Laos
Laos

Description Laos

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Laos, a country bordered by Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and China, is a country that will surprise you with its nature and authenticity. Laos, formerly known as the Million Elephant Country, opened up to tourism in 1990. You will be far from mass tourism as the country has endured the conflicts of its neighboring countries and experienced a tourist boom only in the last twenty years.

Mountainous territory crossed by rivers and especially by the grandiose Mekong Delta, 70% of the land of Laos consists mainly of mountains and plateaus. You will also explore the beauty of the many temples and listen to the past of the ancient kingdoms of Laos, a rich history awaits you.

Traveling across the country, you will meet a very welcoming and engaging population as well as discover an intact Buddhist heritage, especially in the former royal capital, Luang Prabang.

You will feel a strong contrast between the north and south of the country. Indeed, from an ethnic point of view, Laos is a real complex puzzle that includes no less than 130 ethnic groups, sub-ethnic groups and many clans. It has more minorities than any of its neighbouring countries, making it the most ethnically diverse territory in all of Southeast Asia. These Laotian peoples will show you their authenticity and their manners thanks to their kindness.

Laos enjoys a great diversity in vegetation, it has multiple varieties associated with rainforests and bamboo. You will find many ordinary animals such as: the Concolor gibbon, the langur and the raccoon dog. But you can also discover exotic species: the Javan Mongoose, the Siamese hares, the leopard, the tiger, the dolphin of Irrawaddy and some Javan rhinos that survive in the Bolaven plateau.

Laos is a nature destination that will truly satisfy lovers of large green spaces and jungles. If you are looking for a new culture or if you show curiosity, this destination is totally for you.

Have a nice trip to Laos !

SPLENDORS OF LAOS

A circuit full of colors and discoveries, from North to South of Laos
Visit Wat Sisaket temple. Discover the many monuments of Luang Prabang. Excursion to Kuang Si Waterfall. Participation in a typical ceremony of Laos. Meeting with the inhabitants of the country. Visit of several ethnic villages. Boat trip on the Nam Ou River. Discovery of many trades and working methods. Boat cruise to the Done Det and Done Khone Islands.
  • Laos
  • 14 Days 13 Nights
  • Classic & cultural

FABULOUS LAOS

Come touch the essence of the country
Crossing of the Mekong by motorized boat. Visit of the Souvanakhounkham site. Excursion to Kuang Si Falls. Canoe ride through the labyrinth of waterways. Walk on the island of Khone. Visit of ethnic minority villages.
  • Laos
  • 14 Days 13 Nights
  • Classic & cultural

MYTHICAL LAOS

Overview of Laos
1h30 boat ride to Shampassac, the former capital. Visit of the island of Done Khone. Walk to Lippi Falls. Visit of the biggest Mekong waterfall in Laos. Elephant ride. Hmong Market Tour. Participation in a typical ceremony of Laos.
  • Laos
  • 10 Days 9 Nights
  • Classic & cultural

IN THE HEART OF LAOS

From Vientiane to Luang Prabang, stoping by the country's most famous sites
Visit Wat Sisaket temple. Enjoy a typical country meal. Discovery of the former Royal Palace. You can enjoy the panoramic view at the top of Mount Phousi. Mekong ride on a local boat to the sacred Pak Ou Caves. Excursion to Kuang Si Falls where you can swim. Visit of homemade mulberry paper mills in Xang Khong
  • Laos
  • 5 Days 4 Nights
  • Classic & cultural

PLAIN OF JARS

Discover a Laotian site full of mystery
Visit of ethnic minority villages. Exploring the fabulous "Plain of Jars". Walk in the Wet Market. Discovery of Navang Crafts.
  • Laos
  • 3 Days 2 Nights
  • Classic & cultural

LUANG PRABANG - Elongated

The essential of Laos
During a trip of 4 days and 3 nights, you will discover the unmissable places of Laos. Notably, Luang Prabang, former capital of Lan Xang Kingdom or the sacred caves of Pak Ou.
  • Laos
  • 4 Days 3 Nights
  • Classic & cultural

