Friday, May 15, 2015

Explore Laos by 17 Great Experiences

Foot in the country of thousands elephants, travelers will have opportunities to enjoy yummy cuisine and explore hot destinations like Angkor Wat, Plain of Jars…
Here are 17 remarkable experiences travelers should try as reaching Laos.

1. Boat on Mekong river
Mekong river flows throughout Laos, the sole country in Southeast Asia does not have coastline. The river not only supplies water but also rich aquatic products for the country. In Laos, nothing is more interesting than a boat trip on Mekong river to admire glorious sunset scenery down this mighty stream.

2. Discover Phongsali
Phongsali is the northernmost province of Laos. Just because it has not been affected by tourism or commercial activities, travelers can satisfactorily discover untouched beauty of the locals as well as the forests here. 

With a Phongsali trekking tour, the trip will be more striking.

Discover Phongsali
Ahka woman in Banyo market - Phongsali 

3. Explore Xieng Khouang
Plain of Jars (belongs to Phonsavan & Xieng Khouang province, Laos) has thousands of ancient stone jars lying scattered along paddy fields of Xieng Khouang plateau. Archaeologists supposed that this was the vestige of an ancient civilization. However, many mysteries remain unclear.

4. Admire waterfalls in Bolaven plateau
Bolaven plateau is in Champasak province of southern Laos. It is located in an ancient volcano that erupted millions of years ago. This is the land of numerous beautiful waterfalls hidden in deep jungles. The falls are highly imposing, spreading widely and having many floors and layers with alluvium currents flowing extremely intensely in the flood season. Adjacent the falls, there are the forests of century-old trees still kept intact, which are splendid locations for rest.

Among waterfalls. Tad Fane twin-fall is the most bizarre. By trekking in Dong Hua Sao, travelers will be admired it.

5. Reveal ancient capital Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is located in northern Laos, which used to be the capital of Laos Kingdom. It was recognized as a Cultural Heritage of the World by UNESCO. Not only a Buddhism center, Luang Prabang is also an incredible city where has a lot of relax and entertainment places. In this city, travelers can take funny trekking trips to Pha Don Golden Mountain, Pha Thueang or Pak Ou.

6. Enjoy Laotian cuisine
As a nation in Southeast Asia, the typical feature in Laotian cuisine is using a lot of spices. Travelers can enjoy various delicious dishes. Don't miss the excellent BeerLao. 

7. Backpack to Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng became a very familiar place name to many backpackers whenever mentioning Laos. This destination is absolutely appropriate for adventures thanks to its plenty of limestone-mountains and caves. Don't forget the name Tham Phu Kham, the best stunning cave in Vang Vieng.

8. Walk through jungles
Laos, the country is covered with many dense forests, is an ideal destination for adventurers who love crossing over jungles to challenge themselves. Also by overcoming long hard trails in jungles, travelers can explore remote and secluded hamlets as well as unique customs.

9. Downstream Nam Ou river
Apart from Mekong, Nam Ou is also the most important river in Laos. The head-water of Nam Ou starts from Phongsaly, running over the areas having the best breathtaking scenery in the country such as Pak Ou cave.

Nam Ou river

10. Shopping in Shavannakhet
Shavannakhet is well-known for masses of stores which are old French in style. This city is truly a wonderful destination for shopaholics.

11. Contemplate sunset in That Luang
That Luang is one of the most significant religious constructions in Laos. The finest time to sightsee That Luang is sundown as final sunbeams of a day shine in the sharp tops of the towers and make them have a magnificent yellow.

12. Relax in Si Phan Don
Si Phan Don in Laotian means 4000 islands. It belongs to Champasak province of southern Laos, lying very closely to the border with Cambodia. This region focuses a lot of fishing villages, which are peaceful places really relevant for travelers to relax.

13. Reach Wat Phou
Wat Phou or Mountain Temple is a heritage ensemble of Khmer shrines in southern Laos. This antique relic includes many temples and old pagodas which has the date from 6th century to 12th century.
Wat Phou - Laos

14. Steam-bath and massage
In Laos, the traditional massage accompanying steam-bath is the best therapy to soothe body after a long journey of trekking through jungles or tough walking to discover. The mixtures of vegetation or tea in steam-bath rooms is just the successful secret of this therapy. 

