Go East is a new series from Lighthouse that brings you countries and destinations that lie east of India and have not hit the big time yet on the travel circuit. Forget Europe, forget Australia, forget Morocco. Give a miss to South Africa, drop the trip to the US, keep New Zealand waiting. Go east with Lighthouse as we move to Laos having covered Bhutan, Myanmar and Thailand.
Before you go scurrying to Google Maps to find out where Laos is, allow us to help you. Laos is another strip of a country east of Thailand, north of Cambodia and west of Vietnam. Now that you know where it is, time to start packing your bags.
Start in the capital, Vientiane. Nestled in a curve of the Mekong River, the capital has a languid lifestyle. Discover the small-town charms of this delightful city where monks outnumber tourists and a traffic jam is an unknown occurrence. Relax by the riverside at sunset after you have been to Pha That Luang, the That Luang Stupa, the most important religious monument in Laos. There’s a lot to see, from the Buddha Park to the Morning market and a rich selection of international cuisine, a lot of it French, a throwback to the country’s colonial past.
Travel to Phonsavan to visit the Plain of Jars, a large area where huge jars of unknown origin are scattered about in over a dozen groupings. The jars have been fashioned from solid boulders of varying sizes. These stone jars appear in clusters, ranging from a single or a few to several hundred jars and date back to the Iron Age.
Next on the list has to be Luang Prabang. Located at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, this was the capital of the Kingdom of Laos until the Communist takeover in 1975. Today, the city is a patchwork of traditional wooden houses with bits of European architecture, a reminder of when Laos was part of the French colony of Indochine. Wander under golden-roofed temples decorated with mosaics and murals of the life of Buddha, sit under wrap-around teak balconies and 19th century shuttered windows. Not to miss the backdrop of verdant greenery and rugged mountains.
You have heard of the mighty Angkor Wat in neighbouring Cambodia. Travel to Champasak to see the Angkor-period ruins of Wat Phu Champasak. Take in the serenity of this small town with little traffic, spread along one street by the river with its old fountain.
Northeast of Champasak lies the Bolaven Plateau with a cool climate, dramatic waterfalls and high-grade coffee plantations. It was the French who started the coffee and rubber and banana plantations in the early 20th century and the area saw heavy bombardment during the second IndoChina war. These days the region also produces fruit, cardamom and rattan in addition to the coffee.
Travel down to Si Phan Don, a riverine archipelago of 4,000 islands – at least, that is what the name means – and chill even more. The south is supposed to be the slowest and you may find it difficult to get out of your hammock leave alone return home. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Take a boat trip from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, travelling on the mighty Mekong river. As you may imagine, it is a slow journey while yoy enjoy dramatic river scenery in the middle of the northern Laos mountains.
So, if you want to slow down and visit Laos just call Lighthouse on (0) 9818905024 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. But, we won’t be responsible for you having to adjust back when you return!