Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Marvellous Waterfall Near Luang Prabang

It's actually a pity if you can't discover this beauty-spot. Sited nearly 29km south of Luang Prabang, Kuang Si waterfall appears splendid and fanciful like in fairy tales.


Kuang Si waterfall is considered as one of the best attractions in Laos located in the outskirts of Luang Prabang city.


Kuang Si is settled inside a nature reserve next to the Bear Rescue Center. This tier fall flows over white limestone rocks and empties into a series of gently cascading, aquamarine pools surrounded by tropical trees.


When Kuang Si became an attraction, it was reformed into a vast national park. It is well-maintained with wooden walkways and bridges in harmony with nature.


The fall originates from head-water streams and brings along an enormous volume of algae that makes the water is green all year round. The weather here is mightily cool making it a really great place to escape from the heat.


In the dry season, the fall has little water. The greatest time to explore Kuang Si is when it’s full of water and immensely majestic. The fall is devilishly fabulous and incredibly soothing. The turquoise blue pools are great places to swim, splash and jump. However, at least one is closed as being a holy site.

There is a wide selection of adventure activities for travelers in Kuang Si waterfall nature reserve, such as trekking deeply inside forest and discover nature and bathing under mighty cascades.

With trekking, travelers can follow trails and climb up to the peak where you can see the stream feeding into the falls and enjoy some natural pools non-touristy. Nevertheless, the trails are quite slippery so to ensure safety, let bring appropriate footwear.

To travel to Kuang Si waterfall, there are several ways: by tuk tuk, bus, boat, motorbike and bike, or by an easier option - booking a tour.

Tuk tuk is a great choice for a free group.

The mini-buses depart daily from Naluang Mini Bus station with two trips per day. The ticket can be booked at hotels, hostels or travel agencies.

To free travelers, you are able to hire a motorbike or bike to approach the fall. By this way, you can behold some scenic villages en route, especially be pedaling, travelers can be slow down and enjoy authentically rustic views of Laos. The roads however are hilly, beaten and rocky. If you choose cycling, you may need a good bike with gears and if it’s a hot time of year, let depart early. Also beware of the dusty and smoky roads during hot-dry season (February to April). To save energy, travelers can cycle one way and vice-versa by tuk tuk.

An unusual alternative is to hire a boat and ride down the Mekong River before catching another boat to reach the fall.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

10 Adventures in Laos

If you aren’t interested in familiar and much touristy spots like Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, let take 10 itineraries following to immerse in wild nature and enjoy peace.

1. Kayak in Si Phan Don

Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) is surely a promising spot for kayaking thanks to the calm and gentle course, majestic natural scenery and beautiful villages along the Mekong river. This bunch of islands lies on the mighty Mekong River, includes superb Khone waterfall and a chain of reef that paralyze navigation of any boats. Threatened Irrawaddy dolphins can be found at the basin of the fall. Among islands, Don Det, Don Khone and Don Khong are largest, where focus rustic rest houses perfect for an escape from noise and bustling.  


2. Discover ancient Khmer relics

If you are keen on Tomb Raider movie shot at Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia, or Indiana Jones adventure franchise, sure you will be excited when reaching Champasak province to explore vestiges of ancient Khmer temples dated the 11th to the 13th century and used to be a part of Angkor Empire. Wat Phou complex of shrines and palace isn't as large as Angkor, but it is quite deserted, silent and extremely occult with cluttered rubble, swamps, crocodiles crawl higgledy-piggledy and broken trunks. This construction was inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

3. Zipline through jungle

Zipline is definitely suited for daring travelers. At Bokeo nature reserve in northern Laos, flying over the old jungle and the valley on a 500m-high cable and it’s able to enjoy freedom among a vast, green space. This jungle also offers chances to sleep in tree-houses and observe endangered black-cheeked gibbons once in a lifetime. It is even home to many other rare species such as elephant, bear, tiger, water-buffalo and various birds. 


4. Climb karst mountains in Nong Khiaw

Climbing mountains in Nong Khiaw, the area on the bank of Ou river in the northern country, has been permitted since 2002. After defeating the craggy karst peaks, climbers can have panoramic view to primitive and tranquil landscapes of imposing mountains and streams. 

For ones adore caving, let explore Pha Tok cave located 2km from the backward but serene Nong Khiaw village. It used to be the refuse of the locals during the Indochina Wars.

rock-mountain-climbing-nong khiaw-laos

5. Row boat over a limestone cave

Tham Kong Lo cave is obviously a star in Laos travel. Situated in the heart of the wildest area in the country – Phu Hin Bin national park of Khammouane Province, this limestone cave stretches 7km, with some its parts are 91m high, and features a pure beauty of the green river and miraculous stalactites inside. It has a reputation of one of Southeast Asia’s greatest geological wonders.

A green, precious lake in the cave is deified by the natives as they suppose that the water surface reflects the skin color of Indra, a deity in Hindu culture. No one reaching Tham Kong Lo is without an incredible boat trip through this spiritual cave.