LUANG PRABANG - SHORT

The must-see touristic sites in Laos
Visit of the old Royal Palace. Trekkig on Phousi Mount to enjoy the wonderful view over Luang Prabang. Visit the sacred cave of Pak Ou. Crossing of the Mekong. Visit artisanal workshops of paper of mulberry Xang Khong
  • Laos
  • 3 Days 2 Nights
  • Classic & cultural
Culture
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POPULATION :
 

Laos has a great identity and diversity of ethnic minorities. There are about 130 different ethnic groups in Laos, divided into 4 major categories: Lao Loum (50%), Lao Thai (about 15%), Lao Theung (25%) and Lao Sung (10%). Each ethnic group comes from a very distinct region. For example, the Lao Loum, come from the lower part of Laos, from the Mekong Valley. Lao Theung means Lao from the upper part and Lao Sung come from Upper Laos. About 40% of the Lao population is composed of minority ethnic groups of mountainous origin, including the Hmong and Khmou, which represent the largest groups.

CUSTOMS :
  • For Laotians, the family is the centre of their lives, they mostly live in rural areas and have this very important aspect of the family.
  • A golden rule applies to Laos, it is better to keep calm, not to be aggressive or angry and thus to be patient. It is not necessary to be demanding and capricious, do not impose yourself, this can be very badly seen by the Laotians.
  • It is strongly not advised to touch the head of a Laotian, in Europe touching the head of someone can be seen as a friendly gesture, on the other hand it is not at all the case in Laos, it is for them a gesture that is very badly perceived. In fact, the Laotians believe that the head is sacred since it is the seat of the soul.
  • The Laotian culture is a culture of non-contact and the Laotians are generally calm, discreet and not very demonstrative. During a conversation, it is therefore customary to keep a certain distance from each other, an arm length being acceptable.
  • Finally, a last rule to remember regarding appearance: Laotians attach a lot of importance to body hygiene and cleanliness, so it is important for you to maintain a good hygiene, otherwise you will be a source of mockery for Laotians.
RELIGION :

The official religion of Laos is Buddhism. Laos is home to about 22,000 monks. It will be impossible to miss them during your trip! You will notice them wearing the same yellow and orange dress, because they are the closest to saffron, the sacred spice of Buddhists, but also those of the dawn and gold that symbolizes purity. The wearing of this dress thus becomes a sign of renunciation and wisdom.

Remember to take off your shoes when you go into a temple or home.

THE FOOD :

Due to its geographical location, Laotian dishes contain Thai and/or Vietnamese influences. In Laotian cuisine, a large quantity of herbs and coconut milk are used, which is the main fat used.

  • Rice, which is usually found sticky, is part of the food base in Laos. With that, you add pork, beef, duck, chicken, or fish.
  • The "Laap" is the most famous national dish in Laos and is also served at traditional ceremonies. It is a specialty made from raw meat or fish, crushed with mortar with garlic and chilli and marinated in lemon juice. The whole is then mixed with uncooked rice grains that have been previously fried and ground.
  • Another very popular speciality is the "Tam mak houng". It is a finely grated and well seasoned green papaya salad. It contains chilli, kapi (shrimp paste) or nampou (crab paste), lemon juice and nampa (salted fish sauce) and peanuts.
  • The "Som pa" and "Som mou", are made from fish or pork meat mixed with fermented rice, which is presented wrapped with chili pepper in a banana leaf.
  • In addition to these essential Laotian dishes, there are steamed preparations, such as "mocha", meat or fish cut into small pieces, cooked with coconut milk and spices in a banana leaf.
Before leaving
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PASSPORT & VISA
  • In order to enter Laotian territory, you must be provided with a valid passport 6 months after the date of exit from Laotian territory, with at least two blank pages in your passport.
  • All persons traveling to Laos for tourism must have a tourist visa. It is mandatory and remains valid for 30 days. For visitors arriving by land from Vietnam; from Cambodia or Thailand, you must obtain your visa before you arrive in Laos. This formality will be simple, you just need to go to the Embassy of Laos in your country of residence or stay. Remember to have a photo ID.
  • Before leaving, we advise you to photocopy all important documents (passport, electronic equipment invoices, insurance policy, plane tickets, driving license ...). A handy tip if you lose your papers or valuables.
HEALTH AND VACCINES
 
