FROM VIENTIANE TO LUANG PRABANG
Nam Ngun Lake
This large artifical lake produces most of the electricity used
in Vientiane. Located in the Ngum River Valley it is a beautiful
area in midst the hills and a cruise on the lake with it's pictures
islands is very pleasant. The lake can either be visited in a day
from Vientiane or en route if traveling overland to Vang Vieng and
there one resort inviting for over night stays.
This town is nestled along a scenic bend of the Nam Song River and
about half way between Vientiane and Luang Prabang traveling overland
on Route 13. The little city is not without charm, but the main
attractions are the limestone cliffs and the many tunnels along
NORTH WEST (from the Thai Border to Luang Prabang)
Houeixay is a little riverside town on the border to Thailand and
close to the Golden Triangle. The region is famous for it's precious
stones and as gateway for transport and trade. It is an international
border point and used by tourist traveling overland from the north
of Thailand (Chiang Khong) to Laos and vice versa.
Bordered by Myanmar to the West and China to the North this mountainous
province has with 39 ethnic minorities the largest number of different
tribes in the country. The most popular and easiest way to reach
Luang Namtha, the capital of the province, is by boat from Houexai.
Lao Aviation also operates several weekly flights from Vientiane
and there is a road connection to Oudomxai and onwards to Luang
Prabang. Due to a few NGO projects in the area is the capital rather
busy and level of service and accommodation are higher then to be
expected in such a remote village. There are some nice guesthouses
along the river and the area invites for treks to ethnic villages
in the surroundings.
This rugged province in the north of Laos is home to about 23 different
ethnic groups, all of them with distinct religion, languages and
traditional dress. Myang Xay, the capital of the province, can be
reached with Lao Aviation or overland via the bumpy road from Luang
Prabang or from Luang Namtha. This is a beautiful area for trekking
and to visit local villages but it opened only recently to tourism
and services and infrastructure are limited and very basic.
This rustic little town on the board of the Mekong is halfway between
Houeixay and Luang Prabang. Traveling by slow-boat between this
two places one has to stay there over night. The little town consists
of mainly wooden houses and is a market city and a transit point
with no particular interest.
Located south of the Mekong River between Pakbeng and Luang Prabang
this is a little local village, which invites to experience the
lifestyle of the local people. The highlight of the stay there is
the elephant ride through the jungle and to local villages. Services
are however limited and infrastructure basic.
Xiengkhouang Province - Plain of Jars
This high plateau in the northeast of Laos is an extremely beautiful
region and the home to the mysterious Plain of Jars. The giant jars
are carved out of solid hunks of rock from mountains surrounding
the valley and are estimated to be between 2500-3000 years old.
Many theories have been made regarding the use and the origin of
the jars but up to today it is still a mystery.
This area was unfortunately also one of the most devastated areas
during the Vietnam War and many huge craters remind of that fact.
Savannakhet bridges the country between Thailand and Vietnam and
is an junction for trade between the two countries. The town has
a number of interesting temples, including a Vietnamese temple and
a large Catholic church. Much of the town's architecture is French
Colonial and the center can easily be explored on foot.
Pakse is the center of the south of Laos with connections to Thailand,
Vietnam and Cambodia. It is a busy trading town and the main attraction
is the big and colourful market. The second Mekong Bridge between
Laos & Thailand was opened last year and links now Ubon Ratchathani
in Thailand with Pakse what of course further increased trade and
tourism in this area. Pakse itself lacks sightseeing attractions
but it is the gateway to explore this beautiful part of the country
with Wat Phou as main attraction.
This ancient Khmer Temple was build in the first decades of the
9th century by Jayavarman II and served as Khmer Capital until the
Kingdom moved to the Angkor plain. Despite of being smaller, Wat
Phou can be compared to Angkor. Not only has it been built in the
same style; it also exudes the same atmosphere of an ancient city
lost in the jungles for uncounted centuries. While the structures
themselves are overpowering, it's the jungle overgrowth that creates
a particular charm,
The site of the temple is divided into two parts.
The lower part consists of two ruined palace buildings at the edge
of a pond, which was used, for ritual ablutions. The upper section,
the temple sanctuary itself, once enclosed a large Shiva phallus
(linga). It was later converted into a Buddhist temple but much
of the original Hindu sculpture remains.
The Boloven Plateau
This is a very fertile plain to the North-East of Pakse and famous
for the coffee plantations and it's beautiful hilly countryside
with small rivers and waterfalls. The plateau houses a dozen mainly
animist ethnic minorities, including Laven, Alak, Katou, Ta-Oy,
Houne, Ngai and Suk communities. It stretches over several Laotian
Provinces and the main villages in this area are Salavan, Sekong
and Attapeu. Also in this area are the services are limited and
the infrastructure very basic.
Shortly before the Mekong crosses into Cambodia, it splits into
countless branches creating more than 4,000 river islands of which
the larger ones are inhabited and the largest southern island, Don
Khone has an old disused 5km railway, built by the French as part
of the Mekong bypass route. The main attraction in this beautiful
area is the impressive Khong Phabeng Fall - the biggest water falls
in Asia. This part of the Mekong is also home to a rare species
of freshwater dolphins of which you might catch a glimpse early
morning or late afternoon if you are lucky!
There are several very pleasant and charming local
hotel and guesthouses on the islands, which invite to relax and
enjoy this beautiful and peaceful area.