Where: Laos, east of Thailand, Southeast Asia
History: Atmospheric and mysterious Buddhist retreats
Go there for: Crazy photo opportunities or scented enlightenment
With the domination of Buddhism in both Thailand and Laos, there are plenty of holy sites to visit. Some of the most opulent Buddhist sites in the world are found in Thailand, however, Laos offers more peaceful, atmospheric retreats.
Plain of Jars, Near Phonsavan
The fact that no-one knows the origin of this man-made phenomenon makes the Plain of Jars even more intriguing. A vast area of rolling countryside is littered with hundreds and hundreds of stone jars, the largest being 10 ft high and weighing 6 tons. Fashioned somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 years ago, modern day theories as to their original purpose range from wine fermenters to burial jars.
Visitors are under no restrictions here – the photo of your friend standing inside a jar and peering over the rim is a favourite – but it is advisable to take a guide as unexploded US bombs are still prevalent in this area.
Xieng Khouang (Buddha Park), Near Vientiane
About 25 minutes drive outside Vientiane is a large field full of imposing stone sculptures, featuring characters from both Hindu and Buddhist religions. The Mekong River flows nearby, enhancing the tranquillity of this site.
Wat Xieng Thong (The Golden City Temple), Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is really one big temple compound, but this wat deserves special mention as the most ornate of the town’s temples. Saffron-robed monks pray within the beautifully decorated temple and chapel, and an atmosphere of peace pervades the grounds as the scent of incense drifts through the leafy courtyard.
By Rowena Forbes