Category: Laos

Mekong Adventure Cruise

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The boat to Luang Prabang from Thailand to Laos and Mekong River Cruise ride down the Mekong River is a very popular and scenic adventure for travelers who take the slow boat to Laos.

The 3 to 4 hours journey from Houay Xai to Pakbeng is undertaken on a speed boat. These scoot along at about 60km per hour but it feels as though you are going faster!

Life jackets and helmets must be worn. Stops are made along the way at local hilltribe villages – a great way to experience the local river-side existence first hand.

The next day we change to a slow boat for a relaxing full day journey. Again, stops are made at hilltribe viallges on the way and at the Pak Ou Caves – just north of Luang Prabang.

This is a great journey … and what better way to experience the Mighty Mekong!

Vang Vieng

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Idyllic Vang Vieng is nestled on the banks of the Nam Song river, in central Laos. Three hours north of Vientiane and 6 hours south of Luang Prabang, it makes for a a perfect rest stop between the two major towns of Laos. A stay in Vang Vieng rewards the visitor with stunning mountain scenery and access to fascinating hilltribe villages. Accommodation in this sleepy town is riverside, offering sublime morning and evening views.

Savannakhet

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Languid, time-trapped and somnolent during the sweltering days that batter the old city’s plasterwork, Savannakhet (ສະຫວັນນະເຂດ) is a charming blend of past and present Laos. The highlight is the historic quarter with its impressive display of decaying early-20th-century architecture. There’s little to do in town but wander the riverfront and cool off in one of a clutch of stylish restaurants and bijou cafes that are steadily growing in number

Pak Ou Caves

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These caves mark the confluence of the Mekong & Nam Ou Rivers. Buddhist worshippers (mainly river travellers praying for a safe journey) would leave statues here as a sign of respect and reverence to Buddha. Here you will find thousands of Buddhist images inside the caves – an amazing insight into the religious lives of the river dwellers.

Handy Hint: Bring a flashlight.

Khong Island

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One of the 4,000 islands dotting this remarkable stretch of the Mekong, kilometers wide during the wet season. The island is the largest of the 4,000 islands and provides a great base for our boat cruises to the more southern islands – including Kone Island, locale of the French built railway line and bridge used to bypass nearby Khonepapheng Falls.

Bolaven Plateau

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Now overgrown with wild coffee bushes, this part of Laos was once the abode of French coffee and cardamom farmers. For centuries before the arrival of the French however, the Bolaven Plateau was home to a diverse range of hill tribe people, and wild animals. These days the plateau is still populated by minority groups (less so by man eating animals!), and – as it is cooler than lowland Laos – makes for a refreshing break from the heat in the rest of south Laos. We stay at Tad Fane, site of spectacular waterfalls, and a highlight of any trip to the south of the country.

Vientiane

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Laos’s principal city is barely recognisable as an Asian capital, and this is a great part of its charm. Weathered, leafy villas; dusty streets; a central business district of just a few blocks where highrise has yet to arrive; the angles and curves of temple roofs above the canopy of palms; and the lazy flow of the Mekong … all are memorable features of a visit to Vientiane with TUI.

This city of less than a quarter of a million people has many beautiful and fascinating sites. The early 19th Century Wat Si Saket, strongly Siamese influenced, contains thousands of tiny Buddha images in its cloister walls, and many larger images, and beautiful murals cover the walls of the sim (ordination hall). Almost opposite, the Haw Pha Kaew is a former temple of the Lao kings which now houses the country’s premier collection of historical and religious artifacts: bronze and stone Buddha images in various styles and classic poses, some dating back over 1500 years, and other bronzes, stone and timber carvings of royalty and Buddhism.

We climb the Arc de Triumph-style Patuxai monument for views over the city and Mekong, and wander the city’s famous market with its fabulous array of Lao silk weavings. Perhaps the most striking of the city’s landmarks is the 16th Century Pha That Luang or Great Stupa, a glittering gold tower that symbolizes the historical power of both religion and the monarchy in Lao culture.

Any day of exploration in Vientiane should end at its wonderful evening meeting point: the banks of the Mekong on Thanon Fa Ngum, with sunset, a cool beer, and for the acclimatised palate a plate of spicy som taam (green papaya salad).

Plain of Jars

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The large stone jars at the ‘Plain of Jars’ in eastern Laos have for years been the subject of archaeological study. In Xieng Kuang province, these large stone urns are scattered across a flat but beautiful landscape across a number of sites, yet little is known about their origins or where the purpose for which they were made. The most popular theory put forward to date holds that the jars were used as funery urns to hold the ashes of interred humans, yet there is little to support this supposition aside from the discovery of skeletal remains near a small number of the jars. A visit to the Plain of Jars makes allows travellers to draw their own conclusions about these mysterious objects.

During the Indochina wars the Plain of Jars was heavily bombed, and was the site of fierce conflict between Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese communists, and the American-supported Royal Lao and Hmong hill tribe armies. Visitors to the Plain of Jars can also see evidence of this conflict – in bomb crater-marked fields, and in the frequent use of munitions shell casings as fence posts, flower pots, and house wall supports.

Luang Prabang

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Described, when listed as a World Heritage site, as the best preserved city in Asia, Luang Prabang is a town that never fails to charm the visitor. Combining a ruggedly beautiful Mekong River setting with superb historic architecture and a sedate, friendly atmosphere, Luang Prabang has retained a sense of tradition and culture perhaps unrivalled in any other contemporary South East Asian city.

Let TUI reveal the fascinating past and present of this unique town. We visit the former Royal Palace, now a museum featuring a breathtaking display of Lao artistry, from intricate woven silks, fine furniture and vast murals to the 43 kilogram gold, silver and bronze Haw Pha Bang Buddha. Walk the grounds of some of the town’s many revered temples, including the sparkling Wat Xien Thong with its tree of life mosaic wall, and the golden-walled Wat Mai. At the end of the day, climb up the frangipani-covered hill of Phu Si for spectacular sunset views, or perhaps just relax with a cool drink on the banks of the Mekong.

For many, Luang Prabang’s most enduring memories come not from its historic buildings or impressive cultural relics but the more simple traditional aspects of the town – watching silk weaving on a shady laneway, or Buddhist monks in their bright robes collecting alms in the early morning. Explore Luang Prabang with TUI before the 21st century reaches this special place.

Kamu Lodge

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