15. Visit Wat Xeng Thong pagoda
Located in the confluence of Nam Khan river and Mekong river, Wat Xeng Thong is one of the oldest and most substantial pagoda in Luang Prabang city.

16. Learn about embroidering and weaving arts
Reaching Laos, travelers will be extremely enjoyable to contemplate handmade embroidering and weaving products of craftsmen. Every tribe also has their own characteristic features shown on each their craft product that makes them become many small and lovely souvenirs.

17. Relax in Nong Khiaw
Located in the middle stream of Nam Ou river, Nong Khiaw is a great place for travelers to rest, sleep on a hammock or row kayak to reveal surrounding areas.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Live Slowly in Si Phan Don

On adventures in Laos to untouched areas, Si Phan Don is considered as a peaceful destination to escape from city’s noise and busy life. 

As a countryside area, Si Phan Don reveals with idyllic scenery of red soil paths, rustling green bamboo ramparts, and children back to home from school loquacious on small lanes beside Mekong river. The river has its widest part of nearly 14 km in just this area along with thousands of diverse-shaped-river-islets. From Pakse to Si Phan Don, it takes 2 hours by car to reach the river side.

travel to Si Phan Done - Laos

Si Phan Don in Laotian means “4000 islands”, half of these thousands of islands are submerged on the flood season. Two islands of Don Det and Don Khon are connected each other by an old bridge which was constructed since French colonial period. Today, the bridge is just only for walking, biking, and sometimes motorcycling.

cycling on Don Det - Don Khon bridge

Travelers may be overwhelmed before the entire water space. Water is everywhere. Charming beauty of the green river is more lyrical as sunset goes down, the time that stocks’ wings appear intermittently somewhere then wedge into low groves.

So wonderful to enjoy peaceful and graceful scenes of late afternoon. The air is cool by agreeable fragrance of wild flowers and fresh grass. Some buffaloes saunter on tiny islands and leisurely graze. It is easy to hear sound of beating clothes into water and rinsing from corners of the dam. Children play and wade in cool water with plashing noise. The islands is oddly overran by dogs and cats roaming everywhere. They are friendly, sweet and mostly clean.

In Don Khon, there is only a rough soil trail throughout from tip to tip. A number of rustic and casual stilt houses with jiggling hammocks at the front and old swings still standing at the corner of the garden. Here, it is lack of water and electricity. Electricity is usually cut from 1p.m. When night falls, mosquitoes and insects rumble. Most of the dwellings are houses in stilt with thatching roof and bamboo wall. What a great place for travelers to stay away from the modern, bustling life and immerse in an authentic life!

Si Phan Don village
The most exciting experience in Si Phan Don is pedaling around through islands and serene villages, feeling incessant winds, drifting over countless lush green paddles with scent of soil and rice filling the space, and being lost in ravishing ancient lagerstroemia forests at the end of the trail. Sometimes, cyclists can encounter thoughtful fishing-robs looking anxiously down the powerful stream, boys or girls on creaking hammocks who are dreaming gentle dreams while open books are still on their hands. Let kindly make funny conversations with the residents to get a glimpse of the local life.

In this secluded place among thousands of islet and an immense river, travelers can drop in an elegant French restaurant, a simple Italian food stall on riverside or just a noodle stall which is Laotian in style. Prices are quite reasonable.

Strolling at early morning, travelers can easily see the familiar image of this Buddha country. Monks in orange costumes walk on roads with bare foot to ask for alms.  Travelers should offer them some frugal food like indigenous people. Indulgent monks walk silently on small path then return pagodas of curved roofs nestling closely forest that overlook the mighty river. 

Boating Si Phan Don
On a small boat wriggling deliberately over islands, travelers can discover beautiful Khone Phapheng waterfall, which has many rapids and vortexes. It is the greatest fall in Southeast Asia that has made waterway traffic nearly impossible in this river section. Just Khone Phapheng fall has blocked upstream of Irrawaddy dolphins. Roaming sound of the fall pouring down is successively thunderous. Here, there is a wide sandy ground in the side of Mekong river like a beach, which is the habit of smart Irrawaddy dolphins. Therefore, it is called as “Dolphin Beach”.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Immersing in Lao Culture and Beliefs in Luang Prabang

Not crowded like Vientiane or effervescent like Vang Vieng - the backpacking heaven, Luang Prabang is the land of traditional culture and beliefs, and also an attraction for Laos trekking tours

Luang Prabang travel 1
Luang Prabang night market is sparklingly beautiful with stalls covered red roofs that display all kinds of goods for sale like clothes, jewelry, souvenirs and lanterns.

