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Lao PDR and its charming tourism wonders

July 4, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), more commonly called Laos, is located at the center of the Indochinese Peninsula and has an area of just 236,000 square kilometers, which is conveniently divided into three distinct regions, namely Northern, Central and Southern Laos. During Thailand Travel Mart plus Amazing Gateway to the Greater Mekong Sub-region (TTM+) 2017, held on June 14-16 in Chiang Mai, Laos was represented by Mr. Vongduean Keosulivong, Acting Director of the Tourism Marketing Research Division of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, and Mr. Sonephet Keovongsa, Deputy Director of Public Relation Division. It occupied two booths for distributing new booklets on tourism products of the landlocked country. Being a former kingdom until 1975, Laos today comprises of 18 provinces and counts nearly 7 million inhabitants. Ethnic diversity comes to 49 recognized ethnic groups.

There are 8 Northern Provinces, which have the following attractions:

–         Phongsaly Province: With its 1,400 meters high Phongsaly Town, the province is very remote and offers a good base for trekking. Attractions are the Ethnic Museum in town, Phoufa mountain hill and Mouang Khua port at the Nam Ou River. Phunoy and Chinese Haw are the dominant ethnic groups in the province.

–         Luang Namtha Province: With the international border crossing at Boten to China, the province has the Nam Ha National Protected Area between Vieng Phoukha and Mouang Sing. The Lanten Yao and Akha are the dominant ethnic groups, while the town itself offers a daily night market and reconstructed stupas.

–         Oudomxay Province: The beautiful Chom Ong Cave and the Nam Kat Waterfall are natural wonders, while Pak Beng is a picturesque port at the Mekong River. The dominant ethnic groups are the Tai Lue and the aboriginal Khamu. In the center of Mouang Xay town is the hill top Phu That Stupa not to be missed.

–         Bokeo Province: The old French Fort Carnot is still an attraction in Houay Xay, while the province is famous for its sapphire mines and gold washing along the Mekong River. Local boats leave downriver to Luang Prabang, while the old archeological site of Souvannakhomkham north of Houay Xay is difficult to explore, but highly recommended to explore.

–         Sayabouly Province: Visiting Ban Viengkeo in Hongsa District is offering hand-woven cotton handicrafts and elephant riding tours. South of Sayabouly is the road to the Nam Thang 1000 Caves Area, to Paklay at the Mekong River and to the Thai border town of Tha Li.

–         Luang Prabang Province: Luang Prabang is since 1995 a declared UNESCO world heritage site featuring some 30 pretty temples, traditional wooden dwellings and old colonial style houses. Tad Kuang Si and Tad Sae waterfalls are easily accessible as well as the Tham Ting Caves along the Mekong River. Phusi Mountain dominates the town with its National Palace Museum and daily Night Market. Phosi and Dara markets are the other places to mingle with the local people buying household goods, jewelry and traditional silk cloths.

–         Xieng Khouang Province: With its provincial capital of Phonsavan, the province is home to the famous Plain of Jars and its three prehistoric sites of stone megaliths. The old royal capital of Mouang Khoun of the Tai Phuan Kingdom is located in the southeast of Phonsavan, but was destroyed by American bombings during the Vietnam War. The Hmong hill tribe is the dominant ethnic group around the Plain of Jars.

–         Houa Phanh Province: With Sam Neua as its provincial capital, the province offers the Hintang Archaeological Park and the limestone caves of Viengxay, where the Phathet Lao established there so-called Hidden City. Many caves are open to visitors for discovering the revolutionary history of the Lao PDR.

The 6 Central Provinces are the following:

–         Vientiane Province: Dominated by the highest mountain peak of Phou Bia (2,819m), the province has the attractions of the popular Vang Vieng District and its caves and temples along the Nam Xong River, the new Khoun Lang Cave Nature Park west of Kasi District and the Tha Heua Market at the northern end of the scenic Nam Ngum Lake, where dried fish can be seen and bought en masse.

