LAOS

LAOS

LAOS

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Name: Pha That Luang
Location: Vientiane, Laos
Pha That Luang is a gold-covered large Buddhist stupa in the centre of the city of Vientiane, Laos. Since its initial establishment, the stupa has undergone several reconstructions as recently as the 1930s due to foreign invasions of the area. It is generally regarded as the most important national monument in Laos and a national symbol.

Pha That Luang according to the Lao people was originally built as a Hindu temple in the 1st century. Buddhist missionaries from the Mauryan Empire are believed to have been sent by the Emperor Ashoka, including Bury Chan or Praya Chanthabury Pasithisak and five Arahata monks who brought a holy relic of Lord Buddha to the stupa. It was rebuilt in the 13th century as a Khmer temple which fell into ruin.

In the mid-16th century, King Setthathirat relocated his capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and ordered the construction of Pha That Luang in 1566. It was rebuilt about 4 km from the centre of Vientiane at the end of Pha That Luang Road and named Pha That Luang. The bases had a length of 69 metres each and was 45 metres high, and was surrounded by 30 small Stupas.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pha_That_Luang
Name: Kuang Si Falls
Location: Luang Prabang, Laos
The Kuang Si Falls is a three levelled waterfall about 29 kilometres (18 mi) south of Luang Prabang. These waterfalls are a favourite side trip for tourists in Luang Prabang. The falls begin in shallow pools atop a steep hillside. These lead to the main fall with a 60 metres (200 ft) drop.

They are accessed via a trail to a left of the falls. The water flows into a turquoise blue pool before continuing downstream. The many cascades that result are typical of waterfalls.

The locals charge a nominal admission fee of 20,000 kip to visit the site, but it is well maintained with walkways and bridges to guide the visitor. Most of the pools are open to swimming (although at least one is closed as being a sacred site).

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuang_Si_Falls
Name: Mount Phou Si
Location: Luang Prabang, Laos
Mount Phou Si, also written Mount Phu Si, is a 100 m high hill in the centre of the old town of Luang Prabang in Laos. It lies in the heart of the old town peninsula and is bordered on one side by the Mekong River and on the other side by the Nam Khan River. The hill is a local religious site, and houses are several Buddhist shrines.

Halfway up the hill, overlooking the Nam Khan is Wat Tham Phou Si, a Buddhist temple. At the summit of the hill, overlooking the town and surrounding countryside, is Wat Chom Si, which is also a Buddhist temple and is a tourist highlight of Luang Prabang.

Entrance to Phou Si is 20,000 Kip as of July 2018.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phou_Si
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COUNTRY INFORMATION GUIDE
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FACTS:
Official Languages: Lao
Currency: Laos Kip (LAK)
Time zone: ICT (Indochina Time) (UTC+7)
Drives on the right
Calling code: +856
Local / up-to-date weather in Vientiane (and other regions): BBC global weather – click here
US GOVT TRAVEL LINKS:

For more useful information on safety & security, local laws / customs, health and more, please see the below official US travel.state.gov web link for Laos travel advice. NB: Entry requirements herein listed are for US nationals only, unless stated otherwise.

You can also find recommended information on vaccinations, malaria and other more detailed health considerations for travel to Laos, at the below official US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weblink.

BUSINESS VISITOR ACTIVITIES*:
Activities you may undertake on a business visa / as a business visitor:
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It is highly recommenced that you access the above official US travel.state.gov web link and read all safety & security information prior to making your travel arrangements / planning your trip.
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The Lao currency is the kip, demoted by the symbol”₭” (ISO code: LAK). Wikivoyage articles will use kip to denote the currency.

Kip has been newly convertible at banks in neighbouring countries since the establishment of the Lao stock market in 2011. It is possible to exchange to and from kip at Vientiane airport (opens at 09:00) and there is a Lao bank that exchanges at the Nong Khai-Vientiane land border (straight and right of the Visa on Arrival desk).

The largest note is 100,000 kip and rather uncommon (although you may get some from the ATM). Notes in common circulation are 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 kip. Withdrawing the maximum of 1,000,000 kip from an ATM could result in 20 50,000 kip notes. This makes carrying large quantities of kip quite inconvenient. Although less common than in the past, US$ will sometimes be accepted, although usually at about 5-10% less than the official rate. Thai baht may be accepted in many areas near the border, notably Vientiane. In remote places, only kip is accepted and no ATMs will be available, so plan ahead.

More touristy places and banks are also accept the euro. So if you’re from one of the euro countries, just bring some just in case. This could be cheaper than changing your euros into baht or US$ and then into kip.

