- Luang Prabang,
In beautiful, landlocked Laos friendly people, a deeply spiritual culture and beautiful scenery abound. This journey is our perfect introduction to the ‘Kingdom of a Million elephants’ and the ideal add-on to any of our Vietnam or Cambodia journeys. For further information, please visit our website: www.discovermekong.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org DISCOVER MEKONG Address: 99 Ba Trieu str., Hai Ba Trung dist., Hanoi, Vietnam Tel: +84-4 3943 9211 Fax: +84-4 3943 9209 Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.discovermekong.com Discover Mekong is managed by HG TRAVEL
Lao Plaza Hotel, Laos
Tel: 856 21 218 800
One of the country's newest and largest hotels, the Lao Plaza offers 142 rooms, including executive and presidential suites. If you've been backpacking in the jungle and are desperate for some Western-style luxury, this is the place. Rooms have all modern conveniences, including satellite TV and Wi-Fi, and with food, shopping, and entertainment on hand, you scarcely need to leave this air-conditioned haven. Dine at either of the two restaurants (one is a 24-hour deli-bakery serving superlative pastries), purchase silk or antiques in the hotel's shops, and then take a stroll down to the nearby Mekong River.
Maison Souvannaphoum, Laos
Luang Prabang, Laos
Tel: 856 71 254 609
This property has it all: Location, history, and style. A five-minute stroll south of the old town, the former compound of Prince Souvannaphouma now holds a sumptuous 24-room boutique hotel. Four large, bathtub-equipped suites occupy the old royal residence; rooms in the 20-unit Garden Wing bear Indo-chic touches such as silk pillows and hand-loomed fabrics, but the pebble-paved rain showers are a bit cramped. The quietest chambers, rooms 101105, are at the end of the Garden Wing and look out onto serene grounds. There is a swimming pool and Angsana Spa's four outdoor tents to work out the kinks, though traffic on nearby Chao Fa Ngum Road can be a buzzkill. The in-house restaurant, Elephant Blanc, offers Western and Lao dishes, including several old royal recipes resurrected by executive chef Vanhxay Picknock.
3 Nagas, Laos
Luang Prabang, Laos
Tel: 856 71 253 888
The restored 1957 Mercedes sedan that picks you up at the airport only hints at the colonial grandeur awaiting you at 3 Nagas. Expect four-poster beds draped in mosquito netting in the hotel's 15 rooms, which occupy a pair of century-old mansions just a few minutes' walk south of Wat Xieng Thong. Once home to a royal courtier, the newer (1903) building holding rooms 8–15 is quieter, and has views of the auberge's private garden and the Nam Khan River, a Mekong tributary. All of the Wi-Fi–equipped quarters average at least 450 square feet, with vaulted ceilings and Indochine flair. Handmade soaps and shampoos are another nice touch, but the bathrooms need a good renovation.
See + Do
Vientiane is a sleepy town, though hectic by comparison with the rest of tranquil Laos. Noodle shops, gilded temples, and rice paddies are interspersed with French colonial buildings (Laos became a French colony in 1893 and only gained independence in 1954). Unsurprisingly in a country where 60 percent of the population are practicing Buddhists, most of the sights here are religious buildings: the monastery, Wat Sisaket, with over 6,800 Buddha images; Wat Simuang, the city's most popular temple and monastery; and That Louang, Laos' most important religious building, best seen at sundown when the light reflects off its golden surface.
See + Do
Luang Prabang, Laos
The former royal capital of Laos, lovely Luang Prabang has an air of faded grandeur, with French colonial buildings jostling ancient red-roofed Theravada Buddhist temples and stupas with gold spires beneath Mount Phousi. A narrow, mile-long peninsula between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers holds the historic district, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Considered the best preserved city in Southeast Asia, it's packed with gracious homes, shophouses, and temples, including gorgeous 16th-century Wat Xiang Thong. Inside the temple, gold-stenciled wooden pillars support a ceiling decorated with dharma wheels. Outside, the layered roofs swoop almost to ground level, while the rear wall gleams with a masterful Tree of Life mosaic. Every dawn, hundreds of monks gather at Wat Xiang Thong and other temples for tak bat, a 6 am walk through the misted streets to gather alms.
Another highlight is the former Royal Palace. Built in 1904 and now a national museum, it displays antique howdahs, lacquered manuscript boxes—and a bit of moon rock collected by Apollo 17 (a gift from President Nixon). The museum's prized possession is the Pra Bang, the town's eponymous standing Buddha image, reckoned to be 90 percent gold and revered as a source of spiritual protection for Laos. Exhibits at a new cultural museum, the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, document the country's rich ethnic mosaic (856-71-253-364; www.taeclaos.org).
See + Do
Champasak and Wat Phou, Champasak, Laos
Champasak province contains Wat Phou, one of the grandest Khmer ruins outside Cambodia. Though this site doesn't measure up to Angkor Wat, the tumble-down pavilions beneath sacred Phou Kao Mountain are impressive and picturesque. The mile-long temple complex ascends a series of frangipani-lined stone staircases to a sanctuary with panoramic views of the Mekong and the Bolaven Plateau. Wat Phou rests a few miles south of the charming riverside town of Champasak, the former royal seat of a long-vanished Lao kingdom of the same name. Visit during the Wat Phou Festival, on the full moon of the third lunar month (usually early February) to enjoy elephant races and traditional music and dance.