Laos’ UNESCO-listed jewel, Luang Prabang, stretches in quiet beauty against the banks of the Mekong. Further south, its ‘little sister’ capital city, Vientiane, casts a golden silhouette over those same mighty waters as they wind onwards. Travelling through the country that created these two contrasting cities shows you the breadth of Laos’ diverse history, from elaborate temples to lingering war ordnance, which still impacts upon the daily lives of its citizens. Walk among the ancient Plain of Jars, discover adventure in Vang Vieng, and experience landlocked beach life amid the 4,000 Islands.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
The golden spire of Pha That Luang stands in the centre of Vientiane as a beacon to Buddhism; a gleaming oasis of calm. The surrounding gardens provide a peaceful place to sit and admire the highly decorative designs that surround this extraordinary building, or to simply press pause and watch the world go by. A short stroll from Pha That Luang brings you to another of Vientiane's magical monuments: the Patuxai. This Arch de Triomphe-style structure stands proudly at the centre of Patuxai Park, where illuminated musical fountains and the setting sun provide a peaceful prelude to the nearby riverside night market.
Mornings in Laos’ most famous city begin softly, as sunlight illuminates the rooftops and the dawn chorus signals the start of the day. People pass by your balcony on bikes, or pulling carts overhanging with fresh vegetables. The waft of incense drifts skywards and somebody somewhere is grinding fresh coffee. Your senses are heightened still further as you make your way to the market on Long Street. Thoughts of freshly baked baguettes, deep fried doughnuts and khao jee (sticky rice and egg) - your new favourite street foods - make your stomach rumble. Wander between the stalls relishing the friendly faces, the sweet and sour aromas, and the thrill of the unknown, before deciding which delectable dish to try first.
Sipping a cup of floral-yet-strong Laotian coffee as you watch the morning mist rise above the river is just one of the simple pleasures afforded to you in Muang La. This area, all but bereft of tourists, is somewhere to trek or cycle through forested mountain foothills and pad quietly across tiled temple floors, without worrying when might be the best time to visit. Head to a traditional village and you'll be treated to the warmest of welcomes, as well as having the opportunity to observe communities working in harmony with nature. Muang La hides some superb spa lodges where you can spend a couple of nights indulging in natural hot springs, Laotian cookery classes and five-course taster menus.