LAOS > PLACES TO VISIT
Vientiane, the capital of Laos is on the Mekong River, surrounded by fertile
plains. Pronounced 'Wieng Chan' by the locals, this relaxed city offers a number
of interesting wats (temples) and lively markets. The most important national
monument in Laos is Pha That Luang, the Great Sacred Stupa, representing both
Buddhism and Lao sovereignty. Other sights of interest include Wat Si Saket,
the oldest temple in Vientiane and Wat Pha Kaew, a royal temple that is now
Vang Xang is the ruins of a Mon temple, 66 kilometers from Vientiane. It was
built in the 11th century and five Buddha statues remain.
Nam Ngum Dam
The dam, set in a very beautiful area, about 90 kilometers from Vientiane, generates
the electricity for much of the country. Hundreds of islets are spread out all
over the lake and boating is a popular activity.
Xieng Khuan is a fascinating collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures in
a field 24 kilometers south of Vientiane.
Luang Prabang is a small town in northern Laos, situated at the confluence of
the Mekong River and the Nam Khan. It is the oldest town in Laos and only has
about 20,000 residents. Modernity has not yet reached Luang Prabang, there are
few motorised vehicles and infrequent electricity. Its main tourist attractions
are its historic temples and its beautiful location encompassed by mountains.
Sights include the Royal Palace Museum, containing spectacular objects of art
and displays that give a good idea of the area's history. Mount Phousi is right
in middle of Luang Prabang, at the top of 328 steps is Wat Chom Si, built in
1804. The view from the top is beautiful. Wat Xieng Thong on the banks of the
Mekong was built in 1559 during the reign of King Setthathirat, it is decorated
with carvings, murals and mosaics. Wat Pra Bath Nua features a 3-metre "footprint"
of the Buddha. Wat Visoun south of Mount Phousi is a replica of an older Wat,
built in 1898, it houses numerous religious art treasures. Wat That Luang to
the South of the town houses urns containing the ashes of kings and members
of royal families. The golden Stupa is a reminder of the last Laotian king,
The Pak Ou caves, 25km along the Mekong River, house thousands
of Buddha statues, some allegedly more than 300 years old. The best way to visit
the caves is by boat tour. The stunning Kuang Si waterfalls are 29km south of
the town on a Mekong tributary. The surrounding area is home to a number of
Ban Phanom is a weavers' village a few kilometers east of
Luang Prabang where visitors can buy local cloth.
The Plain of Jars is a mysterious area 10 kilometers southeast of Phonsavan,
at about 1,000 meters above sea level. Hundreds of enormous clay jars, each
about 1 to 2.5 meters high, are scattered over the plain, their origin is still
unknown. Many of the jars were sadly destroyed or damaged during the Vietnam
Pakse, situated at the confluence of the Xe Dong River and the Mekong, is the
most important town in South Laos with routes leading to Vietnam and Cambodia.
The town features an agricultural market. The nearby Wat Phou, built by the
Khymer, is the most important attraction in the area, and is reminiscent of
an ancient city lost in the jungle for hundreds of years. The Wat has stood
unused for centuries because it was built as a Hindu temple.
The Boloven Plateau
The Bolaven Plateau is a fertile plain where Laven tribes-people grow coffee,
durian, cardamom and rattan. The plateau is a center of Mon-Khmer culture. Alak,
Katu and Lawae women traditionally used to tattoo their faces. The plateau also
has some beautiful waterfalls including Tat Lo that cascades into a lovely natural
The Mekong Islands and Waterfalls
Four thousand river islands are to be found at a point shortly before the Mekong
crosses into Cambodia. At high tide about half of the islands disappear under
water. In between some of the islands are some gorgeous waterfalls. The largest
of them, Khoug Phapheug, is actually the largest in all of Southeast Asia. This
part of the Mekong is also home to a rare species of freshwater dolphin.
Ho Chi Minh Trail
The Ho Chi Minh Trail is a network of dirt paths and roads that run parallel
to the Laos-Vietnam border. The trail was used by the North Vietnamese in the
Vietnam War and by the Viet Minh against the French in the 1950s. Here you will
find wrecks of helicopters, fighter planes and other war junk.