There are many ATMs in Vientiane, and they have also appeared in other major cities including Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Savannakhet, Tha Khaek, Pakse and Luang Namtha. BCEL, the largest bank, accepts Visa/Cirrus and MasterCard/Maestro, but surcharges of US$1-2 often apply.

Many banks, travel agents and guest houses will allow you to take out cash from a credit card as a cash advance. This usually occurs by withdrawing the money in US$ from the card as a cash advance; the card issuer will usually charge a fee (about 3%), the Lao bank involved will charge about 3%, and then the agent providing the cash advance might or might not charge another 3%, and then the amount is converted from US$ to kip at an unfavourable rate, costing another 5% or so. Thus, these transactions are much more expensive than the typical charge for withdrawing cash from ATMs in other countries. Euros get pretty bad rates compared to US$ when exchanged in Laos, getting a cash advance in US$ and changing it to kips might actually save money compared to bringing euros with you to Laos. Expats living in Vientiane routinely get cash from ATMs in Nong Khai or Udon Thani in Thailand, where the maximum per transaction is mostly 20,000 baht, or ten times what you’ll get in Laos.

The use of ATMs and credit cards in banks is subject to computer operation, staff computer skills, power cuts, telephone network breakdowns, holidays, etc. A few visitors have been forced out of the country prematurely as they couldn’t withdraw funds to continue their travels. Always bring some cash. Changing money can be next to impossible outside major towns.

Banks give good rates, and private exchange booths are common in the major tourist areas.

BY PLANE:

State carrier Lao Airlines has a near-monopoly on domestic flights. Until 2000, their safety record was terrible, but they’ve improved considerably and managed a 13-year accident-free streak until an October 2013 crash near Pakse resulted in 49 victims, the country’s deadliest air disaster. Nevertheless, the fairly comprehensive network is by far the fastest and, relatively speaking, the safest way of reaching many parts of the country.

As of 2013, the popular Vientiane-Luang Prabang route costs about US$101 (one-way full fare for foreigners), but covers in 40 minutes what would take you at least ten to twelve hours by bus. Several planes a day. Tickets can be bought on-line or at any travel agency.

Flights to more remote destinations are flown on the Xian MA60, a Chinese copy of the Soviet An-24, and are frequently cancelled without warning if the weather is bad or not enough passengers show up.

Lao Airlines also flies 14-passenger Cessnas from Vientiane to Phongsali, Sam Neua and Sainyabuli (Xayabouly) several times a week. These airfields are all rudimentary and flights are cancelled at the drop of a hat if weather is less than perfect.

BY ROAD:

The highways in Laos have improved in the past ten years, but the fact that 80% remain unpaved is a telling statistic. Still, the main routes connecting Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet are now sealed, and the transport options on these roads include bus, minibus, and converted truck.

A good source of bus timetables, some basic town maps etc. can be found at hobomaps.com

Some common routes through Laos include:

  • Vientiane to Vang Vieng – a rather short, rather quick, rather comfortable route (less than 4 hours by VIP bus).
  • Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang – an amazing scenery through the mountains, at the cost of a long 8-hour trip full of curves.
  • Luang Prabang to Phonsavan – minibus: cramped, so arrive early to get good seats as near the front as possible; beautiful views so secure a window seat if possible.
  • Phonsavan to Sam Neua – converted pickup truck: beautiful views but lots of hills and bends, hence possible nausea
  • Sam Neua to Muang Ngoi – minivan: a 12-hour trip along a horrible road; good views and a necessary evil, but fun if you’re prepared to get a few knocks and talk to some Lao people who are, after all, in the same boat
  • Muang Ngoi to Luang Namtha – Minivan: 10-hour trip (Oudomxay); OK road, much travelled by backpackers
  • Luang Namtha to Huay Xai – road only passable in the dry season, but the same journey can be made by boat in the rainy season. China is building a new road to Thailand. The road from Luang Namtha to Huay Xai is part of this road and it is a very good road.
  • Paksan to Phonsavan – there is a new road between Borikham and Tha Thom. In Tha Thom there is a guesthouse with 8 rooms. The forest between Borikham and Tha Thom is still in a very good condition, but it’s a dirt road. Since most of the forest in Laos has gone this is one of the last roads surrounded by primary forest. There are substantial road works being undertaken by the Vietnamese between Paksan and Phonsavan and there can be some fairly long delays along the way. Even though the trip is only a couple of hundred kilometres it can take 16-20 hr to traverse this section.

Local transport (less than 20 km) in Laos consists of tuk-tuks, jumbos, and sky labs, motorised three or four wheelers. A jumbo should cost no more than 20,000 kip for short journeys of 1-5 km.

