Archive for the ‘Laos Travel Guides’ Category

The Soukhouane and the Lao People

The soukhouane ritual

The ritual known to the Lao as the Phithi Souane or Phithi Baci is a ritual to call back, welcome, propitiate and unite the khouane with the physical body.
It is the ubiquitous of all Lao functions and celebrations, and integral part if Lao family life. It can be held for a farewell, welcome, birth of a baby, birthdays, house warming, job promotions, harvest, new car, marriage and a New Year celebration.
The Soukhouane ritual is not a seasonal and does not follow any ‘official’ calendar of ceremonies and rites in Laos.
Although this ritual is not unique to the Lao, it has been said that is a Lao ceremony ‘par excellence’.
It contains an amalgam of the many religious and cultural traditions that have influenced Lao culture and it continues to adapt itself to political and cultural values.
The ceremony celebrates, in essence, important family occasions as well as communal events of significance and in an integral part of the life of the Lao.
It is a key element of Lao culture, being a microcosm of Lao values.

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Buddhist Racing Boat

After performing the Buddhist lent for three months, in the rainy season starting from the 1st dark moon of the eight month to the 1st dark moon of the eleventh moon, the closing ceremony is organized. Firstly, the performance of Buddhist lent activities is the responsibilities of the monks, not for the lay people.

There after, the form of the ceremony change as the villagers decide to prepare the offerings for merit making. So in the morning of the fifteen day of the eleventh month, the villagers take the offerings to the temples and listen to Buddha’s teaching while the candles ceremony, light worshipping and fire boat festivities are performed in the evening. In the next day, the 1st dark moon of the eleven month, boat racing is organized on the Mekong river.
The Buddhist Lent closing ceremony is performed in the same way as the beginning of Buddhist Lent, Boun Hokaopradabdine and Boun Khao Sark or Salark. At the festival day Buddhist villagers, dressed in new and beautiful clothes take the silver bowls or plateful of food and materials to offer the monks for merit making.
How to organize the ceremony.
The term “Watsa” means the rain or rainy season. the monks complete the practices of Buddha teachings during the period of three months in the rainy season without spending any nights in other places. On the 1st day of the dark moon of the eleventh month the closing ceremony for Buddhist Lent should be arranges.
But, in practice, it is organized in the full moon of the fifteen in the eleventh month, one day before the due date. In the Buddha’s teaching, the closing ceremony for Buddhist Lent was not decided, but Pavalana, prior notice ceremony was instead made after three months of Buddhist lent ended. So, in practice the monks made Pavalana on the evening of the full moon of the fifteen in the eleventh month.
It is one day before the real closing date.The term Pavalana  means to announce something in advance of warn or advise each other for example when the villagers say to the monks in advance that “If the monks need to have the 4 main factors such as : clothing, bedding, medicines or some things else, please advice us.” This also means Pavalana. It is to say something to do in advance. Pavalana is the task of the monks. When any monks violate the Buddhist rules, they should warn each other. The reason that the Lord of Buddha allowed the monks to give advice is that when the monks stay together during the Buddhist Lent in the same place it would a few of them might behave badly or make mistakes. After the Buddhist Lent ends, they warn or advice each other before leaving. This means “Pavalana.” To conduct the ceremony for Pavalana, the oldest monk has make a decision first. He may say three, two times of one.
Then the others say like him or saying one by one. The words are said in Pali language. It means that “To you all the monks, please listen to me today is the full moon day. It is the day to give prior notice that we have completed the Buddha practice.”After the decision is made, the oldest monk sits on his knees, joins his hands and says Pavalana in front the others in Pali language: “To you all the monks, may I notice you in advance and do not in doubt that I made mistakes or sins caused by a breach of the rules of the monastic order (Patimakkha), please warn me, to change my bad behaviour for proper behaviour acting.”
Then all the monks have to say the same words until its completion. The monks who completed the Buddhist Lent, can gain Anisong 5, merit making.