–         Vientiane Capital: Actually not a province, modern Vientiane is the capital of Lao PDR and offers the sites of That Luang Stupa, Victory Arch of Patouxay, Ho Phra Keo Museum and the temples of Sisaket, Simouang, Ongteu and Inpeng. Also there is the lively morning market of Talat Sao and a new night market along the Mekong River, where the best sunset views can be obtained.

–         Xaysomboune Province: Most of the attractions in the mountainous province are around the provincial capital of Anouvong such as the highest mountain of Phou Bia, the two Chao Anouvong Caves and Nam Ngum Dam II. Also visited is the house of Hmong General Vang Pao at Long Cheng District, Tad Pha Chae Lae Waterfall at Hom District and Tad Poung Waterfall at Long San District.

–         Bolikhamsay Province: With its provincial capital of Paksan, the province offers the Phabath pilgrimage site with a Buddha’s Footprint, the Phou Khao Kouay National Protected Area as well as the Nam Kading National Protected Area. There is National Road Nr.8 to Lak Xao near the Vietnamese border.

–         Khammouane Province: With its provincial capital of Thakhek and its old French colonial architecture, the province is rich with caves such as the Konglor Cave, which is more than 7,5 km long and the Hinboun River flowing through. The Great Wall and Sikhottabong Stupa near Thakhek are the remains of an old mysterious kingdom.

–         Savannakhet Province: With Kaysone Phomvihane as its provincial capital along the Mekong River, the province is home to the famous That Ing Hang Stupa with legends going back to the time of the Buddha. Road Nr.9 crosses to Phin and Xepon to the border of Lao Bao in Viet Nam, where the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail can be met. The Stone House Heun Hin and That Phon Stupa in the southern part of the province are both worth a visit. The Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge connects to Mukdahan in Thailand as part of the East-West Economic Corridor.

Last not least, the 4 Southern Provinces are the following:

–         Salavan Province: The North-South National Route No.13 stretches through the province in the west, while the Annamite Cordillera rise up to 2,000 m in the east. Tad Lo and Tad Hang Waterfall is the most popular spot for tourists to visit. The provincial capital has the Ong Keo Stone Stupa to honor Ong Keo as one of the first revolutionaries to fight against the French colonists. Handicraft weaving items from the Katou and Katang ethnic groups abound in the shops of Salavan.

–         Champasak Province: With its provincial capital of Pakse at the Xedon River, the province has the Vat Phou UNESCO world heritage site since 2001 in Champasak District along the Mekong River. Further south of Kong Island are the 4,000 islands called Siphandon. On Don Det and Don Khone, remnants of an early 20th century railway can be seen. The amazing Li Phi waterfalls and rapids are home to the endangered freshwater dolphins. The Cambodian border is nearby.

–         Sekong Province: With its provincial capital of Lamam and the Lak Mouang Park symbolizing the culture and lifestyle of various ethnic groups, the province is best known for the vast Bolaven Plateau and its coffee plantations. Tad Faek is the most beautiful waterfall in Sekong on the way to Attapeu and many restaurants offer local food and Lao Beer.

–         Attapeu Province: With its provincial capital of Samakkhixay, the valley is surrounded by mountains. The Tad Sae Pha waterfall is situated in the Xe Pian National Protected Area, while the sacred Nong Fa Lake is far in Sanxay District. The Brao are the dominant ethnic group. The Xaisettha Stupa west of the capital was built in 1577 and is associated with the lost King Xaysetthathirat. There is the new border of Phou Keua/Bo-y between Laos and Viet Nam in the east of the province to Vietnam.

Transportation in Laos is becoming easier and getting more and more convenient each year following major road and airport upgrades. Actually, there are five international airports with Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, Luang Prabang International Airport, Pakse International Airport, Savannakhet International Airport and Attapeu International Airport. Direct flights to Luang Prabang are available now from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ha Noi and Seoul, others will follow soon.

The only train in Laos operates daily between Thanaleng Station in Vientiane near the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge to Nongkhai in Thailand and further to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. River boat tours in Laos are very popular and are mainly operated by Luang Say Mekong Cruises.

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