  • No vaccine is required to visit Laos. However, we advise you to be up to date in all your classic vaccinations (diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid, poliomyelitis, meningitis, typhoid fever, hepatitis).
  • Some people recommend getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and B and Japanese encephalitis, especially if you are traveling in a rural area. To find out if this is relevant in your case, make an appointment at a vaccination center for advice.
  • It is important to protect yourself from malaria, which is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes. For more information, do not hesitate to ask your doctor for advice. Make sure you do not forget about anti-snake repellents for your comfort.
  • Do not hesitate to provide a small kit of pharmacies with some basic products, it will be very useful in case of first aid.
  • Namely: The most common reported infection is hepatitis A that can be transmitted through food and water. Hepatitis B is spread through blood and saliva. The most common health problems among travelers are digestive problems and diarrhea, which can be treated by avoiding spicy dishes and drinking plenty of water.
CLIMATE
  • There are two distinct seasons in Laos: the dry season from November to March, and the wet season from April to October.
  • April to June is the hottest month, with average temperatures of 32 ° C. The months of December and January are cooler, with an average of 23 ° C and 5 ° C in the heart of the mountains. July and August are the rainiest months with nearly 500 mm of rain a month. In summary, from May to October, you will be in the middle of the monsoon season, so do not forget your k-way or umbrella! On the other hand, in full summer the temperatures are stifling and the abundant rains, we advise you to avoid to travel in Laos during this period.
  • If you want to travel to Laos while enjoying the best climate possible, prefer the months of November to February, and do not forget to bring hat and sunscreen. During the mid-season, from March to May, it is hot but the rainfall is reasonable.
INSURANCE

All travelers have the obligation to take out an insurance policy for their trip before participating in our tours. Although there are international standard care cells in Vientiane, the country still lacks infrastructure and equipment in cases of serious illness or injury. We also advise you to provide good health insurance and repatriation insurance.

MONEY 
 
Be sure to ask your bank about the use of your credit card and the fees for using it. Travel options exist, so consider traveling at no extra cost.
 
ELECTRICITY
 
Plan to bring with you a universal adapter, since in Laos the electrical system is 220 volts but the outlets are not always standard.

On the spot
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THE NATIONAL CURRENCY: THE KIP (LAK)
  • In the capital, you will realize that it is possible to change euros, to use your Visa or Master credit card in hotels and restaurants.
  • However, outside of Vientiane, it will be easier for you to pay with the local currency or to have American dollars or Thai baht on you to exchange them.
  • There are banknotes of 100, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 Kip. If you intend to go to more remote parts of the country, we advise you to prepare a good reserve of Kip.
  • The current exchange rate is 1 USD = 8,323 Kip.
PHONE
  • To call Laos from France, dial 00 856 + city code (without the 0) + number of the correspondent.
  • To call France from Laos, dial 00 33 + number of the correspondent (without 0).
BANKS
  • You will find many vending machines in the big cities but also in small towns and sites frequented by tourists.
THE WATER 
  • Be very careful about the water you drink. Never drink tap water, always drink bottled water and check that it is properly capped. It is necessary to be vigilant also with ice cubes, consume only cubic ice cubes or with a cylindrical hole shape in the middle.
TRANSPORT ON SITE
  • Once there, you will have the choice to take different modes of transport:
    • The car: all the vehicles used for our tours are modern and air-conditioned vehicles, which range from the classic car to the bus for 45 people.
    • The boat: Local boats with 12 to 24 seats are used for cruises on the Mekong River.
    • Airplanes: Lao Aviation is the national aviation company. It is quite common to face flight delays or cancellations due to heavy rains during the monsoon season.An airport tax is required for both domestic and international flights. It is 10 US dollars for international flights. Note that the maximum weight of checked baggage in economy class is 20kg for adults and children, with the company Lao Airlines.
A FEW USEFUL VOCABULARY WORDS
  • Hello / Good evening: Sabai dii / None lap fan dii
  • How are you ? : Sabaï dii bo ?
  • Very well thank you and you ? : Sabaï dii, khop tchaï, lè tchao dè ?
  • I do not understand: Khoï bo khao tchaï
  • Pardon: Kho thot
  • Goodbye: La kone
  • Welcome: Nyinditonhab
  • Thank you (a lot): Khop tchaï laï laï
  • Excuse me / Please: Excuse khaphachao / Kalounaa
  • Yes / No: Tchao / Bo
  • No thanks: Bo khop tchaï
  • How much is it ? : Laka tao dai?
  • I would like to buy ... this, this one: Khaphachao yakcha su ... thini
Attractions
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Serenity, charm, harmony and mystery, like the dancers of the Khmers ballets, are the symbols of this country that has long been isolated from the rest of the world. Laos, bathed by the magical waves of the Mekong "mother of waters", has preserved all its treasures intact. From historical monuments, atypical places or grandiose landscapes, everything is gathered for an unforgettable journey to the heart of Southeast Asia.