After performing the Buddhist lent for three months, in the rainy season starting from the 1st dark moon of the eight month to the 1st dark moon of the eleventh moon, the closing ceremony is organized. Firstly, the performance of Buddhist lent activities is the responsibilities of the monks, not for the lay people.There after, the form of the ceremony change as the villagers decide to prepare the offerings for merit making. So in the morning of the fifteen day of the eleventh month, the villagers take the offerings to the temples and listen to Buddha’s teaching while the candles ceremony, light worshipping and fire boat festivities are performed in the evening. In the next day, the 1st dark moon of the eleven month, boat racing is organized on the Mekong river. The Buddhist Lent closing ceremony is performed in the same way as the beginning of Buddhist Lent, Boun Hokaopradabdine and Boun Khao Sark or Salark. At the festival day Buddhist villagers, dressed in new and beautiful clothes take the silver bowls or plateful of food and materials to offer the monks for merit making.How to organize the ceremony.The term “Watsa” means the rain or rainy season. the monks complete the practices of Buddha teachings during the period of three months in the rainy season without spending any nights in other places. On the 1st day of the dark moon of the eleventh month the closing ceremony for Buddhist Lent should be arranges.But, in practice, it is organized in the full moon of the fifteen in the eleventh month, one day before the due date. In the Buddha’s teaching, the closing ceremony for Buddhist Lent was not decided, but Pavalana, prior notice ceremony was instead made after three months of Buddhist lent ended. So, in practice the monks made Pavalana on the evening of the full moon of the fifteen in the eleventh month.It is one day before the real closing date.The term Pavalana  means to announce something in advance of warn or advise each other for example when the villagers say to the monks in advance that “If the monks need to have the 4 main factors such as : clothing, bedding, medicines or some things else, please advice us.” This also means Pavalana. It is to say something to do in advance. Pavalana is the task of the monks. When any monks violate the Buddhist rules, they should warn each other. The reason that the Lord of Buddha allowed the monks to give advice is that when the monks stay together during the Buddhist Lent in the same place it would a few of them might behave badly or make mistakes. After the Buddhist Lent ends, they warn or advice each other before leaving. This means “Pavalana.” To conduct the ceremony for Pavalana, the oldest monk has make a decision first. He may say three, two times of one. Then the others say like him or saying one by one. The words are said in Pali language. It means that “To you all the monks, please listen to me today is the full moon day. It is the day to give prior notice that we have completed the Buddha practice.”After the decision is made, the oldest monk sits on his knees, joins his hands and says Pavalana in front the others in Pali language: “To you all the monks, may I notice you in advance and do not in doubt that I made mistakes or sins caused by a breach of the rules of the monastic order (Patimakkha), please warn me, to change my bad behaviour for proper behaviour acting.” Then all the monks have to say the same words until its completion. The monks who completed the Buddhist Lent, can gain Anisong 5, merit making.

