Where: Near Luang Prabang, Laos, Asia
Best Season: Spring/summer to avoid the monsoon season
Best Sights: Luang Prabang colonial and ancient architecture and the colourful Akha hill tribe
Remember to bring: Warm clothes, silk sleeping bag, flip flops
Watch out for: Leeches!
Our Journey Path (As Featured in Wild World)
Zay Harding goes trekking in Laos, from a terrifying flight to Luang Prabang onboard Laos Aviation – the worst airline in the world. He traverses the Mekong River to Luang Namtha, the heart of the Golden Triangle.
Things to See and Do
– The World Heritage city of Louang Phabang is full of ochre colonial houses and swaying palms where saffron-robed monks glide through the morning mists to the hypnotic beat of temple drums. Its a great place to taste the local French delicacies from a patisserie (cake shop) before heading off on a trip up the Nam Ou river into the heart of the Golden Triangle.
– Take a Joseph Conrad style journey north up a tropical river snaking its way through impenetrable jungle where thick vegetation drips from limestone peaks, and the river washes onto miniature beaches of pristine white sand.
– Visit a medicinal rainforest where amazing herbal remedies are on hand.
– Visit Phongsali – the capital of Laos’ most northern province. From here it is possible to trek towards the Chinese border, meeting colourful hill tribes on the way, in particular the Akha who are the most stunningly dressed of all the highland hill tribes. The Akha are fond of singing and there is even an Akha blues: songs about poor Akha villagers struggling through life surrounded by rich neighbours. The Akha are animists and rely on a village shaman.
Did You Know?
– The general absence of wildlife in Laos is due to poaching for food and chinese medicine.
The Akha villagers live high in the mountains where they cultivate rice. They originally came from Southern China.
– The Akhas build a pubar when a boy reaches the age when he wants some privacy to have a relationship. The men of the village help him build it. It takes just two hours to make out of bamboo and woven rattan, using no nails. A celebration follows where much rice whiskey is drunk by the tribe.
– Laos’ rivers are the main means of transport for the majority of the country and they still prove to be the quickest route for certain journeys. Boats are the cheapest way of getting around Laos.
– Women aren’t allowed on the deck of cargo boats unless men are there, as Laotians believe it will offend the spirits and bring bad luck.
– Most Laotians live near or on the Mekong, the source of sustenance for most. It is the 12th longest river in the world – and one of the roughest. The Mekong stretches 3000 miles from Tibet through to Vietnam.
– The Lanten people of Luang Namtha are only one of some 39 different ethnic groups found in the province.
– The Lanten people make their own paper, a painstaking process. They are one of the few ethnic groups in the region to have a language.
– Air travel in Laos requires the patience of a saint and nerves of steel. These old Chinese planes are cancelled without a moments warning and pilots have no radar traffic control and instead guide the plane by sight.
– Luang Prabang was a tiny mountain kingdom for more that a thousand years and home to the Lao royal family. It is now a world heritage site thanks to its legacy of French colonial architecture and ancient temples. After the communist came to power in 1975 they arrested the King, Queen and crown prince and banished them to a re-education camp based in the caves in Sam Nua where they disappeared and are rumored to have been starved to death.
– Bring your own gear if you are thinking of camping
– In the North bring warm clothing – It gets much colder than you think.
– A inflatable pillow can really come in handy.
– Bring a silk sleeping bag
– Bring flip- flops to use in toilets and rivers and give your feet a chance to recover from hiking boots.
– The trek takes the best part of a day through virgin monsoon rainforest to reach the village of Ban Demagou – a UNESCO preserve for rare and endangered species.
Hotel Phou Vao
Luang Brabang, laos
Tel: 00 33 1 422 754 31
Fax: 00 33 1422 754 34
Po Box 50
Novotel – Accor Vientiane
Unit 9, Samsenthai Road
PO Box 585, Vientiane, LAO PDR
Tel: 00 856 21 213 570
Fax: 00 856 21 213 572
Villa Santi Hotel and Resort
PO Box 861
Luang Prabang, Laos
Tel: 00 856 71 21 2267
Fax: 00 856 71 25 2158
A daredevil airline, which you will need to use if you want to fly to remote areas.
Email: Laoaviation *at* laonet.net
By Xanthe Apostolos