one of the region’s main sources of income.  The plateau is also full of tea plantations.  Moreover, a visit to the villages of the ethnic minorities who have grown accustomed to sharing their culture with visitors is also interesting.   The Bolaven Plateau is filled with appealing cultural and geographical areas of interest.  Whether it is a boat trip to one of the many waterfalls in the region, a tour of the countless coffee and tea plantations or visiting one of the unique villages of the ethnic minorities, the journey to the plateau has many educational and interesting opportunities for tourists.