Luang Prabang travel 2
Locals sell crafts along Sisavangvong, the main walking street of this city.

Luang Prabang travel 3
Travelers come to Luang Prabang usually really like cozy dinners in restaurants which is strongly Lao cultural in style.

Luang Prabang travel 4
When morning is dawned, monks walk in long queues and gather alms on streets. That is the daily common image in Luang Prabang. 

Luang Prabang travel 5
Wat Xieng Thong is the most important temple in Luang Prabang, built in 1560s. On holidays, dignitaries often hold a procession and bath for Buddha statues in order to show their devotion to Buddhism.

Luang Prabang travel 6
Luang Prabang is the convergence of many wonderful products made by sculptors, turners, silversmiths and weavers.

Luang Prabang travel 7
Silk products are made by women of Lao ethnic minorities.

Luang Prabang travel 8
Mount Phousi is the easiest landmark for this small city of 30,000 people. Passing over a winding road and 328 steps, travelers will set foot on the summit.

Luang Prabang travel 9
Flowing through Luang Prabang, the raging river Mekong suddenly becomes peaceful. Long tail boats gently glide through limestone cliffs and terrace fields. They seem to be witnessing fishermen casting net.

Luang Prabang travel 10
Along Mekong river, travelers can explore Pak Ou caves, where store countless Buddha statues extremely impressive. These statues have accumulated over many centuries by locals and pilgrims. Hundreds of Buddha statues, which mostly made of wood, were laid on the floor and shelves on the wall of these caves.

Luang Prabang trek
Trekking in Luang Prabang is the best way to discover the life of locals and enjoy stunning scenery. Pha Don Golden mountain, Pha Thueang area, Pak Ou caves and other villages along with jungles are great destinations for trekking. 

Luang Prabang travel 11
Ban Xang Khong - a weaving village is located on the side of Mekong river, is well-known for the mulberry paper making.

Luang Prabang travel 12
Ban Chan is a pottery village having about 65 households. Here, the residents often organize a traditional festival to welcome every child born.

Luang Prabang travel 13
About 35km from central Luang Prabang, there is Kuang Si waterfall. This is not only an attraction, but also the place where indigenous people catch fish in the flood season. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

8 reasons why Laos is a lovely country!

For the past 5 days or so I have been exploring Laos, first visiting Luang Prabang followed by a trip up north to visit remote villages and see some spectacular scenery. It is been an utter joy to be back in Laos, and I have re-fallen totally head over heels in love with this amazing place. Below you will see my top 8 reasons why I love Laos! 

1: The colourful & varied markets:

2: The delicious food:

3: The lovely people:

4: The simple lifestyles & rural villages:


5: The Amazing scenery:

6: You can choose to relax or be adventurous:

7: The staggeringly beautiful ‘Wats’ and temples:

8. The beautiful plants!

There are fewer than 7 million people in Laos, and the landscape is mostly jungle covered mountains and rivers with  small villages and a few towns sprinkled across the land. Some places are difficult to get to and if you visit you will undoubtedly experience a bumpy road or two, but the country is amazing and well worth the extra bit of effort to get off the main tourist trail to explore!
Source: InsideVietnam

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Luang Prabang Trek tour.This tour takes you into forest and several villages of the most prominent ethnic groups in Northern Laos: the Khmu and Hmong. The Khmu are also called "Laos Theung" and settle at a medium altitude, the latter, sometimes called "Laos Soung", live in high regions along the mountain ridges.


  • Awesome scenery
  • Combination of jungle trails and village roads
  • Home-stay in tribal villages
  • Cruise on the mighty Mekong River

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Walking through northern Laos

Written by Stephanie Choate
The town of Luang Nam Tha in northern Laos is perched along the fringes of Nam Ha National Protected Area—2,224 square kilometers of rolling jungle-clad mountains. Many companies offer guided treks through the jungle, and though we had avoided the more popular trekking scene in Thailand, we wanted to get further into this amazingly beautiful countryside.