Buddhist ceremony

Buddhist ceremony

Traditionally, a Buddhist ceremony which is performed every year is called Hidsipsong, tradition of 12 months, while the fourteen rules on salutation made by officials, sister-in-law, husband and wife and all Loa people are called Khongsipsi.
These above are intended to express salutation and loving kindness to the god and people. Baci is multi-purpose ceremony to express the best wishes for the important days of lives such as new babies, marriages, departures, visiting friend and others. Holy white cotton strings are tied round hands of the women with kapok, coiled hair style.
Eating :
90% of Loa people consume sticky rice. The ware kept the rice after steaming is called Tikao or kongkao and can be taken to every where. The arrangement of food is on the food big plate. The main food are Lap, Koy, Ping.
Housing :
Houses are built on stilt and have free apace underneath that roofs a triangle wind plates on each side. These are 2 types of houses; single and a double roofed how many steps on the stairs depends on the height of the house, but traditionally they made uneven numbers such as: 3 steps, 5 steps, 7 steps and 9 steps.
Ways of dressing :
Costumes depend on gender and age but regarding to the culture, Loa women dressed properly, because they are mothers of the nation in tradition, Lao women wear the silk skirts, blouses and scarves to attend important ceremonies.
Design of Lao women skirts :
1. Design with upper and lower parts.
2. Not too short and too long.
3. The upper part over the waist.
4. Lower part of skirt suitable.
5. Not too sexy.
Attending significant events, Lao women wear scarves and coiled hair styles. Lao men wear salong, big large pants or the peasant pants to attend the important ceremonies. Paekaoma is used for cleaning the body, covering the head and others.
The costumes in the previous periods : Laos is one old nation in South East Asia. This place where was called Souvannaphoum and some Lao were settled in South of China called Anachak Ai-Lao. Due to the wars Lao migrated southward and established Monarchy Nanechao.
The first king was named Sinoulo, governor of Nongsae as Chinese called Talifu town. It was capital city of Nanechao had peace for quite a long time. The first governor called Nanechao-ong. Main occupations were cultivation, animal husbandry and textile weavings. Hair style were coiled down to both sides down to the back and ear rings.
Men and women dressed same styles of pants of shirts made by textile no colour and they did not have any decoration wares.
Occupation :
Rice cultivation, animal husbandry, raising silk worms and handicrafts were main occupations additional Activities were trading, fishery, workers in the plants or officials.
Culture & Society :
Smiles, Loves liberty, no quarrels, no oppression, respect the nation, reputation and honor with their lives. Commonly Lao people are fully of love and respect others. “To visit north or south, meal can be requested, but visitors, no need to study in the hotels or pay for food”.
Sensation :
Friendship, love and peace are sit the hearts of Lao people. They hate oppressors. Our slogan said United we survive and separate, we die. We hate the conflicts and we can give excuse to others if the cases are reasonable. Lao territory is very wide.
We like literature and arts, Many poets are stories were written by our great authors namely : Phousonelane, grand father teaches grand son, lanesonephu, grandson teaches grandfather, sonelork in thangane soneluk. Phravetsanedone. Champasitonh, the 4 champa flower trees, kalaket, Tengone. Soulivong kunthung-kuntheuang and others were written in palm leaves these above poetry are our national heritage designed our ancestor hearts to give us the best loves to our nation.

