Author: Jessica Valoise
Photo credit: Jessica Valoise
Laos, a small and landlocked country, the least densely populated in Southeast Asia, is protected from both major weather disasters and mass tourism. Here are seven good reasons to visit Laos, a land of nature that is still authentic:
1. For its natural resources
Laos is known as the “country of a million elephants”. Nowadays elephants are unfortunately endangered species, so we could rename it the “land of a million mountains”: any stretch of road offers us a breathtaking spectacle on vertiginous mountains, infinite, as high as deep.
But that’s not all! Laos is full of dense forests, lush jungles, picturesque caves, green plains and rice paddies, rivers, heavenly tropical waterfalls, and even beaches with 4000 islands … In fact, the mountains and trays cover more than 70% of the country! Perfect for enjoying many outdoor sports activities, such as trekking, hiking, biking, climbing, zip line …
2. For its cultural resources
The ancient history of Laos makes it culturally rich. Today, more than 80 different ethnic groups live together, each with their own culture, tradition and religion. As Laos is mainly rural, any trip will take you through villages of different ethnic groups, and therefore organized differently. You will even have the opportunity to share moments with them via tourist organizations, or nights, like at Captain Hook Homestay, or on Don Daeng, where La Folie Lodge will facilitate the contact with the hosts of the island.
As a result of this strong ethnic diversity, many religious festivals take place, such as Boun Ok Phansa, which marks the end of the three Buddhist Lenten moons and the end of the rainy season. Enlightened by the Full Moon, this is an opportunity to sail on the Mekong, main artery of the country: you can then observe the candles and lanterns, made from bamboo and mulberry bark paper, released in the air or small rafts made by the faithful on the mythical river carrying offerings intended to implore the protection of the Mekong spirits.
3. For its culinary delights
Little open to capitalism, you will not find large chains of fast food in Laos. Being mainly rural, the products of the earth are numerous, and it is with the inhabitant, in street-food trucks or at the market that one must eat to find the authentic, healthy, and balanced Laotian food, no sanitized for foreign visitors. The basic element is glutinous rice (Khao Nio), consumed at all meals, and even as a snack, often accompanied by bamboo. The rice soup with eggs, spices and herbs is the typical breakfast. Fresh fruit cut in front of you in salad or fruits shake are also common.
4. For its authenticity
Wishing to make Laos a destination of worldwide reputation in terms of sustainable tourism, the government has developed a control policy that includes the limitation of tourist visa to 30 days, or by the obligation of tourist agencies Luang Namtha to donate 3% of their profits to the visited villages.
Places to visit offer a rate for local and a price for foreigners (more expensive): thus, the locals have access to their territory, and the tourism, being the first source of income of the country, makes it possible to contribute to the development of the country. In general, Laos is a less economic destination than its neighboring countries, which also limits its tourism, which benefits the population ethically and equitably.
And limited tourist affluence + control on the tourist practices, also means authenticity, preservation and conservation of the place. Remaining away from mass tourism, unlike its border countries, Laos knows how to coexist with traditions and modernity, and keeps its ancestral values as sharing, living the bare necessities, hospitality.
This also allows you to enjoy peace, tranquility and privacy: you will often feel like alone in the world. In fact, the majority of tourists are from South East Asia.
5. For its tranquility
In Laos, we learn patience: we are in the land of Zen, time and people are idling, we can forget our watch. We can also forget our claims: Laos remain calm in all circumstances, get upset or raise the tone is extremely frowned upon here.
A trip to Laos is a bit like satisfying a quest for serenity and calm, and Laotian nonchalance is quickly contagious.
Respect for life and others is one of the primary values, making the country peaceful and safe. It is therefore easy to travel, whether by public bus or motorbike (besides, the Laotians are just as zen on the road).
6. For the Buddhist monks of Luang Prabang
More than half of the Laotian population practices Buddhism. In Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one will enjoy meeting young Buddhist monks open to discussion and eager to practice their English.
7. For Captain Hook
In the south of Laos, on the Bolovens plateau, there is the animist village Kok Phung Tai, where Ook has a guest house made up of two bamboo huts.
This Kalum village of 750 inhabitants survived Buddhist colonization, and still practices many ancestral traditions. Ook is the only one who has come out of his village and has been able to come back: he shares with us all the knowledge he has accumulated during his studies, that he confronts the beliefs and traditions never questioned in his village.
A rewarding visit, which turns things upside down.
While traveling to Laos, you will live a change of scenery as well as a resourcing experience in a country in full development where two centuries seem to overlap.
Author: Jessica Valoise
Photo credit: Jessica Valoise