Mist fills the valleys of Nam Ha National Protected Area.
The three-day more challenging trek took us across about 25 kilometers of jungle. Four guides came with us and three other trekkers—two guys from England and another from Sweden.

Banmi, our exuberant 24-year-old lead guide, kept us thoroughly entertained with hilarious exclamations and questions about whether we had certain plants and animals in our countries. This was his last trek before getting married next week, and he often referred to “my darling.” Gang, one of the founders of the company, has been leading treks for 10 years, and was quick to find edible plants, hack down low-hanging branches and give beaming smiles. Kahm, one of the local villagers, was extremely curious in what we were doing and his wife, Pung, probably carried more weight slung across her forehead than anyone else. (Sidenote: I have no idea how they would spell their names, this is my best guess!)

Banmi (red jacket) and Gang (orange jacket) purchase our food at the morning market.
The trail started at Kahm’s and Pung’s Khmu village, passing shy children, countless chickens, and vibrant green rice fields before entering the forest.

Rice field
We hiked for about six hours each day, up and down hills, across fallen logs, through dense patches of vines. Throughout the three days, we caught glimpses of Nam Ha’s rolling blue-green hills through the dense jungle branches. Ignoring the foreground, the layers of faraway mountains looked remarkably like Vermont, or perhaps somewhere in the southern Appalachians. It was a bit surreal to see a small slice of home on the other side of the world.

Far from the basic hiking fare we had expected, every meal brought an elaborate spread of tasty Lao dishes, arranged across a banana leaf table. We dipped small balls of sticky rice into fried young morning glory, garlicky tomatoes, mixed vegetables infused with ginger, eggplant and chilies, and buffalo meat bought from the morning market. In particular, dinner on the second night consisted mostly of food our guides had collected as we hiked through the jungle—banana flower, young ferns, bitter eggplant, greens. Everything was delicious, and not just because we had been hiking for hours!

A stop for lunch.
After a full day’s walk on the second day, we reached camp in a small valley next to a river, and everyone enjoyed a much-needed swim. At night, we all sat by the campfire after the guides, who rose and slept with the sun, had gone to bed. The full moon crept above the forest and illuminated the camp, almost eliminating the need for a flashlight.

Early the next morning, mist filled the valley and shrouded the mountains, until the sun cleared the tallest peaks and melted it all away. Soon, the sun blazed down on us as we made our way through a more open section near the end of the trail. We followed the river, crossing it in our flip-flops again and again.

Looking back towards camp on the last day.
The trek finished at a village on banks of the wide and deep Nam Tha (meaning Green River). Our bags were ferried across while we swam— very welcome after the long, hot third day. Nearly a dozen village kids swam too, barreling down the hill and leaping into the river as recklessly as they could, with plenty of yelling.

Everyone enjoying a swim in the Nam Tha.
Aside from three leeches (me, gross), two ticks (me as well), an incident with a bare foot and a huge, fresh buffalo patty (Banmi), and some very sore legs, the trek was a definite success.

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Trek Nam Ha Forest Camps, Luang Namtha tour.This trek is entirely within the Nam Ha National Protected Area, an ASEAN Heritage Site. The 3 days trek is entirely in the forest. This is a trip for those who want a true forest experience. The villagers of a Khmu village will host us at our first forest camp deep in the forest. At the second camp Akha villagers will be your hosts. The camps, built out of bamboo and wood by the villagers themselves, are places to immerse oneself in the beauty of the jungle. Along the way, local Khmu and Akha guides will explain the forest products used by villagers for food, medicine, materials and religious ceremonies. Rise early on the third day for the sunrise and go with an Akha bird caller to learn how the Akha can call wild birds in.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Laos motorcycle diaries

Writen by Richard Waters

Reclining Buddha at monastery in Vientiane

Landlocked Laos, fortressed by mountains and dissected by the mighty Mekong River, is best travelled by road; its dramatic routes twisting sinuously through jungle, paddy fields, mountains and karst country.
Normally seen from one of the country’s wheezing buses, there is an exciting alternative for those eager to drive through Laos’ stunning panoramas. Over the last 10 years – in a voracious desire to create speedy supply routes to trade neighbours Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand – China has invested heavily in widening and sealing the Laos’ roads. This, combined with affordable satellite navigation technology, has made the country a new favourite for amateur motorcyclists. After all, wouldn’t you rather be the architect of your journey with the wind on your face, than stuck in the back of a decrepit bus beside a cage of bats?

