- THE LAND OF A MILLION ELEPHANTS
seems to be a more quiet country than the neighbouring countries -
Vietnam and Cambodia. However, things have changed. Laos is now becoming
one of the major, largely unknown areas of the world for travelers
to exotic places. For the travelers who look, there are treasures
at every turning in Laos, from the many beautiful wats that have already
been declared national treasures to the forgotten little decade-old
fire hydrants on street corners in Vientiane. French colonial architecture
is another highly appealing feature of the country, only Phnom Penh
perhaps rivals Vientiane for the concentration of colonial style architecture.
Sight-seeing around town is thought-provoking with the many temples
and monuments steeped in age-old history. Pay a visit to some temples
and enjoy the peace and tranquillity that they offer. Stroll through
the city streets at night and enjoy the heady smells, sights and sounds
of balmy magic. Laos is also known for its beautiful silver goods
and fascinating textiles which are so much a part of the culture of
its people. You never know what treasures a tiny shop down a back
street will offer, so be adventurous and explore. Of course, Laos,
contemporarily known as Asia's hidden little gem, has more surprises
for the tourists and it is awaiting to be discovered in here.
The capital of Laos, located on the bank of Mekong river, is a charming
city brimming with ancient temples, beautiful gardens and fascinating
museums. Places of particular interest here are Wat Prakeo, National
Museum and Wat That Luang as well as Wat Sisaket and the Central Market.
The influence of the French can be seen most prominently in the architecture
and cuisine of Vientiane. The sidewalks are wide-open and usually
shaded by decade-old trees. As in most of the tropics, this town puts
a unique spell on the visitor. It is perhaps the sight of gracious
old French colonial buildings, or the croissants and coffee by the
sidewalk in China Street - it must be the cheeky grins that the girls
on motorcycles give you as they skim alarmingly close. Visitors can
walk to Vientiane's pagodas from their hotels, Laotians will smile
at the walkers and usually say sa-bai-di ("hello"), and
it is just a sheer joy to feel safe and secure while stretching the
leg muscles. Vientiane is a destination for those who want to look
and also be part of what they are seeing.
Only a 45-minute flight north of Vientiane, Luang Prabang, being called
isolated splendor, is nestled serenely, virtually untouched by time
in a steep valley at the joining of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers.
The royal capital of the Kingdom of Lane Xang (meaning "a million
elephants" in Laotian) was once situated here. Luang Prabang
had long been the centre of culture and religion for the Lao, and
also situated the former seat of the government and location of the
Royal Palace, which is now a museum. Millenniums are reflected in
the wooden houses, century-old temples and simple serenity. Laos,
for the travelers, usually begins and ends in Vientiane, but once
coming here to Luang Prabang, you will find there is much more to
this country than the capital city.