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Laos is the country in Southeast Asia where traditional lifestyles remain most to the fore. Isolated for decades by war, its people clung stoically to the old ways of the past – subsistence farming, religion and family – which makes a journey here very special.
This is the place to come to see monks in vivid saffron robes filing past stone-carved Buddhas and resplendently gilded temples; or to take a ride on a cronky old bicycle through rice fields ploughed and planted by hand, by villagers dressed in old-style sarongs.
Experience the heady atmosphere of the ancient riverside capital, Luang Prabang, whose exquisitely painted monasteries and temples are home to a thriving community of monks; the tree-lined boulevards of the Indochina’s most relaxed capital, Vientiane; bucolic Si Phan Don (‘Four-Thousand Island’) region, where the Mekong River flows through a tangle of tributaries; or the extraordinary Plain of Jars in Xien Khuang province, whose grassy expanses are dotted with enigmatic ancient pots.
Wherever you travel in this enchanting country, however, one thing’s guaranteed: a smiling welcome from the Laotians themselves. Laos redefines the term ‘laid-back’. The pace of life here is noticeably slower than any other country in Indochina. People rarely seem in any kind of hurry, especially when it comes to the important business of eating and meeting.
Nong Khiaw in Laos is a market village, located in the northern province of Luang Prabang. Ideal to get off-the-beaten-track and to experience the gently-paced life of the locals in rural Laos, Nong Khiaw offers stunning landscapes and activities to help you get under the skin of ‘real’ Laos.
Many who visit comment that Laos seems to be one of the most relaxed countries on earth, and many of those may have only been to northern Laos. Just when you think Laos couldn’t get any more relaxed, head south, and as if the locals are entranced by the vast plains surrounding the lower Mekong, everything moves at a snail’s pace.
This lush forested mountainous province in Northern Laos is home to many ethnic tribes still largely un-spoilt by mass tourism. Activities such as trekking, overnight tribal village stays, mountain biking and kayaking make this an ideal place in Laos for the adventurous.
The Mekong River is the lifeline of the country and situated on its banks is the capital of Vientiane. This intriguing city is full of little surprises; French colonial architecture sits next to gilded temples amidst a spread of lush green paddy fields and tree-lined avenues.