Southeast Asia's forgotten paradise

Southeast Asia's forgotten paradise

Paired with a relaxed atmosphere and exceptional sense of hospitality, Laos, sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam, has a lost-in-time quality. French colonial buildings line the streets of the country's capital, Vientiane (Laos was part of French Indochina, along with Cambodia and Vietnam, from 1893 to 1953), while monks ask for alms in the streets of Luang Prabang, a town recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Since 1975, Laos has been a communist state, and while the lack of development has had costs for the country's citizens, for visitors, it has helped make the country a unique destination. "It is a corner of Southeast Asia where there still aren't any global fast food chains," says Sandy Ferguson, managing director of Asia Desk, a firm that specializes in travel to Asia, and who lived in Laos as a child. "It is largely untouched, and the Lao people have a graciousness that exceeds even that of the famously-welcoming Thais."

This appealingly sleepy and charming country may soon change with the arrival of a high-speed train from China, expected to be completed in three to four years, so don't put off your visit to Laos.

Where to go

The principal destinations are Vientiane, the country's capital; Luang Prabang, a charming town near the point where the Mekong and Nam Khane rivers meet; and between the two, the Plain of Jars, where thousands of prehistoric enormous stone jars dot the landscape.

Luang Prabang, Laos' most popular tourist site |
Luang Prabang, Laos' most popular tourist site |


(Though how and why they were carved is a mystery, archaeologists believe they were associated with ancient burial rites.) Whatever itinerary you follow, Ferguson advises easing into the Lao attitude. "Life is slow here," he says, and he means that in the best possible way.

What to do

While Vientiane is the country's largest city, it lacks the bustle—and chaos—of some other Southeast Asian metropolises like Bangkok and Saigon. Instead, you'll find wide boulevards dating from the French colonial era, and even older Buddhist temples. The golden stupa of That Luang is one of the most famous symbols of the country, while Wat Sisaket, a buddhist cloister, is noted for its some 6,800 statues of the Buddha. The enormous Patuxai, or Victory Arch, is another of the city's landmarks. Shoppers will find crafts like those at Lao Textiles, whose owner has worked to revive the country's ancient silk-weaving tradition.

Home to fewer than 60,000 people, Luang Prabang, with its temples and palaces, is one of the undiscovered jewels of Southeast Asia. Look for the processions of saffron-robed monks who traverse the town each morning asking for alms. The National Museum, in the former palaces of the Lao kings, houses religious treasures and artifacts. Mount Phousy, a hill in the center of town, is popular for afternoon strolls. Outside of the town itself, the waterfalls at Kouang Siare the most picturesque of the many in the area.

Travelers in search of crafts—especially textiles—will want to shop in the Hmong and night markets. Try getting one of the tailors to turn one of the fabrics into custom shirts, skirts, or duvet covers suggests Ferguson.

What to eat

While Americans are familiar with Thailand's curries and noodle dishes, and Vietnamese banh mi are no longer a novelty, the cuisine of Laos has yet to make the same inroads. Among the country's signature dishes are laap, a salad with meat "cooked" by marinating in lime juice, like a ceviche. The Hmong people are responsible for oh lam, a popular stew with mushrooms, gourds, beans, and other vegetables. For a meal that also supports a good cause, Ferguson suggests lunch at Makphet in Vientiane. The wait staff are former street kids, and the restaurant provides them with the training they need to find jobs.


Mekong River Cruises

If you combine your trip to Laos with a visit to northern Thailand, try a cruise on the Mekong River. "You'll be following a trade route that has been used for centuries," says Ferguson. Along the way, some cruises stop at the Cave of a Thousand Buddhas, where villagers would send their sacred relics during times of conflict.

This article was first published on on 25th of April 2017, written by John Newton

Tags: paradise
Akhyari Hananto

I began my career in the banking industry in 1997, and stayed approx 6 years in it. This industry boost his knowledge about the economic condition in Indonesia, both macro and micro, and how to More understand it. My banking career continued in Yogyakarta when I joined in a program funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB),as the coordinator for a program aimed to help improve the quality of learning and teaching process in private universities in Yogyakarta. When the earthquake stroke Yogyakarta, I chose to join an international NGO working in the area of ?disaster response and management, which allows me to help rebuild the city, as well as other disaster-stricken area in Indonesia. I went on to become the coordinator for emergency response in the Asia Pacific region. Then I was assigned for 1 year in Cambodia, as a country coordinator mostly to deliver developmental programs (water and sanitation, education, livelihood). In 2009, he continued his career as a protocol and HR officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, and two years later I joined the Political and Economic Section until now, where i have to deal with extensive range of people and government officials, as well as private and government institution troughout eastern Indonesia. I am the founder and Editor-in-Chief in Good News From Indonesia (GNFI), a growing and influential social media movement, and was selected as one of The Most Influential Netizen 2011 by The Marketeers magazine. I also wrote a book on "Fundamentals of Disaster Management in 2007"?, "Good News From Indonesia : Beragam Prestasi Anak Bangsa di dunia"? which was luanched in August 2013, and "Indonesia Bersyukur"? which is launched in Sept 2013. In 2014, 3 books were released in which i was one of the writer; "Indonesia Pelangi Dunia"?, "Indonesia The Untold Stories"? and "Growing! Meretas Jalan Kejayaan" I give lectures to students in lectures nationwide, sharing on full range of issues, from economy, to diplomacy Less
View all posts

Terima kasih telah membaca sampai di sini