LUANG PRABANG & VIENTIANE
With quiet, meandering lanes and genuine, friendly locals, Laos’ main cities of Luang Prabang and Vientiane are hardly urban epicenters. Instead these regional hot-spots offer an accessible way to immerse yourself in the charms of Laotian culture as it tentatively embraces the 21st century.
PONSAVAN/PLAIN OF JARS
Mysteriously covered with thousands of huge stone jars—some weighing over a ton—this evocative site has mystified archaeologists for decades. One theory suggests the jars were used as burial urns, while local legend maintains they were rice-wine cups used by a race of giants.
At dawn, long lines of barefoot monks walk silently along the streets on their morning alms rounds—an ancient, much-revered ritual. Locals offer rice to sustain the monks’ bodies, while, in return, the monks offer spiritual nourishment in the form of prayers.
BAN CHAN & BAN SANG HAI
Traditional villages dot the Mekong River. Just a short boat ride from Luang Prabang, it’s possible to visit several hamlets that specialize in producing local crafts in the same style as their forefathers. One such village, Ban Chan, is known for its artisan pottery. Nearby Ban Sang Hai is known for its homemade Lao rice whiskey.
MUANG SING & MUANG LA
These quaint towns in remote, northern Laos are perfect jumping-off points for exploring the nearby, seldom-visited hilltribe areas. Muang Sing is known for its unique Chinese cultural overtones, while Muang La is lauded for its picturesque setting on the Nam Ou River.