Laos is a laid back country full of lush, green hillsides, bountiful cities and pervasive Buddhist culture. The ever famous Mekong river runs right through the downtown core of Luang Prabang, as well as many quaint little towns all remarkable for their specific trades. The main towns of Luang Prabang and Vientiane are bursting with Buddhist culture, where monk life is intertwined within daily activity.
Despite its quite recent troubled past, Laos is a country which is hitting its stride and becoming a tourist go-to spot in Southeast Asia.
The people of Laos are all widely known as laid back, taking life day by day and with plenty of stride. They are a hassle free nation with a very friendly demeanour. Buddhist thought and culture is widely integrated within the lives of people here in Laos; It is something that they live by and actively chose to integrate into their everyday lives. The people, mainly women, of Laos wake up every morning at 5 am for a tradition called ‘alms’, Where they stand on the sides of roads and temples to donate food to the monks walking down from their morning prayers. The monks and novices rely on the peoples’ donations every single day, and without question the people of Laos do not fail. It really demonstrates a dedication to their community, their background and their religion. Within the city of Luang Prabang itself there are over 30 temples to visit, all active temples within monks and novices carrying about their everyday life. It is truly spectacular to be in a city where you can walk amongst such tradition and really get a sense of what Buddhist life is all about.
Laos’ landscape is very mountainous in nature, consisting of green lush hilltops and valleys that roll for miles on end. The trees within these jungles stand tall, and are hundreds of years old. If you get an opportunity to zip line through any of the lush Laos jungle I would highly recommend it. You really get a sense of the pure, untouched natural beauty that lies in these mountains. Some of the greatest attractions for tourists lie in the scenic waterfalls surrounding Laos. The KuangSi waterfall in particular is a sight to see. The water is so pure it looks like a crystal clear blue, rolling and stretching down the side of a hill for miles on end.
There is a wide mix of cultures in Laos, from Thai descendants to the native Hmong people that have lived in Laos for centuries. Laos is a conservative country that has been dominated by communist life for years. Only recently has Laos started to open up its policies and become slightly more lenient in its daily life. A curfew for midnight is still highly implemented, and relations between foreigners and locals are strictly forbidden. However, even with a more conservative governmental mentality, Laos’ culture and traditions are fascinating and worth discovering.
Lots of boys from nearby villages will become novice monks within larger temples in order to receive a better education. They start their journeys at 10 years old, only seeing their families twice a year and diving into a dedicated and difficult lifestyle. Their day consists of waking up at 5 am, morning, afternoon and evening meditation, as well as eating only at 6 and 11 am. Being a teacher to young novice monks here in Luang Prabang, I have been able to understand how difficult their lifestyle really is. However, their motivation to work harder, do better in school and commitment to a better life just completely astounds me. From this experience, I have been able to really take away how a culture completely different from my own operates, the challenges they face but also the simplicity with the way in which they chose to live their lives.
If Laos wasn’t on your travel radar before, I hope that it is now. It’s a wonderful place that has so much to offer, from its people, the food, the beautiful landscape and the culture, it’s definitely a destination worth keeping your eye on.