people and cultures – inspiring journeys
sharing meaningful discoveries in Asia
– Places to stay and where to eat: Luang Prabang and Vientiane
– Lao Textiles, Lao Food and Elephants!
– Big Brother Mouse, The Language Project@My Library
– Lao Film Festival, Yoga and Lao Friends without a Border
– Getting to Laos and Exploring More: The North and The South
– Lao Ecotourism sites
– Backroads and Rivers into Laos
– Crossing into/from Cambodia
Laos has emerged as a jewel of a destination with natural beauty and rustic charm. Welcoming and relaxed, the Lao people continue to harmonize their life with old traditions. Traveling down the Mekong still offers some of the most beautiful journeys in Southeast Asia. Read more below…
Nestled in between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, this relaxed World Heritage town is full of precious temples, boutique accomodations, charming cafes and galleries. A place where you can definitely get lost in time.
Preserving and protecting Buddhist Heritage of Laos:
a wonderful article from Buddhist Door:
And for textile lovers, the Lao have maintained their amazing master weaving skills.
Learn more about the beautiful Lao textile arts:
KimThong Lao Silk:
The Lao-Tai are traditionally a shamanic people with a strong belief in the afterworld. Textiles depict stories of ancestor spirits traveling in between our worldly and other-worldly realms. Nagas are mythical serpent spirits residing in the rivers and are often woven into textile motifs. Honoring these river spirits provides fertility and protection for livelihood.
Lao weavers continue to produce exquisite textiles. Visit Kim Thong’s small shop filled with loads of treasures!
New location in old town behind Villa Santi – opposite Villa Santi annex.
OckPopTok Textile Gallery and Living Crafts Centre:
Learn about how Silk Worms become Nagas and the art of natural dyeing at OckPopTok’s Living Crafts Center located along the Mekong where you can join workshops or just relax for lunch or tea: www.ockpoptok.com
Fibre2Fabric at the OckPopTok showroom in town. www.fibre2fabric.org
TAEC – Tradtional Arts and Ethnology Centre
A wonderful place to learn more about the various ethnic cultures of Laos and their initiatives supporting education and community outreach. Located close to the Dara Market up a small hill.
TAEC Boutique on the main road in old town opposite Villa Santi
Ban Xang Kong Craft Village
just beyond the airport of Luang Prabang- a short ride by tuk-tuk or when season permits cross over the Nam Khan River by bamboo bridge at the tip of the old town for a pleasant walk to this village.
Here you can visit the family home of Veomanee, co-founder of OckPopTok. Veo’s mom is a master weaver and dyer with a treasure of textiles
In the village you can also see the process of mulberry paper making at Simone Saa Paper.
Indigo Fabric: a new enterprise by two talented Lao brothers with a passion to promote handmade Lao crafts. Visit their shop in Ban Aphay close to Books and Tea.
Check out Indigo Fabric on Facebook. Website in progress.
Tamarind for a Lao culinary experience, restaurant located on the Nam Khan in old town. Cooking Classes in their gardens outside of town. More on: www.tamarindlaos.com
Rosella Fusion along Nam Khan river in old town.
Big Brother Mouse!
continues to publish easy to read and fun books for children in Lao and in English. Started in 2006, well over 100 books have been published- making literacy fun!
Alam Asia was happy to sponsor printing of their book called Wonders of the World. Great website with news and stories of the Lao staff, how to donate -sponsor the printing of a book or a Book Party! www.bigbrothermouse.com
The Language Project @My Library
Supporting Lao Youth in their quest for a brighter future.
The Library has MOVED to a NEW SPACE along the Nam Khan on the lane just up from Utopia Lounge and Yoga Space.
Learn more at: www.thelanguageproject.org
Check out the beautiful Photography of Lao Youth: www.laophotographers.zenfolio.com
Friends without a Border Lao Hospital for Children
recently opened in Luang Prabang- a branch of the wonderful facility in Cambodia. A visitors center is located opposite Dara Market and TAEC.
Photography exhibit and weekly yoga classes supporting the hospital. www.fwab.org/laos
Elephant Village near Luang Prabang
Formerly known as Lane Xang- Kingdom of a Million Elephants- you won’t find a million elephants in Laos today, but visitors can be a part of supporting those elephants remaining. www.elephantvillage-laos.com
Luxury tented accomodation www.shangri-lao.com
Learn more about this annual event usually during October/November to raise awareness of these beautiful animals in Laos: www.theelephantcaravan.org
Mekong River trip to Luang Prabang from the Thai border:
A 2-day trip down one of the last beautiful stretches of river in Southeast Asia. Cross into Laos from Thailand at Chiang Khong in Chiang Rai province and depart by boat from the Lao town of Houixay. Overnight half-way down to Luang Prabang at the trading village of Pakbeng.