THE ATTRACTIONS

Vientiane

Vang Vieng

Luang Prabang

The Plain of Jars

Pakse

The Bolavens Plateau

VIENTIANE

Vientiane is the capital of Laos (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), with an estimated population of 783,000 inhabitants in 2018. It is located on the left bank of the Mekong, which marks the border with Thailand, almost opposite the Thai city of Nong Khai. Its former name is Sri Sattanak, or Sisattanak. Sisattanak is today one of the districts of its suburbs.

Vientiane («port of the moon» according to a translation) is a city that gives the impression of smallness, compared to many other capitals. The city center is marked by the French style of the old buildings, and by the Soviet utilitarianism of the more recent buildings which were built in the period when a great friendship reigned between Laos and the USSR which then sent advisers and technicians to help the country.

Legendary city of Indochina, Vientiane has kept from this time major arteries with sidewalks, and beautiful colonial mansions. Going up Thanon Lan Xang Street towards Patuxai, you can’t help but see the reference to the Champs-Élysées with the Arc de Triomphe, on the Laotian scale of course! Strongly destroyed during the Siamese invasion of 1828, Vientiane is a city that does not have the architectural wealth of Luang Prabang. A number of monuments are however worthy of interest!



The visits :

Buddha Park: located about 20 km from the capital, this amazing park is home to more than 200 statues in the most fanciful forms.

The Wat Ong Teu Bronze Buddha: one of the city’s magnificent Buddhist temples, it was built in the 16th century and is considered one of the most important in Laos. The temple is also known to house a gigantic statue of Buddha, the largest in Vientiane, from which it takes its name «Temple of the Heavy Buddha».

Wat Ho Phra Kaew: the dating of Wat Phra Kaew is still controversial. The temple was probably built around the 16th century during the reign of Setthathirat. In 1548 he inherited the throne of Chiang Mai from his mother’s side, and the throne of Vientiane from his father’s side. He had the Wat Phra Kaew erected to house the two most sacred Buddha statues of the new kingdom: the Phra Bang and the Phra Kaew "Emerald Buddha" which he had just transferred from Chiang Mai. In 1778, the Siamese destroyed the temple and took away the two Buddhas, objects of all lusts. The Emerald Buddha is now at the Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, as the Thais have estimated that he has always belonged to the kingdom of Chiang Mai, an integral part of Siam. Fair players, they returned the Prabang to Laos in 1867. The current temple of Vientiane was rebuilt, in 1936, according to original plans found by the French School of the Far East. The result showing a Thai style clearly nineteenth, these documents had to date from an intermediate reconstruction. Today the temple is transformed into a museum, the Ho Phra Kaew. It contains a superb collection of bronze Buddhas.

Wat Si Saket: one of the most beautiful temples in the capital, was built by Chao Anou in 1818. This temple-museum is the oldest building in Vientiane since it was the only monument to have been spared by the Siamese during their incendiary raid of 1828, probably because of the typical Thai style from which the builders were inspired. The inside walls of the gallery are riddled with small niches containing nearly 2,000 silver and ceramic Buddhas. A superb collection of statues of different sizes and styles is exhibited around the cloister. These pieces, mainly made of wood and bronze, date from the 15th to the 19th century. A pile of statuettes damaged and half melted during the fire of 1828 offers to the curiosity of the public. The inside of the pagoda is completely decorated with original wall paintings that are damaged from year to year due to lack of restoration. They represent scenes from Buddha’s life.

