The country of Laos is located in southeast Asia and is landlocked. Its history can be traced all the way back to the Kingdom of Lan Xang or “Land of a Million Elephants”, which was a time period between the 14th to 18th century. The country has a landscape filled with dense forests and and rugged mountains, with a climate that is tropical and monsoonal. The Lao culture finds itself deeply rooted in Theravada Buddhism and this is reflected in the language, temples and artworks.
Luang Prabang is a city in north central Laos and is listed as a World Heritage Site, by UNESCO. Until 1975, it was the royal capital and the seat of the government. The city has both natural and historical sites of importance. Among the top tourist spots are the Kuang Si Falls and Pak Ou Caves. The falls can be reached by boat from Luang Prabang, and when arriving at the bottom, guests are greeted by tables and bridges. At the bottom level, visitors can enjoy swimming in the cool waters of the shallow lagoon and there is a picnic area set up for those who wish to spend the day here.
The Pac Ou Caves are located at the mouth of the Ou River. The caves are named Tham Ting (lower cave) and Tham Theung (upper cave). The caves are only accessible by boat and are noted for their impressive Buddhist sculptures that were assembled over many centuries by different people. There are hundreds of statues in various poses, such as meditating, teaching and reclining in the “nirvana” position.
Another interesting location to visit is the Haw Kham Royal Palace Museum. The structure was built in 1904, for King Sisavang Vong. This site was chosen because of its close proximity to the local harbor, which made it easier for the King to greet and receive his guests. In 1975, the palace was converted into a museum. On display are busts made in the likeness of the royal family of Laos, two large gold gilded screens, paintings, sculptures and outside in the garden is the most prized piece of all, the gold, bronze and silver gilded Phra Bang Buddha statue. The residential quarters of the King and his family have been preserved just as they were when the royals left the palace in 1975.
The Wat Xieng Thong is a Buddhist temple that was built in 1560, by King Setthathirath and today is a top attraction in Luang Prabang, a patron of Buddha who reigned from 1548 to 1571. Until 1975, the temple was reserved only for use by royalty, it was the place where coronations took place. During the 1960's, the entire temple was remodeled and redecorated, transforming it into the splendid temple it is now. The roof was replaced, the columns in front were gilded and the interior and exterior were painted a glossy black, with fine gold leaf detailing. On the back of the temple is the infamous, “tree of life”, which is a mosaic of colored glass set into a dark red background.
Laos has several hotels and resorts that are well suited to provide guests with stellar service and luxurious accommodations. The Phousi Hotel is in the center of Luang Prabang and greets guests with traditional ambiance and first class service. The hotel has a bar and a restaurant which serves some of the finest cuisine found in the city. The Settha Palace Hotel was built at the turn of the century and has recently been completely restored to its former splendor. The country of Laos is charming, has amazing mountains and stunning temples, and an inviting laid back demeanor that welcomes guests time and again.