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Landlocked Laos, where time stands still…

April 12, 2011

Landlocked Laos is Southeast Asia’s least developed and least known country – and therein lies its appeal. The pace of life here is extremely laid back and has changed little for centuries, which makes it arguably the region’s most captivating destination.

Laos has stylish, elegant cities such as Vientiane and Luang Prabang, which combine French colonial architecture, stunning Buddhist temples and a sleepy atmosphere far removed from other Asian cities, to create an intoxicating mix for the visitor. The countryside is no less fascinating, with the mysterious Plain of Jars and the unusual Mekong River islands all contributing to Laos’ unique ambiance.

Add the warmth, kindness and amiably vague timekeeping of the Lao people, and you have an unapologetically old-fashioned travel experience. Make sure you book a return ticket, because travelers often find it almost impossible to say goodbye.

Time stands still in Luang Prabang. The spiritual capital of Laos is filled with dozens of temples and this tranquil atmosphere is enhanced by the town’s colonial buildings and lush vegetation. Endless hours can be spent meandering through the small laneways and riverside paths. Excursions can be made to nearby craft villages, waterfalls, and elephant parks or travel by boat along the Mekong River for a different view of the city. With its rich culture and mesmerizing charm, Luang Prabang is an integral part of package tours to Laos.

Vientiane is one of the quietest capitals in the world and due to its sleepy vibe it makes the perfect first stop on Laos tours. Although slightly disheveled with dusty, potholed streets, the city offers many pleasant surprises for travelers with ancient temples filling the streets and cultural centers providing insight in to the traditions of the local people. The city warrants two or three days of exploration.

Further afield, Northern Laos is home to the majority of Laos’ ethnic minorities and is a trekker’s paradise. The town of Luang Namtha is a popular starting point for adventure travel or for those wishing to see the fabulous scenery and exotic wildlife of the national parks. Laos tours including the towns of Muang Sing and Nam Ha National Park are ideal for those wishing to escape into Laos’ wilderness.

In the southern part of the country, a wealth of natural wonders await – the cool highlands of the Bolavan Plateau, the 4000 Islands of the Siphandon region, and dozens of magnificent waterfalls. The dramatic Wat Phou – another highlight of the area – is one of the country’s most revered religious sites set in the beautiful hills of Champassak. A boat cruise along this stretch of the Mekong is an unforgettable experience.

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