Luang Prabang Transportations

1. Air
Luang Prabang AirlineThree carriers — Lao Airlines, Bangkok Airways and Vietnam Airlines — fly in and out of Luang Prabang and serve both domestic and international destinations. LPQ is the airport code and the airport itself is a tiny little affair reminiscent of simpler times.Domestically, Lao Airlines provides service to Vientiane several times daily and to Pakse three times a week.
Internationally, they fly to Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Hanoi daily and to Siem Reap almost every day.Bangkok Airways has two flights daily, only serving Bangkok. Their lounge at the airport is lovely and makes flight delays almost seem worthwhile.Vietnam Airlines serves Siem Reap and Hanoi five times a week each.
Lao Airlines:
Phamahapatsaman Rd,Luang Prabang. T: (071) 212 172; (071) 212 173
http://www.laoairlines.com
Bangkok Airways: 57/6 Sisavangvong Rd, Ban Xieng Mouane, Luang Prabang. T: (071) 253 334; (071) 253 253
http://www.bangkokair.com
Vietnam Airlines: Luang Prabang International Airport. T: (071) 213 048 http://www.vietnamairlines.com
2. Bus
Luang Prabang BusLuang Prabang has two main bus stations: one for traffic to and from the north, called Kiew Lot Sai Nuan, and one for traffic to and from the south, called Naluang.
Some buses occasionally transit through the opposite station to which you’d expect, and consequently there are some Vientiane-bound buses leaving from the northern station and buses to Luang Nam Tha departing from the southern station.
To get to and from either station catch a tuk tuk for around 10,000 kip per person, no matter how many are going. Late at night or if there are only a few passengers, the price will rise to 20,000 kip.
If you tell your driver your ultimate destination, he should know which station to get you to.Most buses leave at around their scheduled departure time and will pick up more passengers along the way. Get to the station early as buses will often be filled to capacity, and the first on gets the best seats. Leave a bag of non-valuable belongings on your seat to reserve it if you don’t want to sit there until the bus leaves.
Those buses which are arriving from one town in transit to another can arrive already full. It’s possible to get your money back on a ticket in this situation if you make it politely clear to the bus station staff that you won’t go because the bus is full, and you’ll depart the next day. It’s best to do this while the bus is still at the station.
An alternative to the public system is to go by minibus -– really a minivan -– to some of the major tourist destinations. Tickets can be booked at all travel agents and some guesthouses and internet cafes.
The journeys are much shorter by minibus than on a public bus. Daily destinations are Vang Vieng (60,000 kip, 5 hours) and Vientiane ($18, 7 hours) but others can be organised if you have a number of people going, or are prepared to pay the cost of the whole van (such as Nong Kiaow, about $50, 3 hours, seats 6-7 people).
Southern Bus Terminal T: (071) 232 066Vang Vieng (Express): departs at 08:00 and roughly hourly thereafter, costing 100,000 kip and taking 6-7 hours.
Vang Vieng (VIP): departs at 08:00 and 09:00 and costs 130,000 kip and taking 6 hours.
Vientiane (Express): departs roughly every 90 minutes from 06:30, costing 120,000 kip and taking 10 hours.
VIP (Express): departs at 08:00 and, 09:00 and costs 135,000 kip and taking 8 hours.
Xieng Khuang/Phonsavan (local): departs at 08:30, costing 100,000 kip and taking 10 hours.
Xieng Khuang/Phonsavan (VIP): departs at 08:30, costing 115,000 kip and taking 8 hours.
Northern Bus Terminal T: (071) 252 729Huay Xai (local): departs 17:30 Tue, Thu, and Sat and costs 170,000 kip, taking 14-16 hours.Huay Xai (express): departs 17:30 Mon, Wed, Fri, and Sun and costs 190,000 kip, taking 14-16 hours.
Kunming: departs around 22:00-23:00 and costs 450,000 kip, taking 28-30 hours!
Luang Nam Tha: departs at 09:00, costing 90,000 kip, taking 8-9 hours.
Mengla (VIP): departs around 22:00-23:00 and costs 160,000 kip.
Nong Kiaow: departs at 10:00 and costs 55,000 kip, taking 4 hours.
Phongsali: departs on Friday 16:30 and costs 115,000 kip, taking 14-16 hours.
Udomxai: departs at 09:00, 12:00, 16:00 and costs 70,000 kip, taking 5-6 hours.A note about the above trip times. These are estimates, based on best case scenarios. Landslides and other issues frequently cause delays — moreso in wet season.
3. Boat
Luang Prabang boatFrom Luang Prabang it is possible to go by boat to Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi, and to Huay Xai and the Thai border, via Pakbeng.The journey to Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi, a further hour upstream from Nong Kiaow and only accessible by boat, takes six to eight hours depending on the height of the river.
