Land locked, and locked away for tens of years – Laos is in a time warp keeping its culture intact. In the North, on the jungle covered mountain slopes, the people wear bright, colourful, traditional dress. In the South, communities wear traditional face tattoos.
The cities are small and uncongested. Vientiane, the capital, has a French influence. There are tree lined boulevards and backstreets that hug the river. The facades are faded and covered in bougainvillea. The city is small and compact, easy to explore on foot or by bicycle.
Magical Luang Prabang, a former royal city, is a breathtakingly exotic town of golden spires and pagoda rooftops. There are hundreds of saffron robed monks in the streets at dawn, calling to alms, a most iconic image of Laos. After sunset, the main street is closed and dozens of market stalls open up, selling hand loom silks, wooden carvings, mulberry paper lanterns, basketware and antiques.
The Mekong River connects the mountains in the north to the dry south – so what better way to see the country than by luxury river boat? The full Mekong cruise is a 10-day journey, starting in Vientiane and finishing in Chiang Khong in Thailand. It’s a wonderful journey of cultural shows, lectures and cooking classes, in between shore excursions.
There are many reasons to visit Laos – like exploring underground river caves, spotting exotic animals like black crested gibbons in the dense, humid rainforest or immersing yourself in the spiritual life of the monks and their temples – and there’s lots more!
The best time to visit is between November and March and the best route is via Bangkok to Luang Prabang, Vientiane or Pakse. We would recommend anything from 11 to 21 days to get the best out of your trip.
If you’d like to visit Laos, meet me in the gallery.