Laos is one of Southeast Asia’s most enchanting destinations. The mighty Mekong runs through the whole country, past crumbling colonial towns, ethnic hill tribes, and Buddhist monasteries humble and grand. Here are 10 things you must experience when traversing this mountainous and magnificent region.
With over 1,200 monks in Luang Prabang, the morning alms ceremony is truly a sight to behold. Watch the monks take the offerings of meals and personal care items from the locals, placed silently into the alms bowls. You may participate if you wish, but if you are just observing, be sure to keep a respectful distance. The 5 am start is well worth it in order to experience this longstanding Buddhist tradition.
A must-do for elephant lovers! Get up close and personal with the cast of cheeky characters that call the sanctuary home and trek through local farmland and forests with the elephants. In Laos, elephants are revered for their strength and are celebrated in festivals and ceremonies. Visiting sanctuary camps are a great way to interact responsibly with these majestic creatures while having lots of fun.
Baci is a Lao ritual carried out to celebrate good times as well as during bad times. The way it works can be explained by the fact that Lao people believe the human being is made up of 32 organs, each protected by a component of the kwan, roughly translated as the soul, or spirit. Total unification of all the kwan in one’s body is considered the ultimate equilibrium, and any wandering kwan is attributed to illness and malaise.
A Baci ceremony is held to “call back” the spirits to your body, involving the tying of white cotton strings to your wrists and saying prayers. Usually hosted by the elder women in the community, participating in a private ceremony is the perfect way to visit a local home and experience this tradition for yourself.
This small but significant museum in Luang Prabang is a brilliant way to learn more about Laos’ diverse ethnic cultures and traditions. The collection is comprised of traditional clothing and domestic textiles, jewellery, household items, handicraft tools, baskets, religious and ritual objects, and other items. For a more in-depth tour, one-on-one meetings with one of the museum’s directors can be arranged with Scott Dunn.
Head to Ock Pop Tok to learn the secrets of Lao textile design and weaving techniques. This social enterprise is home to talented artists, a weaving and dying studio, craft school, and exhibition space. The handicrafts created are exquisite—a great place for souvenir shopping. There are three distinct locations in Luang Prabang, each focusing on a different aspect of the textiles found in Laos.
Enjoy a leisurely evening cruise on one of Laos’ most luxurious boats. The Mekong is an important lifeline to many developing countries in Asia and this is a great way to witness local life on the riverbanks. The scenery is stunning and you can enjoy a glass of wine and dinner as the sun sets over the mighty Mekong.
Beneath the tranquillity lies the remnants of war. Despite the war ending over 40 years ago, Laos remains the most bombed country in history, with millions of landmines (UXOs) still remaining. The Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) highlights the UXO problem and the work undertaken by COPE to provide rehabilitation services for people with disabilities. It is a fascinating place to visit and learn about an important segment in Laos’ history.
Head over to the Kuang Si Falls early morning to enjoy a picnic breakfast, before the crowds descend upon this picturesque place. Explore all the different cascades and marvel at the wonders of nature without having to jostle for a good picture. The falls are just 40 minutes away from Luang Prabang, perfect for a day trip.
The mountains surrounding Muang La are home to numerous traditional ethnic tribes. Get off the beaten track and spend a day hiking in this remote region to see authentic and unspoilt hill tribe villages and learn about their traditional way of life. Book a 4x4 trip if hiking isn’t for you.
Exploring rural Laos by bike is a great way to visit local villages and meet interesting people along the way. This area is surrounded by scenic paddy fields and dramatic mountain landscapes, so there are plenty of great photo opportunities as you meet fishermen, basket weavers, and farmers all going about their daily routines.
Start your Laos adventure with Scott Dunn and tailor-make your luxury holiday package for the perfect, stress-free holiday.