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Tourism

 

With its historic temples, lush green landscapes and welcoming smiles, Laos, the heart of Southeast Asia, is just waiting to be explored. Laos is a country as yet untouched by modernity and its mad demands, its greed, stress and fast pace of life. Its beauty lies in the Loa people, their traditions and heritage and country’s pristine landscape.

 

The Lao National Tourism Administration (LNTA) welcome tourists, particularly foreign tourists, to Laos. Cultural Tourism, Historical Tourism and Natural Tourism are the most interesting tourist attractions such as Vientiane, the capital (That Luang), Luang Namtha Province (Ecotourism), Phongsaly Province (Cloudy Sea), Oudomxay Province (That Ming Mong Khouon), Luang Prabang Province (Wat Xiengthong), Bokeo Province (Jewelery), Xayabouly (Elephants), Houaphanh Province (Caves), Xieng Khouang Province (Plain of Jars), Vientiane Province (Vang Veing), Bolikhamxay Province (Ban Na, Wild Elephants), Khammouane Province (Konglor Cave), Sasvannakhet Province (That Inghang), Champasack Province (Wat Phou), Saravan Province (Tad Lo), Sekong (Tad Fek), and Attapeu Province (Mon-Khmer Groups) – these and more, there is a lot to see.

 

Eco Tourism

 

Every day, the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos) and international stakeholders work towards realizing this vision, and we invite you to visit this beautiful country and experience for yourself the splendid biodiversity and cultural heritage that make Lao Ecotourism so special and unique.

 

Laos has a low population density; unspoiled, diverse ethnic lifestyles and traditions and perhaps, the richest and the most extensive network of ecosystems on the Indochina Peninsula. More than 800 species of birds and 100-plus large mammals have been identified in Laos, with new species being discovered every year. Some of the more charismatic species include Tigers, Clouded Leopards, Douc Languars, Gibbons, the Irrawaddy Dolphins, Hornbills, Peafowls, Ibis, Crested Argus' and Silver Pheasants.

 

In place to protect and conserve these irreplaceable resources is a network of 20 National Protected Areas, often cited as one of the best designed Protected Area Systems in the world.

 

In addition to the country's vast protected forests and aquatic resources, Laos has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites - the ancient city of Luang Prabang and the pre-Angkorian Vat Phou Temple Complex. There is also the mysterious Plain of Jars, a forthcoming World Heritage site that has significant archaeological, historical and natural value.

 

Eager to position Laos as a premier ecotourism destination, the Lao National Tourism Administration, related government agencies and the private sector are working hard to realize the ambitious vision put forth in the country's National Ecotourism Strategy and Action Plan. Enshrined in this plan are the following principles:

 

  • Guiding Principles of Lao Ecotourism
    • Decrease environmental and cultural impacts.
    • Increase awareness in the importance of ethnic groups and biological diversity.
    • Promote responsible business practices, which cooperate closely with local authorities and the local people to support poverty alleviation and deliver conservation benefits.
    • Provide a source of income to conserve, sustain and manage the Lao protected area network and cultural heritage sites.
    • Emphasize the need for tourism zoning and management plans for sites that will be developed as ecotourism destinations.
    • Use environmental and social baseline data, as well as long-term monitoring programs, to assess and minimize negative impacts.
    • Maximize the benefits for the Lao national economy, especially local businesses and people living in and around the protected areas.
    • Ensure that tourism does not exceed the country's social and economic limits as determined by researchers working in conjunction with local residents.

 

Promote local architectural styles that have been developed in harmony with Lao culture and environment, and that use local materials, minimize energy consumption and conserve local plants and wildlife.

 

Hill Station

 

Hiking & Trekking

 

One should be sure of the distinction between hiking and trekking. In Laos a hike is for one day or less (no overnight stay); and trekking is of two or more days, normally involving camping. Either way is perfect for reaching waterfalls, caves, jungle trails, and rugged mountains that are off the beaten path. In Laos you may not see waterfalls on the main path – you have to get off the road.

 

You are also likely to see wonderful plant and bird life but not much wildlife because the local people have eaten most of it! Locally arranged treks and hikes tend to run from a few dollars a day to $15 or so, but can run more if you want to have all the amenities included on overnight trips.

 

Some of the highlights of treks are:

 

- Visiting hill tribes such as Hmong and Khmu.

 

- Sighting waterfalls and taking a cooling dip in the pools.

 

- Riding an elephant.

 

- Rafting or canoeing down a river.