The journey starts with an hour or two up the Mekong, which turns into the Nam Ou, right where Pak Ou caves are, so a visit to these can be combined with the trip if organised in advance. The Nam Ou is stunning, lined with huge limestone cliffs towering straight up out of the water, small white sandy beaches, jungle forest and small villages with children playing in the water or washing nearby. Most travel agents will organise a boat to make this journey, and advertise for others to fill any empty spaces.
Boats are small and can be a little cramped, toilet stops are by the side of the river and you have to bring your own food and drink. But the scenery is beautiful and the trip is worth it. The cost for a private slow boat seating between one and six people is US$90, but through a tour company, you can get a seat on the 08:30 boat for 140,000 kip .The most common boat journey is between Luang Prabang and Huay Xai.
There are three options, with the fastest being by rocket boat. These speed boats make the distance in about six hours — approximately three hours for each leg with a brief stop in Pakbeng. The boat is very noisy and considered dangerous by many. Passengers wear helmets and life jackets. Tickets for speedboats can be bought at all travel agents and cost 370,000 kip to Huay Xai and 230,000 kip to Pakbeng only. Rocket boats leave from the pier at Ban Don, which can be reached by tuk tuk.
It takes about 15 minutes from town and should cost about 20,000 kip per person.Two kinds of slow boat make the journey to Huay Xai via Pakbeng. The more popular and cheaper option is the daily “backpacker ferry”, which leaves from the boat pier behind the Royal Museum.
Tickets can be bought from any travel agent in town, and cost 140,000 kip to Pakbeng, where onward tickets can be bought for Huay Xai. It departs daily. There is no limit to the number of tickets that are sold and it can sometimes be packed to the rafters. The designated boat for each day varies and as the boats are individually owned, the quality varies widely.The decadent option is to go by luxury slow boat with Luangsay Cruises for a two- or three-day voyage. The two-day cruise departs Luang Prabang on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays in the high season or Wednesdays and Saturdays only from May through September. Passengers stay at their own Luangsay Lodge one kilometre out of Pakbeng on their way through.
This costs US$243 to $394, depending on the season. The three-day option departs every Monday, Tuesday and Friday in the high season, and on Tuesdays and Fridays from May through September. It follows the same route with an extra overnight stop in a Khamu village and costs between $343 and $525. The cruises include all meals while on the boat and at the Lodges, accommodation in wooden bungalows with private bathroom and hot shower, an English-speaking guide, assistance crossing the Lao/Thai border and entrance to Pak Ou caves.
Late booking specials are sometimes available and can be reserved either by calling or visiting the Luangsay office in Luang Prabang via their website, or through any travel agency in Luang Prabang.However you travel, the Mekong is a beautiful river, and this is one of the best ways to travel long distances through the country. There is plenty to look at, and the journey is relaxing on the slow boats. Highly recommended.By boat from Luang Prabang to VientianeRegular passenger ferries no longer run between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. There is a speedboat service between Pak Lai in Sainyabuli province and Vientiane, but there are no regular public boats.
You have to hire the whole boat from a travel agent or at the boat landing. Speed boats cost about $160, seat six people, and take around five hours for the trip from Pak Lai to Vientiane. Slow boats take all day, seat 10-12 people and cost $200. If you can hire a boat independently, the price can be substantially cheaper.To reach Pak Lai from Luang Prabang, take a bus to Sainyabuli (5-6 hours) and then a songtheaw to Pak Lai (3 hours). Accommodation is available in both towns.
Slow Boat T: (071) 252 389Nong Kiaow: Departs at 08:30, costing 140,000 kip
Pak Ou Cave: Departs at 08:30, 10:30, costing 70,000 kip
Pakbeng: Departs at 08:30, costing 140,000 kip
Speed Boat T: (071) 212 237
Huay Xay: Departs at 08:30, costing 370,000 kip
Pakbeng: Departs at 08:30, costing 230,000 kip
Luangsay Cruises 50/4 Sakkarine Rd, Ban Wat Sene, Luang Prabang. Tel: (071) 252 553 ; Fax: (071) 252 304. Web: http://www.asian-oasis.com

