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What would encourage anyone to travel to a landlocked country bordered by Vietnam in the northeast, China to the north, Myanmar on the northwest side and Thailand in the south? Some of the most stunning scenery and architecture! At its narrowest part, Lao is not much more than a few hundred kilometres wide. As a political and geographical divide, Lao is caught between worlds with an interesting history of its own. During the Vietnam War, Lao was in the middle with fighters from North Vietnam at their doorstep, bringing the conflict with them. It was, without a doubt a moment in time that is reflective from mistakes to power. 

I am going to take a step back in time though, to discover how Laos has become such a multicultural and diverse country with so much to keep the traveller busy. As many will know entering the country is either via the capital Vientiane or the city that was once the capital, Luang Prabang. For my journey on this occasion, I have decided to introduce you to the latter- Luang Prabang's sites, sounds and history.

Kuang Si Falls, visit Laos, travel expert.

Black bears in Kuang Si, Luang Prabang, Laos HolidaysImagine if you will, that the only sounds you can hear are those of bears snoring, of aqua blue waters flowing languidly over small rocks polished over time with the clear waters cascading from the rainforest above. A half-hour drive from the centre of town lies the Kuang Si Waterfall in a pristine well-protected nature reserve. The butterfly park and the Sae waterfalls will soon fill your day with a symphony of beauty. The Black Moon Bears have a new home in the park and I am told they are thriving since my visit. They have been rescued from poachers and human-wildlife conflict and now have the pleasure of lazing in hammocks and climbing thick logs in peace without any threats.

Elephant Sanctuary visit in Laos, by travel agent Deanne Scanlan

One of my favourite moments in Lao was on a visit to the elephant refuge and sanctuary. Laos had a history of logging that was not conducive to a healthy life for elephants. Chained and forced to haul logs, they led a life of misery. Today places like the sanctuary have given these majestic beings their life back. No longer is riding an elephant stigmatised as it once was. Sitting behind their ears while stroking the top of their head and leaning low to whisper sweet nothings to them is a joy to both the elephant and the passenger as we head to the Mekong for a bath. Some of my colleagues got rather wet while the matriarch of the group, my beautiful girl, decided that a plop was all that she needed to be happy. On our return, all were given their favourite - sugarcane, followed by a large helping of bananas. The human-wildlife conflict is a task that is being addressed each and every day. 

As we head back into the city, we still marvel at the colours and architecture of the ancient temples. One of the most majestic is Wat Haw Pha Bang in the grounds of the Royal Palace - now a museum. Here the roof lines shine golden, contrasting against a deep shade of ochre and white. Wat May is a five-tiered temple featuring intricate carvings embellished with gilded ornamentation and depictions of the reincarnations of Buddha, while the shrine Wat Thieng shows a strong influence from Cambodian art with gold celestial figures artfully inserted against a black background. The best vantage point to view the temples is that of Phousi Hill where we are able to grasp a true sense of the layout of the city, still considered to be the last true paradise in modern Asia. 

Wat Haw Pha Bang, temple in Luang Prabang, Laos, with Laos travel expert, Enticing Laos Adventures.

The french culture influence in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Founded in 1353, Luang Prabang reflects much of the French influence in many of the buildings throughout the city. The shuttered homes have been preserved as a testament to an illustrious era of French opulence and colonialism. The louvres and verandah overhangs still feature on many of the hotels. It is easy to see why Luang Prabang gained UNESCO Heritage status in 1995. You will see no fast-food chains here, only local street vendors with fruit and vegetables, some with tasty pastries and others with trinkets.  

Needing something to take home as a reminder or your journey? Then look no further than the night markets in the main street. Everything from exquisite quilting to lacquer wares and leather, hand made umbrellas and beautiful artwork to remind you of this amazing experience. 

There are many beautifully appointed hotels beginning with the 3Nagas by M Gallery. This is where I stayed on my first visit, and one not to be forgotten in a hurry. The original building on Sakkaline Road Vatnong Village is typically colonial with a blend of whitewash and deep timbers. The Khamboua House is surrounded by lush gardens with the back balconies facing the Nam Khan River. Built in 1903 and restored in 2003, you will be taken back in time as you step through the door to a haven you might otherwise only dream of. You don't have to go far for breakfast or evening dining with the double story building right next door providing sumptuous delights from morning until late evening.

The most difficult decision you will have to make is where you will stay. The old hospital was bought by the AMAN group - and named AMANTAKA. It is a sprawling property with luxury laid on from the suites and rooms to the indulgent spa. Definitely one for those loving the 'ultimate' stay. Another of my favourites is the BELLE RIVE which cradles the Mekong at her back door. The feeling there is quite evocative. Maybe you might like the BURASARI HERITAGE right on the river with wonderful views and a perfect location within an easy walk to temples and dining. The BELMOND is another 5-star hotel but a little further out of the main village, stunning nonetheless. 

Experience the morning alms in Laos, with travel agent Deanne Scanlan at Enticing Laos Adventures

I love staying in the centre of the village, especially when between 5.30 and 6.00am we witness the daily Alms procession of the saffron-robed monks. The streets are lined with people, both local villagers and tourists alike. It is one of the most mesmerising moments you will see in Asia. As they collect their daily offerings ranging from rice to packets of chips - yes monks like chips and the occasional lolly thrown in - it is the chatter from the younger ones that I found intriguing. They laugh as they walk, some even showing a little shyness yet acceptance from cameras. 

We are touring Luang Prabang again in June 2022 with new and exciting adventures down the Mekong to the Pak Ou caves and sleepy villas on the water's edge. If this sounds like you, we would love you to join us. Our tours are small, so you are amongst friends. Stay up to date with our adventures on our Facebook page Enticing LAOS adventures, or contact me for more information. 

Main Street in Luang Prabang, Holiday in Laos.

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