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CULTURAL

When planning your holiday to Laos be sure to include time in Vientiane and Luang Prabang to absorb the atmosphere of these charming towns.

by Thea Gillingham

Known as 'the land where time stops’, Laos is undoubtedly the most relaxed country in Asia. This beautiful and unspoilt country which is nestled between Thailand, Myanmar, China, Cambodia and Vietnam, is one of our favourite destinations here at Wayfairer and we think it’s hard not to fall in love with laidback Laos. We especially love Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

Vientiane

The peaceful capital city of Vientiane, located on the banks of the Mekong River, has a laidback vibe and timeless atmosphere and it offers a perfect introduction to life in Laos.

The temples and monuments in and around Vientiane are fascinating. Wat Si Saket is the oldest surviving temple in the city and is home to over 10,000 Buddha images and the golden stupa of That Luang (the Great Sacred Stupa) is the most sacred monument in the country and is now recognized as the national monument and symbol of Laos. Patuxai, also called Victory Gate of Vientiane, is reminiscent of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe and its one of Vientiane's most noticeable landmarks. It’s worth climbing to the top of Patuxai for spectacular views of the city.

Outside of the city you’ll find the Buddha Park of Xieng Khuan which is an unusual sculpture park on the banks of the Mekong, designed by an eccentric yogi priest shaman in the 1960s. We recommend a visit to the National Museum where there are some interesting ethnographic displays, including the official Lao Government rendition of recent events in Indochina. We also encourage you to visit COPE which is a remarkable NGO dealing with the impacts of unexploded ordnance on the people of this peaceful country.

Wayfairer Tip: After a day of sightseeing head to one of the many bars on the riverfront to enjoy a cold Beer Lao and watch as the sun sets on the Thai side of the Mekong.

Luang Prabang

Surrounded by mountainous jungle, Luang Prabang was built where the Mekong and Khan rivers meet and was once the heart and soul of the ancient Lao Kingdom (Lan Xang). Luang Prabang's rich culture, French colonial architecture, ornate Buddhist temples, multi-ethnic population, authentic markets and riverside ambience make for quite a combination. We love wandering around the narrow side streets and dusty alleyways of this beautiful town with its gleaming temple roofs, fading French architecture and stunning mountain backdrop.

During your stay in Luang Prabang its worth waking up early one morning and joining the locals as they offer rice and other alms to the hundreds of saffron robed Buddhist Monks who line the streets every morning. We also recommend that you visit Wat Xieng Thong with its sweeping roof and rare reclining Buddha, and Wat Wisunalat which is Luang Prabang’s oldest operating temple and represents the earliest style of Laotian architecture.

Don’t miss Luang Prabang’s vibrant and colourful morning market and its authentic night market, where local hill tribe women sell beautiful blankets, silk scarves, embroidered bags, handmade silver jewellery and inexpensive vegetarian snacks. When it comes to dining out, you’ll find some of the country's best cuisine in Luang Prabang with many French restaurants serving delicious food which would not be out of place in the small rues of Paris.

Wayfairer Tip: For stunning panoramic views of the city and the Mekong River head up to Phu Si Hill, and if you have time, take a long-boat ride across the river to visit a traditional Laotian village.

If you would like to speak to someone who’s been to Laos and has visited Vientiane and Luang Prabang, please call us on 0203 143 4293 or send an online enquiry to start your journey.

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