Public Boats depart daily in the morning and are more comfortable these days but can become crowded in peak season.
Overnight prior in Houixay allows you to get boat seats earlier. Or plan on crossing over from the Thai side by 0800am and proceed to the harbour in Houixay. Tuktuks can take you there from the international bridge.
Private Boat Charters can also be arranged through a local agent- a wonderful way to float down the river into Laos.
Pakbeng offers a range of accomodations:
More upscale: Pakbeng Lodge.
Good budget option is: Phetsokxai Guesthouse.
Pak Ou Buddha Caves:
Cruising down from Pakbeng you pass these sacred Buddha caves at the mouth of the Ou River.
The public boats from Houixay will not stop at the caves. You will need to be on a private boat charter.
But this is also very comfortably done with a day boat trip from Luang Prabang.
Getting to Laos by air:
Visa on arrival available at all airports and most overland crossings. USD 35 and a passport photo. Visa Cost is more some nationalities.
Daily flights from Bangkok to Luang Prabang on:
Bangkok Airways – the boutique airline: www.bangkokair.com
Lao Airlines: www.laoairlines.com
Luang Prabang direct from/to Chiang Mai and Siem Reap.
and seasonal from Singapore to Vientiane.
From Pakse in southern Laos, fly direct to Siem Reap or Ho Chi Minh City.
SEOUL to Laos: Lao Airlines now flies certain days direct to Vientiane and to Luang Prabang. Seoul offers excellent connections to several North American Gateways so worthwhile to check on through fares possibly with Korean Air connecting to Lao Airlines.
Vietnam Airlines between Hanoi and Siem Reap to/from Luang Prabang. Also Hanoi/Vientiane/Phnom Penh/Ho Chi Minh. www.vietnamairlines.com
Air Asia: Kuala Lumpur direct to Luang Prabang and Vientiane
and Bangkok Don Meuang Airport to Luang Prabang: www.airasia.com.
Places to stay in Luang Prabang:
As Luang Prabang becomes a discovered destination, accomodations are going more upscale. Several new local guesthouses have recently opened in beautifully restored buildings where reasonable prices can still be found.
Staying down at the quiet end of the old town by the tip of the peninsula can feel magically quiet. This area is indeed the sacred spot at the meeting of two rivers, the Mekong and Nam Khan.
Xieng Thong Palace: now a Victoria Hotel
Located just behind beautiful Wat Xieng Thong along the Mekong:
Mekong River View Hotel:
View Point Cafe: run by Mekong River View Hotel.
a most magical spot right at the tip of the peninsula where the Nam Khan meets the Mekong for tea or a meal overlooking the peaceful view. Right next to the lovely little public park.
Boutique Hotels and Guesthouses:
Villa Deux Rivieres- along the Nam Khan River: www.villadeuxrivieres.com
Peninsula Villas: just a few steps up from the Nam Khan.
6 comfy rooms. Room 4 upstairs has a lovely balcony.
See Booking.com or email: email@example.com
Senesouk Guesthouse and Villa – along the main road directly opposite Wat Sene with the beautiful standing Buddha image The newer wing in their quieter courtyard just a few steps up from the Nam Khan river.
Behind Royal Palace Museum:
Villa Meuang Lao -family guesthouse of a wonderful local guide Mr. Khamsouk.
9 charming rooms just off the morning market lane and a few steps from the Mekong.
Luxury on the hill:
La Residence Phou Vao
Alms Giving to Monks – PLEASE respect this tradition.
Each morning many visitors come out before 6am to see the procession of over 300 monks to receive alms. Unfortunately, even with notices around town asking visitors to behave in an appropriate manner, tourists often step right into the procession for the photo opportunity! It is best to observe the alms giving from the quieter middle road of town ( 1 block behind the main road). Observe quietly and take photos only from a distance. If wishing to give alms, please do so only in a proper manner as guided by a Lao friend. Or perhaps make your own merit with a donation to the many worthy causes in Laos. Thank you for respecting the dignity of the monks.
Luang Prabang Film Festival a wonderful new event for Lao!
Today is Better Than Two Tomorrows – a beautiful film! about 2 young boys from a remote village on the Mekong journeying to Luang Prabang to ordain as novices. Captures the essence of village and temple life so important for visitors today to understand more. www.todayisbetterthantwotomorrows.com
DVD can be ordered on line: www.ctlfilms.com
Exploring more of Laos:
Nong Khiau along the beautiful Nam Ou river…
The Ou River is no longer navigable from the mouth of the Mekong up to Nong Khiau but you can drive either from Luang Prabang in approx 3 hours or set off by road opposite the Pak Ou Buddha caves. Once in Nong Khiau, you can explore more of the Ou river northward.
