Courtesy of Lao Airlines, we were given the chance to visit Lao and ended the trip thinking to ourselves, "Why haven't we thought about visiting this place before? This place is too beautiful and we need to be back!".
The #1 question. Is it Lao or Laos? It was a little confusing but the guide later cleared it up by explaining that it was the French who named it Laos when they took over but the local people identified themselves as Lao.
Here are 9 reasons why we can't wait to be back and explore this beautiful country at our own pace.
#1. Mount Phousi, Luang Prabang
You have to battle 355 steps before you get to enjoy this 360degrees view of Luang Prabang but it’s really nothing. If you can conquer Bukit Timah Hill, trust us, this will be easy. Just be patient and you'll be treated to a beauiful view.
Plan your itinerary such that you'll be able to catch sunset here. We didn't and it was a little disappointing.
Here's a 180degrees view from Mount Pohsi for your viewing pleasure:
#2. Kouangsi Waterfall, Luang Prabang
If the water looks turquoise to you, that’s because it’s really turquoise. We could stay there and watch the waters forever.
While I can’t say that this is the grandest waterfall I’ve seen, this is definitely the most beautiful one so far. Maybe because I haven’t been to any waterfalls like this (you know, where people were jumping off tree trunks and just playing around in the water), this left quite an impression!
#3. Elephant Camp, Luang Prabang
There are plenty of elephant camps in Luang Prabang and the one we went to is Alllao Elephant Camp. I didn’t expect too much from a “camp” but when we got off from the bus, I was quite surprised that it didn’t look as shabby as what I’d thought!
If you are not a fan of riding, you can do what I did! i.e. buy a few bunches of bananas and feed the elephants.
#4. Alms Giving, Luang Prabang
The idea behind alms giving is for the Buddhist monks to make merit and also to collect food for their one meal of a day. We had to wake up very early for this because this ceremony begins right after sunrise and the sun rises really early in Laos!
Was told that this alms giving ceremony in some other parts of the world has been commercialized and some monks would actually request for mone. I’m glad that Laos managed to retain this tradition authentically and hope it stays this way!
#5. Villages, Luang Prabang
We went to a couple of villages and brought some sweets for the kids and the moment we started giving out the sweets, more kids from the wooden huts started running out with their hands stretched.
And of course, kids were trying to sell us handcrafted stuff but they are really not expensive. Bracelets cost about 1000 kip each (about 1US$). Our guide spoke to the kids in Lao language and none of them understood because they only know their village dialect and English (so they could sell stuff to the tourists).
Do visit the villages and bring along any unwanted stationery or even soft toys for the kids, you'll make their day.
#6. Pak Ou Caves, Luang Prabang
You can’t get to the caves without a nice long cruise along the Mekong River.
In case you are expecting a very deep cave, Pak Ou Caves isn’t like that. It’s made of two caves; one smaller one at the bottom and a bigger one one at the top. They are known for their huge display of miniature Buddhist sculptures. Wear comfortable shoes because climbing is required!
#7. Putaxai, Vientiane
Luang Prabang is the former capital of Laos before the French picked Vientiane as the capital. That’s why the Putaxai (Gate of Triumph) resembles the Arc de Triomphe at Paris so much!
The climb to the top was really worth it. Can't imagine the view from its counterpart in Paris!
#8. That Luang Stupa, Vientiane
Pha That Luang is the most important national monument in Lao as it’s symbol of Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty. We exited the temple and was distracted by people carrying cages of birds..
Yes, it may be a tourist scam but we've always wanted to do this! We paid 50baht (yes, Lao accept thai baht and USD on top of their own currency) to let go of 2 birds and hoped they enjoyed their short lease of freedom.
#9. Grand Buddha Park, Vientiane
I’m sure the Grand Buddha sculpture isn’t new to most but do you know that there’s a well-known pumpkin tower at the park too? It looks like this:
If you are brave enough to enter, narrow tunnel and tiny steps await.
But you’ll be well rewarded with the best view of the Grand Buddha Park once you reach the top. :)
Our 6D5N trip flew past just like that. We did not know much about Lao and certainly did not expect such gorgeous waterfalls, sights or a history so rich. The fact that Lao is not well-known yet is also a blessing in disguise because ithe attractions we went to are rarely crowded. Her people are genuine and kind; you feel safe even though it's late at night and the streets are empty and you feel bad when you bargain at the night markets. We fell in love with Lao and hope you would too.
This memorable trip to Lao was made possible by Lao Airlines. They fly direct to Vientiane from Singapore, service is excellent and leg space is comfortable. Search for Lao Airlines flights on www.zuji.com.sg.