The ancient kingdom of Lane Xang (or a million elephants), is a country where taking your time makes sense. You will quickly learn the meaning of the words “bo pen yang”: “it does not matter, it does not matter, we have time …”. If you are a fan of slow-travel, this is probably the destination par excellence! This small landlocked country without access to the sea, is still very rural today. Infrastructures remain underdeveloped (no train for example) and the whole activity is organized around the Mekong River which crosses the country from north to south. Former French protectorate, Laos holds the sad record of the most bombed country during the Vietnam War (especially the north-east of the country, including the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail). In area, it represents less than half of France (236 800 km2) and has about 6.5 million inhabitants of which 85% live in rural areas. Like its neighbors (China, Vietnam, Thailand), Laos is a mosaic of ethnic groups that bear witness to the many influences and the mixing of peoples in the region. It has nearly 68 ethnic groups spread throughout the country! Still isolated, Laos is a country with strong hydroelectric and tourist potential. However, it is hard to imagine this country with legendary tranquility embarking on the frantic pace of the region’s dragons. A certain effervescence is however felt in the capital, Vientiane, so close to neighboring Thailand that is only separated by the Mekong. Calm, nature and zenitude are the main qualifiers of this small country still asleep but so natural. It will amaze of its beauties any visitor who will seek to discover it in depth. One advice is required: especially take your time!
Laos can be visited all year long, with a very hot period to April, and a cooler period in the North from December to February. As of March, the temperature is higher but bearable. The rainy season from July to October often makes the traffic difficult in the remote areas of the north of the country, but will not hinder the realization of a trip. It is however preferable to plan the treks at another time of the year.
Laos is a country where you need to have time … This is particularly true for moving! The road network is random as soon as you venture out of urban areas, especially during rainy weather. The boat turns out to be an interesting and safe transport alternative but relatively slow. The river network is well developed, operated by ferries or other cruise ships. Speedboats are much faster but are sometimes discouraged for security reasons.
There is no rail network in Laos, so forget about traveling by train! Good air coverage is available with the national company Lao Airlines, which has improved in recent years.
Entry and exit by land from Thailand to the north and south may be an attractive option depending on the travel program.
Laos has a good range of accommodation. There are standard hotels, but also charming establishments (mostly concentrated in Luang Prabang and Vientiane), and beautiful schooling in rural areas. This offer is more limited or non-existent in the small, remote villages that can be the subject of a one-night stopover during a trip. Homestay accommodation is practiced during multi-day hiking/trekking.
Vientiane, the tranquil capital
Vang Vieng, nature stage
Luang prabang, the majestic
Northern minority peoples
The sumptuous and wild south