In 1975, after the Vietnam War and parallel Laotian Civil War, the communist country slammed its doors to the outside world until 1991, meaning that Laos has had far less exposure to the West than some of its neighbours. Beyond its main cities – Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet – four-fifths of the population live off the land, including its more than 100 ethnic tribes; and the country is still thickly carpeted in forest that harbours tigers and leopards. To best explore this mysterious world, hire a speedy motorbike to tackle the rough trails and mountain roads. You can arrange to have your bags forwarded to your destination and even drop the bike off at the end to avoid doubling back on yourself.

Start your journey in the languid capital of Vientiane, where The Midnight Mapper (ask for Don Duvall) hires handheld Garmin GPS devices to help you safely find your route in the most remote of Laos’ backwaters. If you already have a device, an excellent digital GPS map is also available via sim card. Thanks to Duvall’s slavish obsession to detail – taking 10 years to map every corner of the country – the possibility of getting lost in the jungle is now nearly impossible.
Laos is a new favourite for amateur motorcyclists
Before you leave Vientiane, spend a few days soaking up its French restaurants, bakeries and spas, before heading to Jules Classic Rental, a Western-run outfit in the centre of the old town. They have well-maintained heavy-duty dirt bikes for hire and a solid reputation to match.

From Vientiane it is an easy 340km ride south on Highway 13 to the pretty colonial town of Tha Khaek. The road is generally flat, with Thailand on your right across the Mekong River and dramatic jungle rearing up like a dragon-green tsunami to the east. Given that dusk comes around 6 pm, try to travel early, before the vampish dangers of night increase your chances of colliding with an errant water buffalo. Also many Lao lack bike lights, and dogs have a suicidal leaning to sleep in the centre of the road. An hour of this nocturnal Russian roulette will fray your nerves.

In Tha Khaek, stay at the delightful Inthira Hotel, the town’s only boutique accommodation. While this former colonial outpost is pretty enough with old French houses, Chinese merchants shops and locals playing pétanque under the tropical sun, its main purpose is as a base for travellers who come to tackle the jungle-rich, three-day, 500km odyssey known as the Loop; the highlight of which is the country’s most spectacular cave, Kong Lor.

Up until now, travellers attempting the Loop had to rely on unreliable narrow-wheeled scooters to take them over demanding terrain, from passing trucks throwing up thick dust to sheer mountain roads with gravel surfaces. Not surprisingly, fatalities occurred and casualties were myriad. 

Day one of the Loop heads 140km northeast from Th Khaek toward Vietnam, surging through lush jungle and along unsealed roads past lunar landscapes of flooded valleys. From there it rears west from the logging town of Lak Sao back into Khammouane Province. Lak Sao might not be much to look at, but you will be glad of its acceptable hotels, street food and ATMs to accommodate your first night.

Motorbike crossing in Vang Vieng
The second day sees better conditioned roads as you motor 100km west to Kong Lor Village through extraordinary karst country, the triple canopy rent  by forbidding charcoal-black cliffs, visible for miles around. Amid this surreal topography are lethally tight switchbacks that snake through clouds of fluorescent butterflies and past roadside tribal folk with antique guns slung over their shoulders. It is best to overnight in Kong Lor village and see the cave early the next morning, giving yourself plenty of time to ride back to Tha Khaek before it gets dark.

Less than 1km from Kong Lor Village, your first view of Kong Lor cave is that of a dark mouth leering at you from the base of a towering limestone mountain. From its ragged teeth flows the Kong River, which you have to board a stuttering longtail boat to navigate. With its stalactites and stalagmites twisting in the church-high darkness, Kong Lor cave looks like a backdrop from a Star Trek movie. As the river flows quick and dark through the heart of the mountain, it is just you, your feeble torch and the boatman, puttering into the Stygian gloom.