Patuxai: small arc de triomphe, also called Anousavali, is a monument to the memory of the victims of the war in Laos. The name of Patuxai was given to him by the government after the revolution, following a renovation that gives it the appearance we can see today. It is the most beautiful view of the city of Vientiane.

Phat That Luang: the country’s most popular monument, it is both a religious symbol and a symbol of the country’s unity. Located three kilometres north of the city centre, the Pha That Luang is a 35-metre-high, fully gilded, quadrangular stupa. It is surrounded by a square cloister with two entrances and two pavilions (of the original four). In the immediate vicinity, four modern Buddhist temples were built (two to the west and two to the east).

Wat Si Muang: it is considered the lucky temple of the city. Wat Si Muang was built around the city’s pillar, which was supposed to house the capital’s tutelary genius. The legend goes back to the 16th century, when King Setthathirat decided to settle in Vientiane. It is said that he had opted for the west bank of the Mekong, but that a sacred Nâga led him to this location. It is also said that a young pregnant woman, named Nang Si, was buried under the huge stone pillar. In Laos, the cult of geniuses, although officially forbidden, is still very lively and mingles with religion. This is why the Wat Si Muang enjoys great popularity. The offerings of flowers, fruits and incense are continuous and created a business around the temple.

VANG VIENG

Vang Vieng is a beautiful site 160 km north of Ventiane. The city is located near the Nam Song River, in a green area populated by Hmong and Yao, famous for its caves and waterfalls, cliffs and limestone sugar loaves. The caves, sacred, often contain statues of the Buddha and are the subject of pilgrimages at the time of the holidays. Now being an essential stop on the tourist circuit in Laos, this city seduces with its charm, the beauty of its landscapes and the kindness of its inhabitants.

A paradise for speleology enthusiasts, Vang Vieng is full of amazing caves. The best known and closest to the centre is Tham Jang, quite deep, which is reached by a large staircase offering an exceptional view of the valley. This cavity sheltered the villagers during the invasions of Yunnan troops. When you return from this ascent, outside, you can refresh yourself in a source of clear water.

A second cave, also to the southwest, the Tham Phu Kam, requires a long hike of 6 km but is worth a visit. The ascent is quite laborious but leads to a magnificent Buddha lying in bronze, placed in the middle of the cave. At the foot of the mountain, a swim in the river is also recommended.

13 km from the city, there is a whole series of caves, called «the triangle of Tham Sang». The Elephant Cave (Tham Sang) contains several Buddha statues and an elephant-shaped stalactite. The Tham Hoi is guarded by a large Buddha effigy while the Tham Wolf contains imposing stalactites. Finally, the Tham Nam, 500 meters long, can be explored on foot, or with the help of an air chamber during the rainy season, a very fun experience!

In addition, Vang Vieng is the ideal place for all kind of sports activities, including tubing (river descent on a tractor tube), the flagship sport of Vang Vieng, practiced by backpackers. But many agencies also offer to kayak down the Nam Song, often after the visit of caves. As for rafting, the possibilities and levels are diverse. Nevertheless, Nam Ngum has the biggest rapids in the region. You will then have to cross the special area of Saisombun to reach this river, in one day. For rock climbing enthusiasts, the limestone walls of Vang Vieng are among the best in the world.

LUANG PRABANG

Luang Prabang is the historic heart of Laos, with its many temples and monuments. The city was the capital of the Kingdom of Lan Xang (1st Kingdom of Laos) until its replacement by Vientiane. With a cooler climate than the rest of the country thanks to its mountainous environment, Luang Prabang has a typical and well preserved face, opening up to tourism only since the 1990s. Considered one of the most beautiful cities in Asia, Luang Prabang has been a World Heritage Site since 1995. It is also a high place of Buddhism, many faithful coming to pray in the many beautiful temples, as well as every year thousands of pilgrims or monks wanting to deepen their knowledge of Buddha’s teachings.