 

- Visiting the Pak Ou and other caves.

- Padding along a jungle path.

 

- Trading experiences with other travelers.

 

- Seeing how other people live.

 

The three hill tribes you are most likely to encounter in northern Laos are the Hmong (a tribe belonging to the High Lao or Lao Suung), the Lao Lum (Low Lao), and Khmu (a tribe belonging to the Upland Lao or Lao Theung.)

 

The Hmong are very warlike and were ideal as CIA-trained Special Forces during the 1960s and 1970s. Following the 1875 revolution, overthrow of the monarchy and take-over by the Pathet Lao, many Hmong fled, settling in large numbers primarily in the United States.

 

The Hmong are farmers, growing dry rice and corn using slash and burn techniques. They also raise various domestic animals such as cattle, pigs, chickens, and water buffalos.

 

The Hmong are the major growers of opium among the ethnic groups in Laos.

 

They are called the High Lao because they live at altitudes of at least 1,000 meters/3,300 feet above sea level.

 

The Lao Lum has traditionally lived in the vicinity of or in the Mekong River valley. They are related to the Thai-Kadai – a group that lives all over Southeast Asia as well as in southern China and the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent.

 

They tend to live at 200-400 m/650-1,300 feet of elevation and are subsistence farmers who grow wet rice. Unlike many other hill tribes, they are Theravada Buddhists.

 

The Khmu are the poor cousins in northern Laos. They tend to live on slopes between 300 and 900 m/1,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level. They have the lowest standard of living among the hill tribes in the north. They either work as labourers for other hill tribes or are farmers growing rice, cotton, tobacco, and coffee.

 

All three tribes live in houses with dirt floors and wood beams.

 

Beaches

 

Being a landlocked country Laos has very few beaches, rather sea beaches. The Mekong River which at places is very wide, particularly near its mouth has some beautiful island resorts. Some of the island beaches are beautiful and attractive enough for tourists. Some important cities have grown up on the bank of the Mekong River that offers beautiful river view.

 

  • PAKSE – CHAMPASSAK (approximately 700 km from Vientiane)

 

Pakse, the capital of the Champassak province, is located at the confluence of the Mekong and Sedona Rivers. It is the perfect gateway to the southern region and to the Boloven Plateau as well as an excellent starting point for excursions to the former royal capital of Champassak, situated 38 km from Pakse along the Mekong River. The pre-Angkorian Vat Phu Temple (6th-13th centuries), near Champassak, was listed as World Heritage by UNESCO in 2002 and the Vat Phu Archeological Museum opened doors in 2003 with more than 150 artifacts. Several Khmer sites associated with Vat Phu Temple can be found in the surroundings including Oum Moung Temple (9th century) on the opposite bank of the Mekong River. Nearby is Ban Khiat Ngong village with its enigmatic Phu Asa temple, which lies amidst the dense jungle of Xe Pien NBCA. Elephant riding through the forest to observe the abundant wildlife is a recommended option.

 

  • VIENTIANE CAPITAL & VIENTIANE PROVINCE

 

Vientiane is the capital of Laos. It is located on the bank of the Mekong River. Though the largest city in the country, most travelers are fascinated more by the city's exotic Eurasian setting.

 

The confluence of several cultures has given Vientiane an appealing ambience. Tree-lined boulevards, French historical dwellings and Buddhists temples dominate the scene of central Vientiane and impart a unique character of timelessness.

 

Vientiane's That Luang stupa is the most impressive and biggest stupa in Laos, featured on the Lao insignia. This stupa was constructed in 1566 by King Setthathirat. The Siamese damaged it badly during their invasion in 1828, but it was restored in the 1936. In mid-November, religious rites as well as a fair are held here during the That Luang festival.

 

Vat Phra Keo was also constructed by King Setthathirat. It was rebuilt after the Siamese razed it during the Siamese-Lao war of 1828. The building had housed the Emerald Buddha until it was taken to Bangkok following a skirmish with the Lao in 1778. Vat Phra Keo still displays some of the finest Buddha sculptures found in the country.

 

The Patousay on Lane Xang Avenue is a large monument reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Its architecture incorporates typical Lao motifs. From the top one can have a panoramic view of the entire city.

 

Vat Sisaket is the oldest temple of Vientiane which has survived in its original form. Inside the main hall, and along the walls of the courtyard surrounding it, a total of 6840 Buddha images rest in small niches or on shelves. At Vat Ong Teu resides the Buddhist Institute where monks can study their religion under the guidance of senior instructors.