You can now also travel the entire length of the country using a fully guided “hop on hop off” bus service provided by Stray Travel. This is the only guided hop on hop off bus in Southeast Asia.

Women should be aware that often during lengthy bus or minibus trips there is no opportunity to go to the toilet during breaks, so it may be advisable to wear a wide skirt.

BY SONGTHAEW:

A songthaew (ສອງແຖວ) is a truck-based vehicle with a pair of bench seats in the back, one on either side — hence the name, which means “two rows” in Thai. In English tourist literature, they’re occasionally called “minibuses”. By far the most common type is based on a pick-up truck and has a roof and open sides. Larger types start life as small lorries, and may have windows, and an additional central bench; smaller types are converted micro-vans, with a front bench facing backwards and a rear bench facing forwards.

Songthaews are operated extensively as local buses, and generally are the most economical way to travel shorter distances. There also as taxis; sometimes the same vehicle will be used for both. Be careful if asking a songthaew to take you to someplace if there is nobody in the back, the driver might charge you the taxi price. In this case, check the price before embarking.

BY TUK-TUK:

The name tuk-tuk is used to describe a wide variety of small/lightweight vehicles. The vast majority have three wheels; some are entirely purpose-built, others are partially based on motorcycle components. A tuk-tuk organisation in Vientiane controls the prices that tourists are expected to pay for point to point destinations. The rates negotiable, and well you should clearly bargain rates prior to getting on the tuk tuk.

BY MOTORCYCLE:

Motorbike travel in Laos is not without risks but the rewards of truly independent travel are great. There are several rental shops in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse and Tha Khaek, but bike rentals in other parts of the country may be scarce. The quality of machines varies from shop to shop so you need to fully inspect it before you head out on the road. There are many good roads and many paved ones and touring Laos is done easily.

There are a variety of bikes available in Laos, depending on which town and rental shop you go to. Some available include the Honda Baja or XR 250 dual-purpose bikes, Ko Lao 110 cc and the usual Honda Win/Dream 110 ccs. Helmets are not only mandatory in the country but a valuable item in a place where traffic rules are made up by the minute. Police have been cracking down on people who do not have a motorcycle licence, so expect to pay a fine if caught without one.

BY BICYCLE:

Cycling is a great option with quiet roads. Laos offers wonderful remote areas to discover, little traveled roads, friendly people and even some companies providing cycling tours with the help of professional guides all over the country. The more time people seem to spend in Laos the more they seem to like the quiet travel mood and the opportunity to actually be in contact with the people along the way. Good maps are available about the roads in Laos and all major routes are with good roads. In normal distances you find simple guest houses and in all major towns better choices and restaurant. Food is not a problem as long as you remember to carry some stuff with you. Tropical fruits and noodle soup are the standards.

There are a number of local operators running a wide selection of guided mountain biking tours through Laos.

If you travel on your own, there are very few proper bike shops outside of Vientiane. but also for bikes with 28-inch wheels you might have a hard time. Bring your equipment with you and make sure you get contact details from a supplier, perhaps in Thailand.

BY BOAT:

Boats along the Mekong and its tributaries are useful shortcuts for the horrible roads, although as the road network improves river services are slowly drying up, and many of the remaining services only run in the wet season, when the Mekong floods and becomes more navigable. Huay Xai on the border with Thailand to Luang Prabang and travel south of Pakse are the main routes still in use.

There are so-called slow boats and speedboats – the latter being tiny lightweight craft equipped with powerful motors that literally skid across the water at high speeds.

BY SLOW BOAT:

Many people go from Chiang Khong in Thailand via the border town of Houai Xai down the Mekong to the marvelous city of Luang Prabang. The ride takes two days and is very scenic. Apart from that, it is a floating backpacker ghetto with no (good) food sold, cramped, and hot. By the second day, the novelty has worn off. Recommended to bring a good (long) read, something soft for the wooden benches and patience.

Slow boats generally stop in the village of Pakbeng for the night. Some boat packages will include accommodation, although this is usually at an inflated rate. By arranging a hotel in the town itself, it is easy to get a lower price. Most shops in Pakbeng shut down at about 22:00, so expect to get a good sleep before the second day’s boat ride. This is also a good place to stock up on supplies.

The boats have considerably improved. They now have soft used car seats, and serve pre-fab food, which is not great, but certainly sufficient.

