Located close to Vietnam and Thailand, many tourists stop off in Laos to escape the hustle and bustle of these two countries. Often disregarded as being underdeveloped for tourists, Laos is actually a tiny country with a lot to offer. There is plenty of unspoilt scenery and provides a sense of adventure that may be lacking in the tourist hotspots. So, join us on a list of the top places to see in Laos.
Vientiane is the capital city of Laos and is nestled along the banks of the Mekong river. In fact, Vientiane used to be a French colony, which is evident in some of the remaining architecture and French signage. The capital is typical of many South-East Asian cities and is crowded, polluted and hectic. However, it does offer some moments of peace. The most notable of these is Pha That Luang, a Buddhist monument from the sixteenth century. The monument towers over the cityscape and is rumored to contain some remains of Buddha. Not only is the tower a great photo opportunity, but it also displays the importance of Buddhism in the region and shows Laotian culture at it’s fullest. One of the mains draws about Laos and it’s capital is that luxury accommodation is extremely cheap and abundant, a point worth considering when deciding what to see in Laos.
This is the former capital of Laos and is often overlooked by travellers who decide to visit Vientiane instead. The city has perfectly encompassed both the modern and the traditional, as both co-exist side by side here. When deciding what to see in Laos, it is worth making the trip to Luang Prabeng for the Haw Kham, which is the former royal palace. It is also worth making the climb up Phou Si, the hill which overlooks the entire city, affording incredible views over the Laotian landscape. Lastly, a must see in Laos is Vat Xieng Toung, an incredible monastery which is one of the oldest in the world.
For nature lovers, Luang Prabeng also has caves and waterfalls which are often used for swimming and watersports. The most famous is the Kuang Si waterfalls, although Tad Thong waterfall is also equally beautiful. The Buddha Caves are also worth a visit and offer a relaxing end to your time in Luang Prabeng.
Pakse is rapidly expanding to draw visitors to view it’s many delights on offer. Again, much like Luang Prabeng, Pakse has some stunning waterfalls. Tad Fane is the most famous, as well as the biggest. It is possible to go swimming here, a welcome respite from the sometimes oppressive tropical heat. Pakse is also the perfect place to try traditional, home-cooked Laotian cuisine. The most famous of these is Sarad. This is generally used to describe vegetables, herbs and spices, combined together. These salads can also be ordered with or without meat. The people of Laos also rely heavily upon sticky rice, also common in Thailand. This is usually eaten by hand and in great amounts. Another dish worth trying is Lam, which is actually typical of Luang Prabeng, and consists of a stew made up of vegetables. The key ingredient is sa kaan, a type of vine which is grown through Laos. Of course, there are also plenty of opportunities to try street food from many of the stalls that make up the centre of Pakse.
The Four Thousand Islands
If after so much travelling, you are looking for something to see in Laos that is far more relaxing, you cannot go wrong with Four Thousand Islands. This is an archipelago along the Mekong river that is renowned for it’s sleepy ambience. It is also one of the cheaper regions of Laos, with luxury accomodation being extremely affordable. The islands also have some spectacular waterfalls, as well as traditional street markets offering plenty of artesanal crafts. The most common way to move around this area is by renting a motorbike or a boat, all of which can be done with a guide and driver for very little cost.
Tat Kuang Si Bear Reserve
For something a little different, a must see in Laos is the bear reserve, located in the thick jungle of Laos. These bears have been saved from poachers, who harvest the bears body parts for traditional medicines. The reserve has plenty of enclosures where you can bears frolic and relax under the shade of the trees. The reserve is also located close to the Tat Kuang Si waterfall, which is also worth a visit whilst you are in the area. The reserve has plenty of information about the bears and their habitat, as well as the methods employed to keep them from being killed. The reserve is quite charming and offers an insight into Laotian culture.