The trip through the cave takes about 40 minutes, the boat emerging mole-like into the sunshine where you stop by a small ban (village) for a cold drink. The relief is short-lived, however, as you have no choice but to return back the way you came. At 7.5km long, this eerie cave is surely one of Laos’ most unforgettable experiences.

After the cave, grab some lunch before travelling the last 180km of the Loop, back to your pressed linen sheets and rain shower at the Inthira Hotel.

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Vietnam-Laos Adventures tour.Laos is the least populated of the Indochinese countries. The landscape is dominated by mountains, jungles and of course the Mekong River, which runs for 1800km along the western border of the country. A devoutly Buddhist nation, Laos has opened up to provide travellers with an opportunity to experience the diversity, tradition and natural beauty of the country. This trip offers adventurous travellers a great opportunity to discover the combined beauty of northern Vietnam and northern Laos.

Highlights :

  • Sea kayaking in Halong Bay
  • Trekking and home stay in Mai Chau and Pu Luong
  • Plain of Jars in Xieng Khoang
  • Ancient city of Luang Prabang
  • River kayaking in Luang Prabang Area 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Trekking Luang Prabang

Written by Julian and Sarah

After catching a flight to Luang Prabang we spent the first day finding an agent to trek with the following day and in the evening we headed out to the night market to scoff our faces before our trek.

Trek Luang Prabang
We set off on a bumpy and dusty road in the back of a van with two other men (Tony from Switzerland and Migon from Argintina). We also had two local guides, Nick and Tim. Two hours later we arrived at the start of our adventure! We were told to carry as much water as we could as it had to last us two days as the village we were staying in didn't have any drinking water. We squeezed as much as we could (10 litres between us) into our small rucksacks and headed off across a bridge and up a steep hill. The trek was up hill for the first two and half hours with no shade in the mid day sun!

Trek Luang Prabang
We had drank quite a lot of our water at this point and decided that we had best start rationing if it was going to last the two days. 
The start...The start...
Trekking Luang Prabang
The start...made our first stop at a Hmong village   consiting of 100 or so people. We visited the school within the village which had lots of children and only one teacher. We bought writing books and pencils at the market the previous day to give to any children we saw whilst trekking, so we donated the majority to the school. We stayed for a while helping the children and listening to them sing songs. Although our time their was short, It was one of the things we enjoyed the most. After that it was back to the trekking and 6 and half hours in total in the blazing sun we arrived at our Kamoot village,, hurray, very thirsty and absolutley knackered!

The village was very poor but the people were really friendly. We were staying with the chief of the village and his family and they made us feel very welcome in their home. We were told each family in the village had roughly eight children, babies everywhere :0). We were then shown to our room (4 of us in a bed) very cosy! We were told that we could rest untill dinner so in desperate need of a clean Local women putting us to shame.Local women putting us to shame.

Local women putting us to shame.we headed to the shower/ pots and pans washing/ animal watering and bathing area. There was a bit of a que for the hose pipe in the middle of the village. But everyone quite happily sat watching the other get naked and have a scrub down. It was eventualy our turn although Julian opted to keep his pants on I decided I didnt smell that bad after all :-) 

Trekking Luang Prabang
We played with the children in the village and then were invite in for dinner, sticky rice and soup. Lots of the kids had gathered around at this point waiting till we finished eating so we could play games and sing songs together. Julian broke into song and statrted with "Old Macdonald" whilst I followed with ''Head shoulders knees and toes'', Julian then went on to show them how to play thumb wars and a hand slapping game, we had a great night. 

The following morning we were up at 5am to the sounds of the animals and the men of the village getting ready to hunt or farm in the fields. After an early breakfast we had started the trek by 8am. We walked mainly through jungle.

We'd pretty much ran out of water after another 2 hours of walking but luckily enough we had reached the end of our trek. We had stopped for lunch at the river, where we had a cool off and caught a boat to our pick up point. An hour or so waiting for the bus we were back on the dusty road to our hostel.

Hope your well, 

Recommend Luang Prabang Trek tour by ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA:

  • Awesome scenery
  • Combination of jungle trails and village roads
  • Home-stay in tribal villages
  • Cruise on the mighty Mekong River