What to see in Xieng Khouang

Xieng Khouhang consists of six districts Muang Khoune, Muang Phonsavanh, Muang Nong Hai, Muang Kham, Muang Mork, and Muang Phou Koud. Situated in the southernmost remote provinces of Laos, the area was part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, where troops, supplies and artillery were smuggled out of northern Vietnam and through the mountains on the eastern edge of the country, and subsequently into southern Vietnam.
While the vast majority of people reading this will be aware of the Vietnam War fought between 1963 to 1974, fewer know that a large part of the war was fought in Laos, giving the country the dubious title of being ‘the most bombed country in the world’.During the space of eleven years, the equivalent of one bomb was dropped every eight minutes.In total, two million tonnes of ordinance was dropped on Laos, more than on Germany and Japan combined during the Second World War. As a result the vast majority of sights within the province are dedicated to paying respects to the great tragedy that was inflicted on the area and its people.
The Plain Of Jars
Plain of JarsThe most distinctive and enigmatic of all of Laos attractions are the Plain Jars. Steeped in mystery, the large area extending around Phonosavan from the southwest to the northeast is littered with stone jars some as tall as 3. 25 m, how and why they got there is the subject of speculation by both locals and archeologists, although nothing has been set in stone – the general consensus is one of bewilderment.
The jars are thought to be over 2,000 years old, but again this is just speculation and with no organic materials around them it is difficult to tell. Some of the locals believe the jars were built to store rice wine, when in the 6th century the Lao-Thai hero – Khun Jeaum defeated Chao Angka.
Regardless of the story, this archeological area is an imperative piece of land in the studying of prehistoric Southeast Asia. With over 50 sites ranging from a single jar to groups of 400. A tour guide will advise on the most attractive sights and the safest routes to access them. The biggest and easiest to access of all the six sites is southwest of Phonsavan and features 250 jars that weigh between 600 kg to one tonne each.
A former visit from the Thai Crown Prince resulted in two Pavilions and restrooms being built, the site also houses a little Laos-style restaurant.
Mooing Kham
This quiet town is very pleasant, but limited in recreation and sightseeing opportunities with just a few guesthouses, a couple of restaurants (mostly specialising in noodle soup) a market and the bus stop.
The two premier attractions of Muang Kham are the hot springs and Tham Piew, a large cave that housed over 400 civilians, who were killed when a single rocket was fired into the cave during the Second Indochina War. The limestone cave floor is littered with debris from the explosion that has been identified with a plaque as happening in 1969. To reach the cave visitors must first embark on a trek through the Hmong and Thai Dam villages, before hiking through the forest to reach the caves mouth.
No memorial or monument has been erected; the blackened walls serve as a testimony to the tragedy, although some believe the cave was in fact being used as a makeshift Vietnamese hospital.
War Memorials
South of Phonosavan are two major war memorials set 1 km apart on separate hill tops. Both are set in the style of traditional Laos stupas (each containing the bones of the dead) although one is representative of the Vietnamese and the other the Laos lives lost.
Inscribed on the Lao monument is the slogan ‘The nation remembers your sacrifice’, erected in 1998 a nearby slab of granite has the names of all the soldiers lost inscribed on its surface. The Vietnamese war memorial has the inscription ‘Lao-Vietnamese solidarity and generosity forever’.
Both memorials enjoy sprawling views of the countryside and are especially attractive at sunset.
Muang Khoun
Muang KhounLocated 30 km southeast of Phonsavan. This town was once the Royal Capital and the centre of the Phuan Kingdom.
Some might describe it as a shadow of its former self and they would be quite accurate in doing so. A few French colonial buildings still remain in the town centre alongside Watt Is Phum- home to a sitting Buddha.
On the outskirts the ancient stupas tower over the city and the vistas surrounding the structures are well worth the hike. A few kilometers beyond the old capital, near the village of Ban Phai, lies a jar site; the jars are located just off an old dirt road and, unlike the jars at the three main sites, strangely enough they’re built from granite.
Muang Khan Cemetery
Unique and worth a visit just for the unusual site of mixing together Thai Dam animist tombs, Catholic headstones and Laos (Buddhist) tombs, situated east of Phonosavan.
That Foun (Old Xieng Khuang- Muang Khoun )
This Buddhist stupa is also known as That Chomsi. It measures about 30 metres and was built in 1576. The Lanna inspired structure stands tall over the town and can be entered by a cavity left by the Chinese Ho marauders, over a century ago after they looted the stupa in order to seize valuable Buddha images enshrined within.
The stupa was erected to cover ashes of Lord Buddha that were brought from India, during a time when Buddhism was proliferating in Laos. There are few if any sleeping options within this area so it is advised to take a day trip from the more populated Phonosavan.
Muang Sui
Muang SuiUsed by the Americans as a landing site for planes during the Second Indochina War, much like neighboring Muang Khoun the town has endured a gradual rebuilding process since its obliteration during the war, and is now part of the Muang Phu Kut district.
Once a quaint town housing antique Buddhist temples and provincial architecture, visitors can still bear witness to some of the temple remains, in particular War Ban Phong where monks still reside.
Tham Pa
These two limestone caves hid hundreds of small Buddha figures from the Haw invasion a few centuries ago.
Dimly lit with the help of the rigged electrical lights (switched on by the locals for a small donation) making the passageways that link one cave to another accessible. The caves persist deep into the hill side and are pretty amazing.

