It is often said that Laos is not a place; it is a state of mind. Without access to the sea, protected by the Mekong separating it from Thailand, and sheltered by the impassable mountains that isolate it from China and Vietnam, it for centuries has continued to stay in its ancient, detached rhythm of life. Despite forced development in recent years, due to its geographical positioning serving as a link between China and Thailand, one only needs to set foot in Laos to feel there is something uniquely poetic in the air. The days are long and slow and the people have a tranquil sweetness unique only to Lao. The French who well knew the peoples they ruled used to say ‘The Vietnamese plant rice, the Khmer stand there and watch, the Laotians listen to it growing.
It is for these reasons, of such serenity, that make coming to Laos a trip so out of the ordinary. For so many today life at home is at such a fast pace with modern technologies and new sights hardly serving to shock anymore. Cities around the world greet millions of visitors each year to join the throng of tourists admiring a Renaissance painting or queuing for the museum. These trips are incredible in so many ways but do not shock your senses or ignite your brain in the way this journey will.
The difference being is that most places one visits are obsessed with materialism and progress which is what the modern person is used to. In Laos they have remained unconvinced and it is this attitude which will transport you visually and mentally to somewhere unique. For a shock to the senses we will take you straight to the far north at the Muang La Resort near the Chinese border where you will have to slow everything down as you swap busy life for absolute tranquility. In this ‘lost’ village in the North of Laos, watched over by the ancient Buddha, there is a natural source of hot water which is used in the resort’s purpose – built hot water tub. Sitting 3 metres off the ground it gives you a wonderful view across the mountains and river as you relax in the warm water, enchanted by the sounds of the surrounding jungle.
Situated next to a river, rich in local life, the resort was created with the upmost care and was only constructed once getting agreement from the local chief and villagers. The Muang La is built from the finest local materials and decorated with art by the village’s craftsmen and women. It is therefore a perfect place to immerse oneself in the diverse culture and explore the mosaic of ethnic groups and stunning natural beauty through a carefully prepared excursion, but from the comfort of one of the ten individually designed rooms which are surrounded by tropical gardens. The Resort exudes an atmosphere of relaxation and tranquility you will struggle to find elsewhere in the world, yet in Laos it continues, which you realise as you continue on this journey.
With the help of a traditional longboat, head south on the River Nam Ou which flows from the borders of China, winding through tropical forests and stunning limestone peaks past the resort to your next stop, Nong Khiaw. Starting early you may be immersed in the morning mist, adding to the dramatic surroundings around you, before the sun comes out reflecting on the clear waters being harvested of seaweed by women to sell locally and to you. Incredibly tasty it makes for a great mid-morning snack. Communities harvesting rice and kids jumping in the river allow an insight into life here as you pull into sleepy Nong Khiaw. Although small there is a lot to do from kayaking, rock climbing and excursions. It is hard to beat however just standing on the bridge and gazing at the river through the day and at night where the fabulous star – shows turn the deep indigo sky into a canvas outlining the riverside massifs.
On your final leg of the journey you will have the pleasure of another day gently floating down the Nam Ou towards Luang Prabang. Pink buffalo and pigs add to the rural scenery you pass whilst gold diggers, on the banks of the river, pan for gold using large wooden platters. Before reaching Luang Prabang the boat will stop at Pak Ou Caves where the Nam Ou joins the Mekong beneath a dramatic karst formation. Here two famous caves are cut into the limestone cliffs, both crammed with Buddha images of various styles and sizes. An hour further down the river and you will be dropped on the banks of the Mekong in the centre of the magical Luang Prabang. Laos’s former capital is an enchanting place to idly watch the day glide by or explore on a bike or kayak. It is the perfect place to finish your adventure on the rivers of North Laos.
If you would like to come on this special and unique adventure with us then please enquire at [email protected]