 

Night Life

 

Laos’s nightlife has had quite a paradoxical character: From the extremes of the opium culture that infiltrated the country during the late sixties and early seventies, to the enforced curfew into the late seventies and beyond. Now, perhaps, it has found its equilibrium as the 'sleepy town' of the region, yet offering Southeast Asia's best beer.

 

The odd 'happy shake' can still be found in Vang Vieng, but the rest of the country has cleaned up its act and the most outrageous nightlife you will get in Laos is in Vientiane where a handful of nightclubs stay open past midnight. While the country is packed with fun, it is not the place to come if you want a Patong-style holiday.

 

Lazy riverside bars, quaint wine drinking venues and a handful of nightclubs sounds about the right range of nightlife one would expect in Laos. Alternatively, internet cafes in the bigger cities are usually open until late night. The charm of the sleepy town can also lend itself to relaxing nights best spent rekindling your appreciation of nature which is certainly bountiful here.

 

  • Vientiane Nightlife

 

“The brothels are cleaner than the hotels, marijuana is cheaper than pipe tobacco, and opium easier to find than a cold glass of beer." Paul Theroux, writing in 'The Great Railway Bazaar' of Vientiane in the 1970's, got it spot on.

 

But nowadays the opium dens and brothels that were once omnipresent in the city have been replaced by guesthouses and a handful of friendly and understated night time venues, the majority of which turn their lights off by 12 pm. Of course there are exceptions, and word of mouth can keep the booze trail going on until the early hours.

 

  • Bars

 

Vientiane has less than a dozen bars outside of the hotels. One might say quality will always triumph over quantity, and in the case of Vientiane this is definitely true. The Samlo Pub is a great place to watch sport and enjoy a few jugs of beer, before heading on down to the four-storey Blue Sky Bar that promises a memorable sunset accompanied by cheap beer and tasty bar snacks. Déjà Vu on Nam Phu is one of the city’s more chic establishments, serving an array of zesty cocktails in a typically Laos chilled out environment. Anyone who wants to knock back a few jars in a European-inspired bar should go to Bar Namphu which has a broad drinks-and-dining menu, topped off by warm service.

 

  • Beer Gardens

 

The many beer gardens that once fringed the banks of the Mekong have long been closed down by government, officials who felt them too unruly and likely to attract an undesirable crowd. However, the timber-built Sala Sunset Khounta boat still remains intact, alongside a handful of riverside drinking venues, providing the perfect spot for Beer Lao-laden sunsets. To drink the national beer as fresh as it comes, head on down to the Salakham Beer Garden, 12 km outside of central Vientiane. This is where the Government Brewery resides, equipped with its very own thatched-roof beer garden.

 

  • Nightclubs

 

The handfuls of discos that feature in Vientiane often include live music and DJs. So clubbers are treated to an eclectic mix of cover Western songs, traditional Laos’s folk music, the latest Thai releases, and cheesy western pop, both on record and stage. By law clubs are supposed to close by 23:30 hours but this is not always the case. Vienglatry May, on Thanon Lan Xang is open until midnight and is the most popular club in town at the time of writing. Close to the airport is Marina, where you can listen to some Thai techno until the wee hours. In front of this club is Superbowl which has been known to serve beer all night long. The Chess Café is favourite amongst backpackers, probably due to the fact that it is one of the few joints in town playing ‘red hot rock n’ roll’ , considered as an after hours venue that is often frequented by the expat community.

 

  • Hotel Clubs

 

Vientiane’s top-end hotels play host to some of the city’s more exclusive (and expensive) nighttime pleasures. Hotels such as The Novotel, The Lao Plaza Hotel and the Saysana Hotel are renowned for filling up dance floors after serving up a chilled cocktail or two. The Lao Plazas- Le Club Disco is seemingly popular with the more affluent in the community. It has been noted in several tour guides that if you are male and a female member of staff joins you at your table there are likely to be an added charge on the end bill, so keep this in mind if your table becomes overcrowded with overlyenthusiastic waitresses.

 

  • Live Music Venues

 

On The Rock Pub is recommended with its intimate, no- thrills vibe. Those who venture in will be within arms reach of the band playing a range of western, Thai and Laos covers. This is a good opportunity to hook up with Vientiane’s alternative crowd and become suitably nostalgic over a few bottles of beer. The US-style, Wild West features Lao-style folk which can be enjoyable over a bite to eat. Be sure to pay a visit to Vientiane's Jazz bar - Snow White & One Dwarf. Drinks are more expensive than your average riverside bars but it's worth it, the door man is indeed a dwarf and the walls are of course white, fitting quite nicely with the chosen jazz of the evening.