The visits :

The Royal Palace: one of the must-see sights of the city is the Royal Palace Museum, which provides a better understanding of the history of Luang Prabang. Built in 1904, it is a mixture of traditional Lao elements and classical French style, this residence housed the royal family until their exile, date from which it became a museum, retaining most of the apartments. In the former reception hall of the King, the walls are covered with a magnificent painting, representing scenes of the traditional Lao life, work of a French artist, Alix De Fautereau. Presents from several countries are on display to the left of the entrance hall. There are all kinds of objects: porcelain vases, statuettes, silverware... Then, to the right of the palace, there is a room containing one of the most precious objects of Laos, the Pha Bang, Golden Buddha, who gave his name to the city.

Wat Mai: the temple is famous for its golden bas-reliefs telling the life of one of the Buddha’s reincarnations. The roof, formed by five wooden panels, reflects the pure style of the city. The Pha Bang, Golden Buddha, is exhibited at Wat Mai during the celebrations of Bun Pi Mai Lao, Laotian New Year.

Wat Sen: its golden façade instantly catches the eye! The Wat Sen was built in 1717 by King Kitsarath. During its restoration in 1932 and 1957, the temple was profoundly transformed. Originally, the roof consisted of only two sections as well as three arcades or porches of the façade. Today, the temple is higher with three panels and five porches, which gives it a more Thai style than Xieng Khuang as it was originally the case. A new building has just been built with respect for the religious architectural unity of the city, intended to house a collection of furniture and statues. Wat Sen is home to Great Satou, the venerable leader of the Luang Prabang Buddhist community.

Wat Xieng Thong: dating from 1560, it is the most beautiful temple in Laos. It is the most important and most sumptuous temple of the royal city. It was built on the banks of the Mekong in 1560, under the orders of King Setthathirat. Inside the sanctuary, several stupas contain Buddhas, but also a funeral chariot 12 m high. On a facade, you can observe a splendid mosaic representing «the tree of life». With its roof going down to the ground, the Wat Xieng Thong perfectly represents the architecture of Luang Prabang!

Kuang Si Falls: during your stay in Luang Prabang, don’t miss an excursion to the beautiful Kuang Si Falls! Located about thirty kilometers from the city, this site remains an almost unavoidable stop of any tourist circuit in Laos. The setting is simply sumptuous, with its turquoise water basins, small wooden bridges, waterfall that descends on several levels, and lush forest. You can even enjoy a refreshing swim in very clear water ... For the bravest, a path, difficult during the rainy season, leads to the top of the waterfall from where an incredible view overlooks the surroundings.

The caves of Pak Ou: located 25 km from Luang Prabang, on the banks of the Mekong at the mouth of the river Nam Ou, this place of pilgrimage is worth a visit. To get there, you will have to take a boat and cross the river, which is already a unique experience, thanks to the majestic landscapes and the spectacular mountains that surround the cave. You will arrive at the bottom of an impressive limestone cliff, in which you can observe about 3,000 statues with the Buddha effigy, in the Luang Prabang style, and deposited by the faithful over the years.

2 caves are accessible: the Tham Thing, on the first level, is lit by daylight while the upper cave, Tham Phoum, requires the use of a flashlight. On the way back to Luang Prabang, ask to stop at the village of Ban Xang Hai, where the inhabitants produce Lao-Lao, which they distill in jars.

THE PLAIN OF JARS

Here is one of the most spectacular and mysterious sites in Laos: the plain of the jars. This plateau of 1000 km², at 1000 m of altitude, has about 460 jars of unknown origin, cut in stone or granite, but proving the existence of a civilization at that time.

Several millennia old, these jars would have served either as sarcophagus, or containers for the fermentation of wine or storage of rice. But according to the scientists, the most credible hypothesis remains that of the funeral ballot boxes. The plain of the jars has three sites to visit, a few kilometers from the city of Phonsavanh. On site 1, there is a cave in which the jars were allegedly made. The second solution would be for this cave to serve as a cremation site.

During the Vietnam War, tons of bombs and defoliants were dumped on this area. Thus, it is strongly advised not to think outside the box and not to get too far away from the jars. Today, children are still dying under the explosion of these bombs, which were dropped more than forty years ago. During your excursion, you will have the pleasure of tasting the traditional Lao-Lao in a local village, or visit the wreck of a Russian tank bombed during the war.