BY SPEEDBOAT:

An attractive choice for some, with a 6-hour ride from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, as compared to the two-day trip on the slow boat, but not for the faint of heart. Expect to be crammed into a modified canoe made for 4, with 10 other people, along with all the luggage somehow packed in. Expect to sit on the floor of the canoe, as there are no seats, with your knees against your chin for the full 6 hours. Expect an incredibly loud engine inches behind your head. Expect the engine to break a few times, and stops for delays to fix it. That being said, when this ride finally ends, if you make it with no trouble, you will never be happier to get to Luang Prabang. Stories of small, overloaded speedboats sinking or hitting driftwood are common, but if you are a good swimmer, take comfort in the fact that you can see both shores throughout the entire trip. So, as you see, choosing between the slow boat and the speedboat is a hard call, based mostly upon your comfort level; would you prefer a slow unpleasant trip, or a much faster, but more dangerous unpleasant trip. Either way, the scenery along the way is gorgeous and unexploited, and Luang Prabang is an incredible city, worth a thousand of these journeys.

Though helpful in saving time, speedboats are not without danger: built to carry 8 passengers, they are often overloaded; the engine noise is well above a healthy level, which could be a serious hazard to your ears, especially if you are on the boat for a long time. It also causes considerable noise pollution, scaring wildlife and spoiling the peaceful river life. Fatalities resulting from capsize due to incautious maneuvering, or hitting floating logs or hidden rocks, have been reported but some claim and are exaggerated by competing slow boat owners. However, the vast majority of speedboat users have no serious problems. If you are taller than the average Laotian are a bit claustrophobic and/or have inflexible leg muscles you are guaranteed an extremely uncomfortable experience for several endless hours.

Suggestions for those who decide to take the risk:

  • get one of the front seats as they allow you to stretch your legs and are far from the noisy motor
  • wear helmets and life jackets; reconsider your journey if these are not provided
  • bring a coat in the cold season, the strong wind can make you feel cold even at temperatures of 25 °C.
  • bring earplugs
  • protect water-sensitive equipment as you might get wet.

EAT:

Lao food is very similar to that eaten in the northeastern Isaan region of Thailand: very spicy, more often bitter than sweet, and using lots of fresh herbs and vegetables served raw. Some of the raw vegetables can be used to cool your mouth when the chilis are overwhelming.

Rice is the staple carbohydrate. The standard kind is sticky rice (ເຂົ້າໜຽວkhao niaow), eaten by hand from small baskets called tip khao. Using your right hand, never your left, pinch off a bit, roll into a ball, dip and munch away.

The national dish is laap (ລາບ, also larb), a “salad” of minced meat mixed with herbs, spices, lime juice and, more often than not, blistering amounts of chili. Unlike Thai larb, the Lao version can use raw meat (dip) instead of cooked meat (suk), and if prepared with seafood makes a tasty, if spicy, carpaccio.

Another Lao invention is tam maak hung (ຕໍາຫມາກຫຸ່ງ), the spicy green papaya salad known as som tam in Thailand, but which the Lao like to dress with fermented crab (ປູດອງ pudem) and a chunky, intense fish sauce called pa daek (ປາແດກ), resulting in a stronger flavour than the milder, sweeter Thai style. Other popular dishes include ping kai, spicy grilled chicken, and mok pa, fish steamed in a banana leaf.

Laos also boasts a range of local desserts. Kanom kok is a small, spherical pudding made from coconut milk, tapioca and ground rice. Sang kaya mayru is a pumpkin filled with a sweet custard and then steamed. The pumpkin itself is also sweet, and the resulting mixture can be quite delicious. Sticky rice with mango or durian is also a popular snack.

In addition to purely Lao food, culinary imports from other countries are common. Khao jii pat-te, French baguettes stuffed with pâté, and foe (pho) noodles from China are both ubiquitous snacks particularly popular at breakfast. Foe can refer to thin rice noodles (Vietnamese pho), and to the wide flat noodles that would be called guay tiow in Thailand.

DRINK:

The national drink of Laos is the ubiquitous and tasty Beerlao, made with Laotian jasmine rice and one of the few Lao exports. It maintains an almost mythical status among travellers and beer aficionados. The yellow logo with its tiger-head silhouette can be seen everywhere, and a large 640 ml bottle shouldn’t cost more than 10,000 to 15,000 kip in restaurants. It’s available in three versions: original (5%), dark (6.5%) and light (2.9%). The brewery claims they have 99% market share.

Rice spirit, known as lao-lao, is everywhere and at less than US$0.30 per 750 ml bottle is the cheapest way to get drunk. Beware, as quality and distilling standards vary wildly.

Lao coffee (kaafeh) is recognised to be of very high quality. It’s grown on the Bolaven Plateau in the south; the best brand is Lao Mountain Coffee. Unlike Thai coffees, Lao coffee is not flavoured with ground tamarind seed. To make sure you aren’t fed overpriced Nescafé instead, be sure to ask for kaafeh thung. By default in lower end establishments, kaafeh lao comes with sugar and condensed milk; black coffee is kaafeh dam, coffee with milk (but often non-dairy creamer) is kaafeh nom.

