Running down the heart of the Indochina Peninsula is Laos, one of the more unique countries in South East Asia and one with an intriguing history all of its own. Just a single visit opens the door to a number of fascinating Laos points of interest that could very well define the traveller’s perceptions of this part of the world.
The Laos we know today traces its roots back some 700 years to the Lan Xang Hom Khao kingdom, one of the largest kingdoms in South East Asia for more than 400 years. The kingdom split into three separate political entities as a result of internal strife in the eighteenth century before reuniting to form a single country again. Colonial France eventually absorbed the kingdom. Laos was finally recognised as independent and sovereign in 1953.
Some of the most fascinating Laos points of interest tell the story of this country’s history over the centuries. Other points of interest clearly show a modern country that is adapting very well to the rest of South East Asia. Tourism is a big part of what they’re doing to attract attention, going much the same route as Vietnam tourism has.
Seven Laos Points of Interest You Should See
One of the interesting things about Laos tourism is that there isn’t a lot of attention paid to traditional tourist activities. This is not to say there are few opportunities for fine dining, shopping and sightseeing; there certainly are. But a trip to Laos is about getting out there and seeing the landmarks and cultural sites that make this country so interesting. You should definitely take a look at the seven Laos points of interest I have listed below.
Luang Prabang is an ancient town in the northern section of the country; it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What makes this city one of the most important Laos points of interest? The fact that it is considered to be the centre of Laotian culture. The city was the capital of Laos under the original fourteenth century Lan Xang Hom Khao kingdom, so there is plenty of history to take in. Be aware that Luang Prabang is the most popular tourist destination in the country. Prices are excessively inflated on everything.
If the Garden of Eden were located in Laos, you would have a hard time convincing locals that it wasn’t found at Vang Vieng. This tiny town sits on the Nam Song River against a backdrop of some pretty impressive mountains. The local Cave of the Blue Lagoon offers a unique swimming experience while the river is a great place to go tubing. In town, travellers get to experience what local life is like outside of Laos’ bigger cities.
Canada has its Niagara Falls while Africa boasts the Victoria Falls. In Laos, however, you should visit the Bolaven Plateau. As one of my seven most important Laos points of interest, the Plateau is the place to go if you are impressed by majestic waterfalls and lush farmlands. On the Plateau, you’ll find two of Laos most extraordinary waterfalls: Tad Fane and Dong Hua Sao. As an added bonus, the Plateau enjoys cooler weather than the rest of the country.
Buddhism plays a significant role in everyday life in Laos. Therefore, it’s only fitting to visit Buddha Park in Vientiane. The park is home to hundreds of different statues relating primarily to Buddhism, although there are some Hindu figures as well. The grounds are kept well-manicured specifically to invite photographers. In case you’re interested, experts say the best place to take shots is atop the three-story high pumpkin structure that provides tremendous views of the entire park. Buddha Park was built in the late 1950s and has been a popular place to visit ever since.
Near the Mekong River in Champasak is one of the oldest archaeological sites in Laos, known as Wat Phu. The site is a former Khmer temple complex consisting of some structures dating back to the eleventh century. The most amazing aspect of the architecture here is the level of detail put into everything from the majestic columns to the intricate artwork. This is another great place for photography.
Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands)
Si Phan Don is an archipelago of small islands in the Mekong River in Champasak province. As a Laos point of interest, the greatest appeal of this area is its quiet, laid-back atmosphere. Some of the islands in the archipelago do not support any activity other than exploration while others are large enough to house small hotels and restaurants. And because the region is not a tourist trap, you’ll find some of the cheapest accommodation rates in all of Laos.
The Plain of Jars
Very near Phonsavan in the central part of Laos is the archaeological mystery known as the Plain of Jars. It isn’t technically a plain (it’s actually rather hilly) but don’t let the name fool you. This incredible site is home to thousands of stone jars scattered throughout the countryside. Some are arranged in clusters that appear to have some meaning while others look to have been left randomly. The big mystery here is that archaeologists still don’t know what civilisation created these jars or how they got to the plain. It’s all rather enigmatic.
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