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As a neighbor of Vietnam, China, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia, Laos is located in the center of Southeast Asian and is the only landlocked country in the area. The country is well known for its wealth of culture and history. It was once known to be the kingdom of Lan Xang Hom Khao which means the Kingdom of Million Elephants Under the White Parasol. Vientiane is the capital of Laos and also is the largest city. Other big cities are Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, and Pakse. The official language of this multi-ethnic country is Lao. Lao people make up about 55 percent while Mon-Khmer, Hmong, and other ethnic groups make up the remain 45 percent of the total population.
If you are planning to travel to this beautiful country, then these are several things you need to know about Laos.
- Lao culture is influenced mainly by Theravada Buddhism. The influence is reflected across the country in language, temple, art, literature, performing arts, etc.
- Khaen is the national musical instrument of Laos which is a type of bamboo pipe. Lam is the major style of folk music using khaen. And Lam Saravane is considered the most prevalent.
- With Lao people, the most important food is sticky rice. Because it is the country’s staple food and has cultural and religious value to them that cannot be replaced by other kinds of food.
- The traditional apparel of Laos worn by women is Sinh. This is a hand-woven skirt made of silk and can tell other people where the wearer comes from by the way they wear it.
This city has the most major national monuments such as That Luang as known as Great Stupa which is the symbol of Buddhism in Laos, Wat Sisaket which is one of the oldest temples in Vientiane, or Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan which is well known for its bronze Buddha statue and a carved wooden masterpiece made in the 16th century.
If you would like to see a combination of revolutionary and contemporary arts, then the Lao National Museum is one of the best exhibitions to visit. Or if you would like to have a walk outdoor, then Buddha Park is the place that you should not miss. If you want to buy some souvenirs for your family or shop for handicrafts at a local market, visit Talat Sao in the morning for an extensive range of silks and other decorative pieces. Visit a local stand or a restaurant nearby after shopping for the whole morning to fill your hungry stomach is a good idea. Just make sure you order the national signature dishes: tam mak-hung (spicy green papaya salad), laap (spicy minced meat salad), and ping kai (fried chicken).
Savannakhet is the largest province in Laos in terms of land and population. Located in the middle of the country and is bordered by Khammouane province to the North and Salavanh province to the South, Savannakhet has 60% of its land covered by forests. The province is well known for its diversity of ethnic groups including Lowland Lao, Phoutai, Thai Dam, Katang, Mangkong, Vali, Lava, Soui, Kapo, Kaleung, and Ta-Oi. You will also find many Vietnamese and Chinese descendants living here and this contributes to the richness of culture and gastronomy. Therefore, it is not hard for you to find Vietnamese or Chinese food in the middle of Laos.
This UNESCO recognized ancient town is French miniature and a reflection of a mixture of the modern and traditional Lao architecture with the colonial period. Legend has it that Buddha would have smiled when taking a rest here during his journey. The inspiration of the name Luang Prabang is also from a statue of Buddha, “the Prabang”, a gift from Cambodia. Traveling to Luang Prabang should not be missed when you travel to Laos. Luang Prabang will not make your trip to Laos worth it. Explore Pak Ou Caves and Tad Sed or Kuang Si Waterfalls if you are a bit of an adventurous person, or visit Laos Whiskey Village and Luang Prabang Night Market if you would like to emerge into local life.
Pha That Luang
Situated about 4 km northeast of Vientiane city center, Pha That Luang is considered the national monument and is an icon of Buddhism and a symbol of Lao sovereignty. In Lao legend, the stupa was built in the 3rd century BC by Ashokan missionaries from India to enclose a piece of Buddha’s breastbone.
Vieng Xai Caves
Visiting Vieng Xai Cave will make your trip to Hua Phan worth it. This cave will give you an extraordinary experience of breathtaking natural wonder. Vieng Xai Cave is located hiddenly among the sensational range of limestone mountains. The cave network system is complex and tourists are allowed to visit 7 out of 500 caves in the system. You will be impressed by the pristine beauty of nature around Vieng Xai because of magnificent limestone peaks, beautiful paddies fields, mountains, and rivers.
Located at the end of Lan Xang Avenue, Patuxai is the significant monument of Laos that can not be missed when coming to visit the capital city. It is considered the symbol of Vientiane and is the pride of Laos people. The monument was built from 1957 to 1968 when the country was under a constitutional monarchy as a memorial of soldiers who died during World War II. It is called the Victory Arch of Laos or the Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane resembling the Arc de Triomphe in Paris but was designed with Lao style.
Buddha Park was built in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat. This park is not only erected for Buddhism but also Hindu. You will also find demons and animals originating from Buddhism and Hindu beliefs. Each statue comes in many different sizes and designed with various captivating motifs.
Wat Si Saket
Being built in 1818 by King Anouvong who reigned the last dynasty of Laos’s monarchy, Wat Si Saket is the oldest temple in Laos. The temple was built following the Siamese style of Buddhist Architecture. The main building is built with a five-layered roof and surrounded by a terrace explaining its survival after the Siamese attack and destruction of war. Not just that, the temple is also outstanding for its 6840 statues of Buddha. Each statue represents a stage in Buddha’s life.
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