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Take in the stunning Vang Vieng landscape from a hot air balloon. IMAGE: UNSPLASH

Discover The Charm And Beauty Of Laos, From Luang Prabang To Vientiane

Laos is a close neighbour to our city state, and those who decide to fly to this highly underrated destination will be rewarded with mountainous landscape, bright green paddy fields, and stunning waterfalls. Besides, what’s better than having bragging rights about travelling to some place where (most of) your friends have never been to?

Getting around Laos

There are direct flights to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Once you’re in the country, you can choose to fly domestically or travel by bus or shuttle van to get between cities. City-hopping from one end of Laos to another? Try the new high-speed train that links Vientiane in the south right up to Kunming in China.

Luang Prabang: A UNESCO World Heritage gem

A UNESCO World Heritage site nestled amidst picturesque mountains, Luang Prabang is a town that exudes a certain aura of charm and tranquillity. Dive into the local culture by exploring sacred temples, and wake up early to catch the morning alms-giving ceremony, where monks collect offerings from the locals.

Visit temples like Wat Xieng Thong and prepare to be mind-blown by the intricate architecture. Don’t miss out on a visit to the Royal Palace Museum, the former opulent home to Laotian kings built nearly 120 years ago, which now serves as a goldmine of Laotian culture and history.

As the sun sets, climb Mount Phousi to be rewarded with panoramic views of the city and embark on a boat trip along the Mekong River to witness the captivating Kuang Si Waterfalls. When night falls, go shopping for souvenirs at the vibrant night market, while sampling delectable street food.

What to makan in Laos?

Start your day with a traditional Lao breakfast of Khao Piak Sen, a flavourful rice noodle soup, or indulge in Khao Jee, a delectable baguette filled with mouth-watering ingredients like grilled meats, pickled vegetables, and spicy sauces. For a true culinary adventure, feast on Laap, a tangy and fragrant minced meat salad, or dive into the aromatic delights of Tam Mak Houng, a zesty green papaya salad.

Don’t leave Laos without savouring a hearty bowl of Lao Khao Soi. While khao soi is also native to other Southeast Asian countries including Thailand and Myanmar, the Laotian version is characterised by its minced pork Bolognese and fermented bean paste. Complete your gastronomic exploration with a refreshing Beerlao, the country's renowned local brew. If you have some time to spare, enrol in a traditional cooking class to wow your friends back home. Culture +100.

Vang Vieng : An adrenaline fest surrounded by nature

For thrill-seekers, Vang Vieng should be on your holiday itinerary. Known for its limestone karsts, this riverside town offers adrenaline-pumping activities such as rock climbing, kayaking, and tubing along the Nam Song River.

Explore the vast cave systems, cycle through scenic landscapes, and hike to viewpoints for breath-taking panoramas. The Tham Chang Cave offers a remarkable view of the surrounding countryside. After an action-packed day, chill out at one of the many riverside bars and soak in the stunning sunset views over the river.

For an alternative way of traversing the Vang Vieng countryside, consider signing up for a hot air balloon tour. While the landscape is quite different from the world-famous Cappadocia, the aerial view of lush paddy fields and being up in the clouds is an experience like no other. Book either a sunrise or sunset tour to get the best view!

Cultural immersion in laid-back Vientiane

Tradition meets modernity in Vientiane, Laos' laid-back capital city. Marvel at the grandeur of the Pha That Luang stupa, discover the spiritual significance of the Wat Sisaket temple, and stroll along the Mekong Riverfront where tradition and contemporary influences merge (think: trendy cafes and bustling night markets).

Book a table at Tha Ngon Floating Restaurant, a favourite amongst Vientiane locals, and take home some of the capital’s famous traditional handicrafts, especially the intricately woven scarves and shirts.

Bolaven Plateau: A coffee paradise

Coffee enthusiasts and nature lovers will find the Bolaven Plateau to be heaven on Earth. This highland region is renowned for its coffee plantations, and yes, you can actually book a coffee tour. Here, you will learn about local cultivation and processing techniques, and savour the rich flavours of freshly brewed Laotian coffee. Can dabao some packs back to Singapore too.

Tad Fane or Fane Waterfall, one of several natural wonders on the Bolaven Plateau. | IMAGE: UNSPLASH

And after you’ve had your caffeine fix, plan a trek to the some of the most majestic waterfalls in this region, such as Tad Tayicseua, Tad Yuang (or Tad Gneuang), and Tad Fane – you might need to rent a motorbike to get around, but you’ll enjoy the scenic beauty as you ride through the plateau's winding roads. Book a traditional homestay and experience life in the Laos kampong, immersing yourself in the warm hospitality of the locals.

The mysterious Plain of Jars at Phonsavan

Unravel the mystery of the UNESCO-recognised Plain of Jars, an archaeological wonder that has baffled experts for centuries – legends say the enormous stone jars were created by a race of giants to store alcohol.

There are eight ancient sites open to tourists, and we recommend that you visit sites 1, 2, and 3 as these are right next to each other in Phonsavan. If you only have time for one of them, then site 1 has the best preserved jars.

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