PAKSE

Veritable hub in southern Laos, it is also the capital of the province of Champassak, founded in 1905 by the French. Pakse inevitably sees many travelers passing by as it serves as a starting point for the great excursions that are the Wat Phu, the Bolaven plateau and the 4,000 islands. 15 kilometers north of Pakse is Don Kho, an island on the Mekong, and the village of Ban Saphai, both famous for silk weaving. This traditional practice is indeed a great specialty of Laotian women throughout Laos.

The visits :

Wat Phu: Wat Phu is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The religious ensemble of Wat Phu, of Khmer architecture and Hindu religion, is located at the bottom of a mountain whose highest point, the Phou Kao, attracts particular attention by its form, identified in antiquity with a linga, phallic symbol of Shiva, Hence its ancient name of Lingaparvata, and its reputation as a sacred mountain. The presence of a permanent spring, at the bottom of one of the cliffs, probably prompted the ancient kings of the region to establish there a Shivaist sanctuary.

Associated with this religious ensemble lies in the plain, at the edge of the Mekong, a pre-Angkorian city whose remains (walls of raw earth, many monuments of bricks) are currently barely visible on the ground, although they appear very well on aerial photographs. Since 1991, excavations have been carried out by the P.R.A.L. (Lao Archaeology Research Project), which has established a precise archaeological map. The cultural landscape of Champassak, including the entire Wat Phu Temple, represents an area of planned landscape dating back over a thousand years and remarkably well preserved. In order to express the Hindu conception of the relationship between nature and man, it was fashioned along an axis between the top of the mountain and the banks of the river in a geometric interlacing of temples. The site also includes two ancient towns, built on the banks of the Mekong River and the Phou Kao Mountain, the whole representing a process of development lasting over a thousand years from the 5th to the 15th century, especially associated with the Khmer Empire.

Wat Luang: the largest temple in Pakse, the Wat Luang has a unique decoration and a beautiful view on the river. One of the buildings serves as a school for the monks, which will allow you to exchange with them in complete freedom.

Khong Island: connected to Don Det by an ancient French bridge and renowned for its cultivation of bamboo, coconut and kapok, it is the largest of the Mekong islands. Lined with coconut trees on both sides, it also offers beautiful walks, including the 5 km walk along the railway.

Liphi Falls: impressive for their rapids and intensity. According to the Laotians, they contain spirits, which is why the villagers never venture there.

THE BOLAVENS PLATEAU

With the sad record of being one of the most bombed areas during the war, the Bolavens plateau stretches over three provinces: Salavan, Seokong and mainly Champassak. With a pleasant climate and very fertile land, the Bolavens are the most important coffee producing region in Laos. Many families moved to this plateau to enjoy the coffee harvests, introduced by the French colonists from 1920.

During an excursion, you can go hiking in the heart of these farms, taste the excellent coffee, and even buy a few bags, sold as part of fair trade. Green tea is also grown, but in smaller quantities. You can also meet ethnic minorities with traditional clothing and preserved lifestyles and customs, including the Katu, Alak, Tahoy and Ngai. The Katu villages are made up of palm and thatch houses, arranged in a circle around a perched hut, serving in turn as a bridal chamber for the men of the tribe. They are known for making animal sacrifices to honour the spirit of the village during impressive ceremonies. However, the majority of the population of the region belongs to the Laven family, Bolaven meaning «homeland of the Laven».

In addition, the plateau has very picturesque waterfalls, among the most impressive in Laos. Tad Fan, located in the Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area, is probably the highest in the country, because it consists of two arms diving over 120 m. An extremely sporty trek, but quite dangerous during the rainy season, can take you to the top of this waterfall, offering an unparalleled view. The Tat Yuang Falls, in the heart of the lush forest, are also spectacular with the two torrents pouring over more than 40 m. You can swim at the bottom of the falls, but pay attention to the current. Other waterfalls are accessible in the Bolavens Plateau, often from Paksong, such as that of Tat Meelok, whose access is still difficult.

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