Indochina’s least populated and least developed country, Laos, remains a hidden gem; a testament to a way of life untouched by time and by the fast paced development of Asia’s more powerful economies.
Whilst this idyllic country may not boast the infrastructure of her neighbours, she also lacks the sometimes frenetic pace of Thailand or Vietnam and it is this relatively unspoiled way of life which forms a large part of the attraction to this unusual destination.
It is not so much that development has passed this landlocked country by, more simply that modernity does not seem to interest the people of Laos, who are characterised by a serene and contented charm. A smile is never far from the faces of the Laotians, above all a tranquil and laid back Buddhist nation. Children will wave to you from the banks of the Mekong as you sail past, monks will wish to practice their gentle English with you and colourful hill tribe ladies will entice you to buy their wares with a grin at Luang Prabang’s night market.
This is Asia as she has been for centuries, rapidly disappearing in neighbouring countries. Along the banks of the Mekong River, there are villages which cannot be accessed by road and at sunset you will see fishermen throwing nets in the traditional style, hoping to reel in the day’s catch. In the atmospheric Four Thousand Islands region of Southern Laos, many of the islands do not yet have electricity and in Luang Prabang, local residents still rise at dawn to give alms to the town’s many monks. It is hard to believe that modern cities such as Bangkok are only a day’s drive away.The weather in Laos falls into two main categories – the summer rainy season and the winter dry season. The dry season begins in November and lasts until April. During the winter months of November to February, Luang Prabang can range from 10 to 25 degrees Celsius during the day and cooler at night, with temperatures going up steadily from January onwards. Vientiane is in the lowlands and is therefore usually a few degrees warmer than Luang Prabang. Southern Laos has a more tropical climate, but on the highlands of the Bolaven Plateau, temperatures can be cold during December and January, especially at night. The rainy season usually begins gently in April/May and in earnest from July to September. Showers usually fall in the afternoon and can last for only an hour with the rest of the day being very pleasant. During this time, thunderstorms are also common. Laos will captivate not only those who are looking to experience a way of life completely different from our own, but also those wishing to escape the fast pace of the modern world.