6. Trek through jungles in “the land of hundreds of waterfalls”

As the name it is, the northern Laos owns many hundreds of small and big waterfalls pouring down like white silk pieces. With a trek through Nong Khiaw jungle, travelers can stop at peaceful Nong Khiaw village adjacent waterfalls.


7. Explore Vieng Xai caves – where thousands hid from American bombs

This gigantic system of caves is one of the most important historic relics in Laos. In the war, over 2,000 people took refuge here to avoid bombards. Laotian people established sufficient infrastructure inside the cave, with bedrooms, offices, hospitals, elephant enclose, bakery, a market, a theatre, a printing press and even a bank.


8. Learn to become a mahout

Riding elephants through jungles is a diffused activities in Laos. However, it’s more impressive if you can join in a mahout course training how to control an elephant. This class is hold at elephant camps around the famous city Luang Prabang. >> See Luang Prabang adventure


9. Discover the country by bicycle

Laos is an amazing place for ones indulge in exploring new regions on two wheels. Cycling is the best way to sightsee scenery along the ways, talk with locals, and especially find out authentic things, exotic things, or less-known things that you may be hard to see if on a car or bus.


10. Trek in Phongsali and encounter exotic tribes

One of most fascinating treks in Laos is to Phongsali, the northernmost province sharing its same border with China. Sited high on a small ridge-top plateau, this destination offers breathtaking panoramic views and a cool climate that can swing from pleasantly warm to downright cold in a matter of hours. Enjoying a trek in the surrounding hills, it’s easy to encounter ethnic groups with diverse and unique cultures.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Must-See Locations in Vientiane

1. Buddha park (Xieng Khuan)

Location: Thadeua village, 25km away to the east from central Vientiane. 
There is a small fee for entering here as well as for photography.

It was constructed in 1958 by the monk Bounleua with an area of 4 ha. The park is considered as a monumental carved construction with more than 200 Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes made of cement, ancient moss imbued with color of time.


The most prominent statues comprise Indra - the king of Hindu gods riding the three-headed elephant (aka Erawan and Airavata), a four-armed deity sitting on a horse and an artistic god with 12 faces and many hands, each holding weird objects. They are all obviously impressive not only because of their enormous size but because they are full of interesting details and uncanny motifs.

There is also another outstanding sculpture resembling an enormous pumpkin. It has 3 stories representing 3 levels: Hell, Earth and Heaven. Travelers are able to get into it via an opening looking like a mouth of a demon head. Each story contains sculptures depicting its level. Climbing over staircases from hell to heaven will lead to the top, where has a vantage point to see panorama of the whole park.


2. Pha That Luang

Location: at the end of Lan Xang street
Opening time: Monday to Sunday, morning: 8h – 12h, afternoon: 13h – 16h.

This world’s cultural heritage is the symbol of this Buddhism country of thousand elephants. It is the biggest and most beautiful stupa in Laos, built from 1566 on ruins of an Indian pagoda dating back 13th century and inlaid with gold. The That Luang's main tower is embraced by 3 grand layers of wall, decorated with red-lacquered-and-gilded lotus petals and glorious small towers. Surrounding it are green-grass ground along with roofed corridors. In this stupa site, there are 2 small pagodas: Wat That Luang Neua in the north and Wat That Luang Tai in the south.

Before entering this location, travelers if wear short or short skirt will be required to borrow sarong to wrap their leg. 

3. Haw Phra Kaew 

Location: Setthathirath road

This temple is famous for precious sculpture works, as the most second well-known pagoda in Vientiane only behind Pha That Luang. It was constructed from the 17th to the 18th century by the King Setthathirath when he moved capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. Now this site has still saved lots of valued document involving Buddhism. Therefore, it is considered as the national precious thing.


 Although Haw Phra Kaew is called as “pagoda”, no monk has ever stayed in it yet. It is surrounded by sophisticated bronze Buddha images.

4. Patuxai triumphal arches 

Location: At the end of Lang Xang Avenue in the heart of Vientiane

Patuxai (means: Victory Gate) is the victory symbol of Laotian people. Formerly, it was called as Anousavary (means: memory) and built since 1958. Architecture of the triumphal arches’ bottom and outside was modelled on Arc De Triomphe (Paris, France), but its top and inside showed Laos’ typical architectural features and embossment. From the Patuxai’s highest story, it is easy to observe peaceful rhythm of life of residents in Vientiane capital.


5. COPE Visitor centre

Location: Khouvient street

Laos country has a grievous past because of war; and to learn about that terrible history, travelers should come to COPE Visitor center. Between 1964 and 1973, the American army dropped more than 260 million bombs down to Laos, made it become the top country in the world that incurred the most severe consequences of war. About 30% of these bombs remain unexploded that killed and injured 20,000 people so far. Reaching COPE center, you will feature the history that the Lao underwent. The money donated here has been used to make artificial limbs for victims affected by bombs and mines.

Adventures to Vientiane:

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 colorful & 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