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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. 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.
This idyllic country is characterised by the serene and contented charm of its people. A smile is never far from the faces of the Laotians. 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. A holiday in Laos is the perfect add on to any Asian beach holiday.
Long renowned for its many temples and as a centre of Buddhist learning, Luang Prabang is a spiritual and utterly charming destination. The best time to witness the monks is during the dawn almsgiving rounds and to see this ancient practice in the morning mist from the Mekong River is a truly unforgettable experience.
The temple caves at Pak Ou are a beautiful place to visit. Around an hour by boat from the town of Luang Prabang, the caves have been a place of pilgrimage for local Buddhists for centuries. A collection of Buddha images of all shapes and sizes now resides in the caves and is added to yearly by Luang Prabang residents.
The Kuang Si waterfalls are close to Luang Prabang and make for a picturesque excursion and it is possible to swim there at certain times of the year, although the water can be cold! And for those interested in the untouched surrounding countryside, there are hilltribe villages to be visited.
Buddhist temples, golden stupas and museums are Vientiane’s main attractions. The important National Museum houses some beautiful artefacts and the Patuxai monument is Vientiane’s equivalent to Paris’s Arc de Triomphe. The golden temple of That Luang and the beautiful Wat Si Saket are two of the best temples to visit. The large Talaat Sao (Morning Market) is also a fascinating place to explore with a huge array of fresh produce and some colourful and noisy vendors.
Southern Laos is one of the most charming and unspoiled areas to be found in modern Asia. Stepping onto one of the picturesque islands is like stepping back in time. From Pakse, you can board a traditional rice barge, now converted into a 12 cabin vessel which sails this beautiful stretch of the Mekong. Alternatively, head off on your own steam to visit the pre-Angkorian temple of Wat Phou in Champassak.
Discover the beautiful Four Thousand Islands region. Here, the Mekong River has formed several small islets and islands, a handful of which are inhabited and even fewer of which have electricity. None of the islands have roads or vehicles and the slow pace of life is utterly charming. Using one of the simple guesthouses as your base, explore picturesque waterfalls, see crumbling colonial architecture and take a boat ride to look for the rare Irawaddy river dolphins.
North of Pakse, travellers can visit the Bolaven Plateau which is home to lovely waterfalls, ethnic minority hilltribes, coffee plantations and a large protected bio-diversity area. This is a rewarding area to explore but as with most of Southern Laos, accommodation is on the basic side.
The curved roofs of ancient temples, resident monks in saffron coloured robes and golden Buddhist stupas characterise the serene charm of Luang Prabang. With more than thirty temples in this small riverside town, there is a sense of peace and tranquillity and this is a truly captivating place to spend time. Situated at the confluence of two rivers, the Mekong and the Khan, against a backdrop of lush green mountains, Luang Prabang enjoys a magical location and the surrounding countryside also boasts waterfalls, hill tribe villages and caves.
One of the best ways to arrive into Luang Prabang is by boat, with a relaxing ride downstream along the Mekong River from the border with Thailand at Huay Xai. The slow pace of this two day journey is a fitting start to any stay in Laos, helping you to adjust to the unhurried way of life as you follow the meandering path of the Mekong. Long considered one of Luang Prabang’s finest hotels Belmond La Residence Phou Vao is luxury boutique spa hotel with the old world French colonial charm of Luang Prabang an stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside – a true Turquoise favourite.
Visit our Laos honeymoon page for full details about our honeymoon collection.
El Nido Pangulasian – Philippines
Tucked away in a secluded bay of emerald waters and dramatic limestone karsts, El Nido Pangulasian in the Philippines is simply sublime. Endless stretches of pristine beaches and a marine sanctuary beneath the waves, you will see why it has been voted as the Most Beautiful Island in the World by Condé Nast Traveller. This really is an untouched, picture perfect haven just waiting to be discovered…
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