Nong Khiau Riverside Resort is affordable luxury- lovely bungalows under a star filled sky listening to the peaceful sounds of the river. More travel info on: www.nongkiau.com
Mandala Ou Resort offering Yoga Retreats:
Luang Namtha – a base to explore northern Laos
Boat Landing Eco Lodge: www.theboatlanding.com
Salana Boutique Hotel – great location within center for shops and short walk to Mekong Riverside: www.salanaboutique.com
Several new small, clean and friendly budget hotels have opened in this area of Wat OngTeu/Wat Mixay area between Setthathirat Road and the Mekong:
Settha Palace – Vientiane’s most luxurious hotel: www.setthapalace.com
Green Park – luxury accomodations in contemporary Lao style. www.greenparkvientiane.com requires a few minutes shuttle into town centre.
For textile lovers, a visit to Vientiane would not be complete without visiting Nikone.
Exquisite textiles and home furnishings in natural dyes. Nikone is a true inspiration in the work she has done and continues to do for sustainable livelihood in Laos.
Nikone’s workshop and showroom is located beyond Thongkhankham market around the corner from Hong Gaya Sin. Tuk tuk drivers should know to find it.
Tel: (856-21) 212-191 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Makphet – a training center for Lao Youth.
Located off Setthatirat Road behingWat OngTeu. This is a branch of Mith Samlanh in Phnom Penh. A new branch also newly opened in Luang Prabang. www.friends-international.org
This area is developing more facilities with lots to explore including the special Khmer temple of Wat Phou at Champassak. This area was part of the former Kingdom of Chenla- pre Angkor period. (5th-7th century) Believed to be under the continued protection of Shiva and the Linga mountain, the temple of Wat Phou was later constructed in the 11th century. The jump off point to visit Wat Phou is the town of Pakse with direct flights from Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Bangkok and also from/to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Exploring the southern Mekong by boat to Champassak, you can continue to visit the 4000 islands of the Mekong (Si-phan Done) and down to the waterfalls on the Lao- Cambodia border, you may be lucky to spot Irrawaddy dolphin!
Lao Airlines operates a Pakse-Ho Chi Minh flight 3 times weekly which is a nice way to combine the region.
Hotel Pakse – nicest place to begin or end in the centre of Pakse, friendly and very reasonable: www.hotelpakse.com
Inthira Hotel new boutique accomodation close to Wat Phou: www.inthirahotels.com
The River Resort – luxury along the southern Mekong: www.theriverresortlaos.com
La Folie Lodge on quiet Don Daeng Island 5km from Wat Phou: www.lafolie-laos.com
Don Khone and Dondet Islands have become a backpacker mecca. Convenient to Lipi Falls, lots of budget accomodations available. Best venture out on foot or bicycle and into the quiet.
Sala Phae offers raft accomodations on Don Khone. www.salalao.com
Sala Done Khone- close to the rapids at the Cambodia border: http://salalaoboutique.com/
Wat Phou Luxury Cruise liveaboard:
Kingfisher EcoLodge: overlooking protected wetlands and ride up Phou Asa Hill by elephant. www.kingfisherecolodge.com
Travel on from Pakse:
Lao Airlines operates flights from Pakse to Siem Reap, Ho Chi Minh City and seasonal flights may operate direct to Bangkok: www.laoairlines.com
Overland border crossings:
Pakse to Ubon Ratchathani in Thailand- approx 3 hours drive. from Ubon airport, frequent flights to Bangkok:
to Suvarnabhumi airport: https://www.thaismileair.com/
or Night Train from Ubon to Bangkok.
Overland to Cambodia:
Becoming more popular as road conditions very good now.
VIP buses are available and the best way to go. If just crossing the border, also worthwhile to take a good larger bus on schedule and buy a through ticket. Finding own transport at the border can be difficult. The mini buses are often unreliable or too cramped.
Cambodia and Lao Visas available on arrival.
Venturing to/from Cambodia:
Stung Treng – 1 hour drive from the border is a place most visitors pass through and worthwhile to stop to support these projects:
a tourism/hospitality training project with simple guesthouses with Heart
in StungTreng and in Kratie: www.letonle.org/about
Mekong Blue Silk Weaving project Stung Treng: www.mekongblue.com
Wishing you wonderful journeys in Laos and beyond.