For more  information you can visit http://www.laotravelguides.com/

Thing to see in Vientiane

For many, Laos is the highlight of their Southeast Asia trip as it has been saved from the mass tourist trail that has led to her neighbours –Thailand and Vietnam. This relatively undeveloped nation is located between rugged mountains and the fertile low lands of the Mekong, and is touched by both European and Asian cultures. The city’s man-made structures are as distinctive as the areas of natural splendor.
Modernity has yet to infiltrate this sleepy capital, where temples and religious affiliations blend with the rural foundations of the city. The majority of the city’s sights are situated within relatively close proximity of each another due to the fact that an urban sprawl has yet to materialize within the city.
That Luang
That LuangA symbol of Laos’s nationhood and the country’s most sacred Buddhist monument, That Luang was built in the 16th century under the rule of King Setthathirat. A symbol of the main stupa appears on the country’s national seal.After being destroyed by the Thai invasion in the 19th century, the monument was later restored to its original design, with inclusion of many references to Lao culture and identity, hence its status as a symbol of the nation.Each level features different architectural designs with encoded Buddhist doctrine. The impressively gilded structure is situated about four kilometres northeast of Vientiane.
Wat Sisaket
Wat SisaketThe only temple in Vientiane to survive the sacking of the city by the Siamese in 1828, Wat Sisaket is the oldest and considered by many to be the most interesting of the Laotian temples.The interior walls of Ho Trai and the main hall feature hundreds of little niches and shelves containing a total of 6,840 Buddha images and Buddhist inscriptions from the 18th century.Over 300 hundred Buddha images varying in size and material reside on the shelves, amongst the silver and ceramic Buddhist images, most of which are from 16th -19th century Vientiane.
Wat Ho Phakeo
Wat ho PhakeoThis temple was built in 1565 as a royal chapel and repository for the celebrated statue of the Emerald Buddha, which the Laotians had seized from Northern Thailand in 1551. The statue remained in the temple until 1778, when the Thais invaded and recaptured it, taking it to Bangkok. The temple was destroyed in 1828-1829 during the Thai sacking of Vientiane; rebuilt in 1936; and restored again in 1993. Inspired by a 19th century Bangkok temple style, it is renowned throughout Southeast Asia for its intrinsic value to Buddhist art.
Patuxai
PatuxaiPatuxai (literally Victory Gate or Gate of Triumph), formerly the Anousavary or Anousavari Monument, is situated in the centre of Vientiane. Built between 1962 and 1968, the Laotians built it as a mark of respect for all those who fought in the struggle for independence from the French.Ironically, the monument bears a slight resemblance to the Arc de Triomphe, although the attention to detail and intricate design is typically Laotian, boasting four rather than two archways. The view from the top is spectacular. Built with cement that was purchased from America, with the intention of constructing a new airport, the locals sometimes refer to the monument as the ‘vertical runway’.
That Dam
That DamKnown as the ‘Black Stupa’, many locals believe this mythological structure was once inhabited by a seven-headed dragon (now dormant) that stood to protect the city from the threat of the Siamese. Another tale that does the rounds says that the gold that once graced the surface was taken when the Siamese army ransacked Vientiane back in 1828. Situated in the centre of the city, just past the US embassy, you will find one of Laos’ oldest temples.
Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan)
Buddha park24km south of Vientiane, Buddha Park is in a field near the Mekong River. The park, as its name would suggest, is littered with religious sculptures and was built in 1958 by the philosopher Bunleua Sulilat who famously combined Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, mythology and iconography.The featured gods range from Vishnu to Arjuna and many in between, all allegedly crafted by unskilled artists who followed the explicit directions of Sulilat. The pumpkin-shaped monument has three levels, each representing heaven, hell and earth.Beyond these the roof area has a superb panoramic view of the surrounding park and river.Ban HomJust 16 kilometers outside of Vientiane situated on the banks of the Mekong is the agricultural city of Ban Hom. A day trip might involve taking a wander around the preserved temples before visiting a primary school or watching a weaving demonstration, where the process of fabric making is laid bare. This day is really about getting to grips with authentic Laos culture, with everything from school presentations to observing traditional farming and fishing methods on the itinerary.
Laos National Cultural Hall
laos national culture hallBuilt by the Chinese in the 1990’s, as a gift to the Laos people, the building is not the most attractive Vientiane has known. Occasionally French cinema and Lao classical dance events are held here within the hall, although it is difficult to access information to find out exactly when. Those interested should keep an eye on the Vientiane Times.

