Laos, long a forgotten backwater, combines some of the best elements of Southeast Asia in one bite-sized destination.
Something for Everyone
Laos deserves all the accolades it receives. Adrenaline junkies can lose themselves in underground river caves, white-water rapids or jungle ziplines. Wildlife nuts can trek through some of Southeast Asia’s most pristine forests, still home to rare creatures. Foodies can experiment with the kaleidoscope of flavours that is Lao cuisine. From thrillseeker to gourmand, every type of traveller finds what they’re looking for in Laos, one of the most authentic destinations in Asia .
Away from the cities, it’s easy to make a quick detour off the beaten track and end up in a fairytale landscape with jagged limestone cliffs, brooding jungle and the snaking Mekong River as a backdrop. Community-based trekking combines these spectacular natural attractions with the chance to experience the ‘real Laos’ with a village homestay. The Lao people are wonderfully welcoming hosts and there is no better way to get to know their culture than by sharing their lives.
Land of a Million Elephants
In ancient times, Laos was poetically known as the ‘land of a million elephants’, but cynical Vietnam War correspondents renamed it the ‘land of a million irrelevants’. But four decades after the war, Laos is becoming an increasingly relevant destination for the intrepid traveller. Pockets of pristine environment, a kaleidoscope of diverse cultures and quite possibly the most chilled-out people on earth have earned Laos cult status. Imagine a country where your pulse relaxes, smiles are genuine and the locals are still curious about you.
Why I Love Laos
By Nick Ray, Writer
I first came to Laos as a backpacker in 1995, not long after it cautiously opened up to the world, and I quickly succumbed to its natural charms, not to mention ice-cold Beerlao on the banks of the Mekong. Fast forward nearly two decades and innumerable adventures, and Laos still delivers surprises. The Vieng Xai Caves had been a long time coming for this particular history buff and didn’t disappoint. Further west, the new Elephant Conservation Center near Sainyabuli is a fantastic experience for a fantastic cause. And like a vintage wine, Luang Prabang just keeps getting better. From a quiet backwater, today’s incarnation of Laos is one of the most beguiling destinations in all of Asia.
Laos still retains much of the tradition that has disappeared in a frenzy of bulldozers and reality TV elsewhere in the region. Village life is refreshingly simple, and even in Vientiane it’s hard to believe this sort of languid riverfront life exists in a capital city. Magical Luang Prabang bears witness to hundreds of saffron-robed monks gliding through the streets in search of alms, one of the region’s iconic images. For many visitors, Luang Prabang is Laos, but more intrepid travellers will discover a country untainted by mass tourism.
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