Travel to Laos to experience a bastion of tradition and one of the best-kept secrets in Asia. Its quiet ambiance, relaxed pace and striking natural beauty nourish one's spirit like the slow-flowing waters of the Mekong provide a lifeline to the Laotian people. Timeless rural scenes and a calm spirituality comprise the warp and weft of Lao life, a place where the soul is slowly awakened to an ancient tempo, all but forgotten in the modern world.
A land of incredible beauty, rich culture and some of the world's most warm and welcoming people, activities in Laos abound. Slow down and enjoy Lao time, and indulge in a leisurely, reflective escape on a scenic river cruise along the Mekong, or an invigorating multi-day trek in among tribal villages in the highlands - both popular things to do in Laos.
The mighty Mekong can be explored in luxurious local style aboard the Vat Phou. The three-day cruise begins in Pakse and visits beautiful islands, waterfalls and Khmer ruins. A synopsis of the itinerary follows:
Day 1 - Pakse to Wat Phu Champasak. Set off in the morning south in a longtail boat. Lunch onboard, then dock at Champasak for a tour of the Wat Phu Champasak temple. Enjoy a beautiful river sunset, before dinner onboard.
Day 2 - Um Muang to Khong Island. Tour through a scenic riverside village to Um Muang Temple in the forest. Enjoy an afternoon cruising in the Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands). region. Towards evening, explore remote Ban Duata village, before a wonderful dinner onboard.
Day 3 - 4,000 Islands to Pakse. Set off by longtail boat to explore Si Phan Don and its French colonial relics. Enjoy lunch at a riverside restaurant. Disembark and transfer to Pakse.
Or in northern Laos, it is possible to take a two-day journey through remote mountainous stretches of the Mekong between the northern Thai border at Huay Xai and the city of Luang Prabang. This trip utilizes a beautiful river barge, and overnights at the Luang Say Resort.
The mountainous region between China and Burma is home to colorful tribal people and fine scenery, and made for trekking - a popular Laos activity among travelers to the region. One great option is the Luang Nam Tha trek, consisting of three days and two nights exploring Khamu, Laen Taen and Akha tribal villages. Nights are spent in a village guesthouse and a forest camp. Tribes are extremely traditional, and the local food is deliciously prepared. These treks can be arranged on a private or join-in basis.
THAT LUANG FESTIVAL
This is the greatest of Laos festivals, held in Vientiane in November. Witness monks receiving offerings and a candlelight procession. Music fills the air and fireworks light the night sky.
MAGHA PUJA IN LUANG PRABANG
This holiday honoring the Buddha's death occurs on the full moon day, of the third lunar month, typically February. The Magha Puja is a Laos festival honoring Buddha and his teachings with a candle-light procession of monks from one Buddhist temple to another.
April 13th New Years in Luang Prabang: The Buddhist lunar New Year is a 3 day party in the streets, with water fights and huge celebrations. Water symbolizes cleansing and temple Buddha's are brought out into the streets to be doused in water then and returned to their "homes" on the 15th.
This more subdued Laos festival occurs during the rainy season and signifies the beginning of time when Buddhist men retreat into monasteries to read religious text and mediate. The end of this three-month stint of intense Buddhist studies is signified by the opposite holiday called Ok Vatsa.
BOUN KHAO SALAK
Also known as the Festival of the Dead, this Laos festival takes place on a full moon and honors the deceased by presenting them with offerings of food and gifts. There is also a colorful Naga boat race between men from surrounding areas.