Laos National Museum
Laos National MuseumThis French colonial building, formerly a government office block, is now used to document the struggles and the eventual overthrowing of the French and the subsequent implementation of the communist structure. The Museum Revolution is a two-storey colonial mansion, separated into different sections; each relevant to the country’s history. Departments include culture, archaeology, history and politics, with the latter two making up the majority of the display. This is an interesting way to get better acquainted with the history of Laos through the eyes of the country and visitors should keep in mind that the English translations are not that detailed but the photographs and displays are well put together and insightful all the same.

For more information about Laos, you should visit http://www.laotravelguides.com

Visa To Laos

Visa to Laos

Visas are required for all foreign visitors to Laos. A fifteen-day visa on arrival can be bought for $30 (US dollars cash only, plus one photo), but is only available to travellers entering Laos at Wattay Airport in Vientiane, Louang Phabang Airport or at the Friendship Bridge between Thailand’s Nong Khai and Vientiane. If entering Laos from Chiang Khong in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province, you can obtain fifteen-day visas through Chiang Khong guesthouses and travel agencies: processing takes 24 hours and costs the baht equivalent of $50. Thirty-day visas can also be arranged here for much the same price but take three to four days to process .

If you want to enter Laos via somewhere other than these border points, or if you want a longer visa, you will have to apply for an advance visa at a Lao embassy or a tour agency. Many visitors opt to do this while staying in Bangkok or Hanoi. In Bangkok , you can obtain thirty-day visas directly from the embassy for B750-1050, depending on nationality, plus an additional B300 “fax” charge; fifteen-day visas cost the same. You need one passport photo, and processing takes two days (or 12 hours for an extra B300). An alternative option is to go through one of the travel agents in Bangkok’s Khao San area, who charge B1200-2000 for a fifteen-day visa, and twice as much for a thirty-day visa; allow three working days for processing.

The Lao consulate in Khon Kaen in northeast Thailand can also issue visas, though fees and processing times are variable.Travellers from Vietnam can get visas for Laos at the Lao embassy in Hanoi or at the consulate in Da Nang . The embassy in Hanoi charges $25-35 for thirty-day visas, depending on nationality. In Da Nang , a thirty-day visa costs around $50 and takes two days; for an extra $13 you can get it on the spot. A seven-day transit visa costs $30 (two days), but you must exit to Thailand from Savannakhet. The Lao Embassy in Hanoi does one-month “visit visas” ($50-70; seven days). Transit visas ($25-40; four days), are only valid for five days and for one province (so not an option if you’re travelling via Cau Treo). The one-day express service costs an extra $20.Transit visas, good for only ten days and non-extendable ($25-30; allow three working days), are offered at the Lao embassy in Hanoi for travellers to Bangkok who wish to make a short stopover in Vientiane, and are also offered by the consulate in Kunming, China.

In Vientiane, you can apply for visa extensionsat the immigration office on Hatsady Road. Most travellers are charged $3 per day, but you could pay as little as $1 per day; similarly, the length of your visa extension is up to the official on duty. Officially, only the immigration office in Vientiane can issue visa extensions, but it’s always worth trying in other towns. Both airport and border immigration offices generally charge $5 per day for overstays.

Reporting in

As recently as the early 1990s, you had to get special permission to visit any province other than Vientiane, reporting to immigration on arrival in every new province and getting the required rubber stamp. This “reporting in” procedure – jaeng khao – has now been officially done away with throughout the country. However, there is no telling if and when word from above will bring new vigour to the old rubber-stamp game, so always check with other travellers. If in doubt, seek out the local immigration office, if there is one, or the police station.

Airport departure tax

When leaving Laos by air or via the Friendship Bridge, you’ll have to pay a departure tax equivalent to US$5, payable in US dollars, Thai baht or kip. At other border points, officials may levy small “fees” for arriving or departing during lunch, late in the day or at weekends