There is not much nightlife outside of Vientiane and Vang Vieng. To have a beer in some places, simply visit a restaurant. However, some areas may be so laid-back that they will expect you to keep track of what you have drunk, with the odd guest house asking how much you have drunk during your stay upon check out.

Accommodation options outside the Mekong Valley’s main tourist spots are limited to basic hotels and guesthouses, but there are many budget and mid-priced hotels and guesthouses and quite a few fancy hotels in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Pakse has the Champasak Palace.

Typical Lao dresses in cheap machine-made fabric can be made to order. Expect to pay around US$5 for the fabric and US$2 for labour. Handmade Lao silk is one of the most attractive things to buy. The talat sao (Morning Market) in Vientiane has dozens of small shops selling 100% handmade silk scarves or wall hangings from US$5 upwards depending on quality, intricacy of design and size. Beware cheap synthetic fabrics sold as silk imported from China and Vietnam. Be careful also of “antique silk” as there is very little available, but new fabric can be made to look old and worn. Still attractive, but don’t pay more than US$30-50. In markets, always bargain: it is expected, but keep smiling.

**All travel information has been sourced from wikivoyage. However like wikipedia, wikivoyage is an open platform editable by any member of the public. Therefore, although very useful, all above information IS INDICATIVE ONLY and must be verified prior to personal use. Moreover, if you wish to see more information please visit: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Laos
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PLEASE CLICK / HOVER ON THE IMAGES BELOW FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Name: Pha That Luang
Location: Vientiane, Laos
Pha That Luang is a gold-covered large Buddhist stupa in the centre of the city of Vientiane, Laos. Since its initial establishment, the stupa has undergone several reconstructions as recently as the 1930s due to foreign invasions of the area. It is generally regarded as the most important national monument in Laos and a national symbol.

Pha That Luang according to the Lao people was originally built as a Hindu temple in the 1st century. Buddhist missionaries from the Mauryan Empire are believed to have been sent by the Emperor Ashoka, including Bury Chan or Praya Chanthabury Pasithisak and five Arahata monks who brought a holy relic of Lord Buddha to the stupa. It was rebuilt in the 13th century as a Khmer temple which fell into ruin.

In the mid-16th century, King Setthathirat relocated his capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and ordered the construction of Pha That Luang in 1566. It was rebuilt about 4 km from the centre of Vientiane at the end of Pha That Luang Road and named Pha That Luang. The bases had a length of 69 metres each and was 45 metres high, and was surrounded by 30 small Stupas.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pha_That_Luang
Name: Kuang Si Falls
Location: Luang Prabang, Laos
The Kuang Si Falls is a three levelled waterfall about 29 kilometres (18 mi) south of Luang Prabang. These waterfalls are a favourite side trip for tourists in Luang Prabang. The falls begin in shallow pools atop a steep hillside. These lead to the main fall with a 60 metres (200 ft) drop.

They are accessed via a trail to a left of the falls. The water flows into a turquoise blue pool before continuing downstream. The many cascades that result are typical of waterfalls.

The locals charge a nominal admission fee of 20,000 kip to visit the site, but it is well maintained with walkways and bridges to guide the visitor. Most of the pools are open to swimming (although at least one is closed as being a sacred site).

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuang_Si_Falls
Name: Mount Phou Si
Location: Luang Prabang, Laos
Mount Phou Si, also written Mount Phu Si, is a 100 m high hill in the centre of the old town of Luang Prabang in Laos. It lies in the heart of the old town peninsula and is bordered on one side by the Mekong River and on the other side by the Nam Khan River. The hill is a local religious site, and houses are several Buddhist shrines.

Halfway up the hill, overlooking the Nam Khan is Wat Tham Phou Si, a Buddhist temple. At the summit of the hill, overlooking the town and surrounding countryside, is Wat Chom Si, which is also a Buddhist temple and is a tourist highlight of Luang Prabang.

Entrance to Phou Si is 20,000 Kip as of July 2018.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phou_Si
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Our team is dedicated to providing a consular service which focuses on attention to detail, delivering a personal approach and with a high focus on compliance. Feedback is very important to us, therefore any comments you provide about our service are invaluable.

Our team is dedicated to providing a consular service which focuses on attention to detail, delivering a personal approach and with a high focus on compliance. Feedback is very important to us, therefore any comments you provide about our service are invaluableI have provided some of my own personal testimonials over my years in immigration below; working and leading on very large projects...

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