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Laos is another destination which has opened its doors in recent times to tourism. It is a country of only 6.5 million inhabitants and has developed fairly quickly to provide the visitor with suitable hotels and infrastructure on a Laos tour.
Vientiane, belies its title as the capital. It is unhurried and relaxed as normal day by day activity quietly proceeds. It is situated on the banks of the Mekong River and looks across at Thailand on the opposite bank.
As would be expected in this Buddhist land, there are a number of interesting temples to explore on a Laos vacation. The temple of Wat Sisaket has over 6000 images of Buddha. Don’t be surprised in Vientiane to turn the corner and find an Italian restaurant, a Swedish bakery or even a beer garden although these phenomena do not take away from the local color.
Luang Prabang, the historic former royal city, encircled by mountains, is the jewel in the crown in Laos. Here are so many architecturally interesting and different styled temples and centuries old monasteries to satisfy the most enthusiastic visitor ona Laos tour.
While in Luang Prabang, it is well worth the effort to climb the 350 steps to the top of Phou Sii Hill in the center of town to obtain an exceptional panoramic view of not only Luang Prabang but of the surrounding countryside.
One highlight here is to watch the parade of a multitude of saffron-clad monks who each morning walk the length of the main street accepting food and provisions from the locals who prove that giving is as good as receiving! Also don’t miss the exceptional night market which takes place in town where incredibly cheap merchandise such as crafts, ceramics, clothes and much more are sold by the local hill tribe peoples who come in from the nearby countryside.
Rapidly emerging from its arduous history, its still enigmatic and relatively undeveloped, with perhaps the most charming, laid back people on earth. Book one of our Laos tours today and experience it for yourself.
History of Laos
Human history is believed to have begun in Laos as early as ten thousand years ago. Archaeological digs in Huaphan and Luang Prabang have found stone tools and skulls and therefore confirm this belief. During the 4th to 8th centuries, rural settlements and communities known as “muang” or townships began to form along the Mekong River. These townships were most likely populated by people from the Ti Tribe that were driven southward from Yunnan in southern China.
By the mid-13th century, the Mongol invasion of China at the hands of Kublai Khan increased south and westerly migrations of Austro-Thai people into Laos. The middle of the 14th century saw King Fa Ngoum establish the Lan Xang Kingdom and based the capital in modern-day Luang Prabang. King Fa Ngoum was a strong warrior and between 1353-71, he managed to invade and conquer territories that included not only present day Laos, but also parts of northern and eastern Thailand.
The 16th century saw the capital of Laos moved to Vientiane during the reign of King Setthathirath as well as a Burmese occupation that lasted for seven years. Towards the end of the century there were two kingdoms in Laos, one in Luang Prabang and one in Vieng Chan. However, they were united under King Nokeo Koumane.
Laos entered into its “Golden Age” during the 17th century. Led by King Souliyavongsa, the country, which had been vastly overlooked by much of the world was quickly attracting European interests. The first to arrive were the Dutch and the East India Company. They reported that Laos was a very interesting and religious country and Vientiane was considered the most beautiful city in southeast Asia.
At the start of the 18th century, feudal lords in Laos began to challenge for the throne which led to the division of the country into three kingdoms, one in Luang Prabang, one in Vientiane and one in Champassack in 1713. This internal division meant Laos was susceptible to attacks and invasions. By the end of the century, much of Laos was under Siamese (Thai) control. War broke out in 1820 but only succeeded in all three kingdoms being ceded to the Thais. French colonial interest in Indochina peaked during this time and they came to Laos’ rescue. In 1893, the Thais relinquished control to France, making Laos a protectorate but with autonomy in local matters. Laos remained a French protectorate until the Second World War.
With France preoccupied fighting the Second World War at home, it was easy for Japan to occupy Laos. During the occupation, resistance groups formed to prevent the French from returning after the war. These groups were able to seize power in Vientiane, Savannakhet and several other towns and established a provisional government and deposed the king. However, after the war, the French began reoccupation and Laos was not granted independence until 1953. Despite this milestone, internal feuding between neutralists and communists continued for years.
When the US bombed North Vietnamese troops on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in eastern Laos in 1964, conflict between royalist Vientiane government supporters and the communist Pathet Lao population who supported Northern Vietnamese troops began. A coalition government was formed but after the fall of Saigon in 1975, most royalists fled to France. The Laos People’s Democratic Republic was established in December 1975 with the Pathet Lao taking control.
The 1980s saw Laos remain friendly with Vietnamese Communists, however a move towards a market economy resulted in a relaxation of restrictions as well as a boost in tourism.
When is the best time to visit Laos?
The small, landlocked country of Laos is best visited between October and April, when the weather's warm and dry throughout. River travel is best between November and January, when high water levels make passage easy along Laos' main waterway, the Mekong River.
Travel with Children
Laos is a safe, quiet country with a lot to explore for both adults and children. Lao people love kids. If you bring children, you will have good opportunities communicating with Lao people.