Louang Prabang and Vientiane
Acclimatization is assured, even if the stay is of short duration. More disconcerting and noticeable than the temples and landscapes is the perpetual smile and the unshakeable calmness of these people, their simple and natural approach in facing life and its problems. To come here for a few days is to allow oneself to be lulled by a life of gentleness, not just to discover only traces of this, nor just its natural charms, crafts, gastronomy and dances, but also and above all a certain style of living at a different pace of life. And once having returned home to remember it all and retrieve those singular moments that remain so pleasing and beneficial.
Day 1: LOUANG PRABANG
Arrival late morning, reception and hotel transfer. In the afternoon a tour of the peninsula formed by the Mekong and Khan rivers, where the most remarkable temples are centered. We visit Wat Visounnarat, a replica of the original temple built in 1519, the oldest in the city; Wat Aham, residence of the first Buddhist patriarch in Laos; Wat May, former headquarters of the Chief of the Buddhist Church in Laos; Wat Sène, built in 1718, the first Temple of Luang Prabang in Thai style, with a yellow and red roof; Wat Sop, one of those rare temples done in the Xieng Khouang style. Finally, Wat Xieng Thong, one of the jewels in the crown, significant at the entrance to the city and among one of the sites classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, and considered private property to the royal family since 1975. Along the way we will be able to admire the many colonial buildings, remnants of the French era. Then a climb to the Summit of Phou Si hill in order to admire the sunset over the Mekong valley and the main street where the night market is held.
2nd Day: LOUANG PRABANG
National Museum visit in the former Royal Palace. The building itself is not fetching however the collection of artefacts given to the Crown is of interest. Then a boat trip down the Mekong River to the sacred caves of Pak Ou, at the confluence of the Nam and Mekong rivers. Here a stop over in a village at the edge of the river to see the traditional activities of the locals, especially in the production process of rice alcohol. For over 3 centuries, pilgrims have come to Pak Ou to give Buddha statues as an offering or to give thanks: There are today more than 4,000,in all forms, materials and sizes, stored well inside the cave. The caves are shallow but are at the heart of a spectacular site right in the middle of a cliff. You get there by taking stairs that are actually carved into the stone. If the first is of mainly religious interest, the second, higher up, presents some beautiful limestone formations. Returning to Luang Prabang in the afternoon to visit a village of weavers and the workshop of the grandson of the royal goldsmith, who still continues today the family tradition and makes silver coins of very high standard.
3rd Day: LOUANG PRABANG
Day off, with a guide at your disposal, to complete the visits following a program that you can put together on the spot, depending on what you have already seen and including your preferences. Among the proposed options are: a visit to the morning market, temples possibly not seen on day 1, the small museum of Traditional Arts and ethnology (TAEC), where objects of daily use can be seen, and clothing and craft products from the tribes in northern Laos. Or even to see a weaving centre just outside the city, an organization created to preserve traditional know-how while offering at the same time an opportunity for work for young women from the villages in the region. A ride on the back of an elephant departing from a camp located about 20 km from Louang Prabang. Or simply, strolling in the streets to find secondary temples, old colonial homes, souvenir shops, or even trying out one of the many spas to discover the art of the Laotian massage. At the end of the afternoon take a flight for Vientiane and checking into the hotel.
4th Day: VIANTIANE
Large market town of 600.000 inhabitants on the banks of the Mekong, Vientiane reflects, with its air of quiet insouciance, the serene character and good life of its inhabitants. Here, vegetable gardens and verdant paths go well with the few modern buildings around and with a number of temples and Buddhist monasteries. These remain, moreover, the main attractions of the city. Visit to Wat Simuang, one of the most popular temples of the city: according to legend, it brings happiness and fulfills the wishes of the faithful who come there to pray. Wat Sisakhet, traditional monastery built in 1818, which houses more than 6.800 statues of Buddha in terracotta, wood and bronze. And Wat Phra Keo, built in 1565 for the Emerald Buddha, brought over from Chiang Rai by the new king of Laos, and later taken by the Thais in 1778 during the Sack of Vientiane. Whilst wandering through the city, you will see the Arch of Victory, before arriving at the most venerated monument, the Thatluang. Gigantic stupa covered with sheets of gold, it is the symbol of the country and houses inside, so legend relates, Buddha’s real hair. Walk to the Talad Sao, the central market where there are very beautiful fabrics and various crafted objects from the more distant provinces.
Typical lunch on a Laotian boat.
5th Day: VIANTIANE
Transfer to the airport in time for departure flight.