 

  • Luang Prabang

 

Luang Prabang is not a destination for those who want to spend their evenings getting messed up and wanting to recuperate from the previous night’s shenanigans. That’s not to say it can’t be fun and as wild as you want to make it. Luang Prabang is decidedly morning orientated – the majority of the locals are in bed for 22:00, rising at 05:00. Staggering home with last night's clothes on while this is happening is not such a great idea. There are, however, a few small establishments that stay open past midnight where conversation and beer flow in harmony.

 

  • Lemon Grass

 

Near to the Sala Prabang is Lemongrass, a quaint, white picket fenced wine bar overlooking the Mekong. Owned by two Belgians, the bar has its own piece of riverbank with a shop over the road selling fine wines and home décor.

 

  • The Hive and Lao Beer Garden

 

Playing drum n' bass and hip-hop tunes, this beer garden is popular with the younger crowd of Luang Prabang’s visitors. Although, it does not stay open until the early hours it is definitely one of the town’s livelier bars, and a good place to head to if you want to party.

 

  • Vietnam Bar

 

The only after-hours speakeasy in town, with good music, cheap beer and a lively crowd.

 

  • Bowling

 

Open until 03:00, after 22:00 it gets crowded with tourists who are more interested in quenching their thirst than the actual bowling. This place is well worth a visit if you want to have a break from all the usual tourist stuff. The price of a game is 15,000 kip per person until midnight when it goes up to 20,000.

 

  • Bokeo Nightlife

 

Bokeo, the smallest province in Laos, and even in its capital city Huay Xai, visitors might have a difficult time looking for a decent bar to drink in. Bokeo's spotlight is more on the traditional ways of locals rather than the lights and sounds of the night. However, several restaurants along the Mekong River are perfect for providing the perfect spot where one can drink with an impressive view of the Mekong River before and after sunset. Visitors should definitely try the famous local Beer Lao, "Asia's Best Beer" (TIME Magazine).  A reminder to solo travellers, wandering around alone out late at night is not recommended.

 

  • Xieng Khouang Nightlife

 

Xieng Khouang does not offer much in the way of nightlife. Although, there are a few Laos-style clubs that play a mixture of Thai, Vietnamese and Lao pop, these pick up more on the weekend and are generally quiet throughout the week. Phonsavanh Nightclub is considered to be the most popular because of its location in the centre of town. Chittawan is popular with the young Lao crowd who enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. Phai Kham is a warm and intimate venue on the same street as Chittawan about two km west of the bus station.

 

  • Savannakhet Nightlife

 

 Even on a Saturday night there is never a huge amount of people around to provide a Saturday night feeling and atmosphere. Although Savannakhet is the second-largest city in Laos, travelers should not expect exciting nightlife venues. However, the city is not completely dead at night; there are a number of restaurants and open-air bars along the Mekong River front where one can enjoy both imported beer and Beer Lao.

 

  • Champasak Nightlife

 

Surprisingly, the small town hosts a few nightclubs along the Mekong River. Lotty is one of the most popular nightclubs with both local and tourists. South of the Mekong, one will find a number of places to enjoy the sunset over the river with a Beer Lao. Although nightlife in Pakse usually ends at 23:30 (as in other parts of Laos,) guesthouses with good outdoor seating areas along the river make good spots to continue the evening. Alternatively, try the Lao-styled Korean barbeque with a cold drink and a group of friends, you will find the evenings in Pakse can be very enjoyable.

 

Cuisine

 

Lao cuisine is the cuisine of the Lao ethnic group of Laos and Northeast Thailand (Isan). Lao food is distinct from other Southeast Asian delicacies. The staple food of the Lao is sticky rice. Galangal and fish sauce are important ingredients. The Lao national dish is laap (sometimes also spelled larb), a spicy mixture of marinated meat and/or fish that is sometimes raw (prepared like ceviche) with a variable combination of greens, herbs, and spices. Another characteristic dish is tam mak houng (som tam in Thai), green papaya salad.

 

Lao cuisine has many regional variations. In Laos, a French influence is also apparent in the capital city, Vientiane, such that baguettes are sold on the street, and French restaurants (often with a naturally Lao, Asian-fusion touch) are common and popular. Vietnamese cuisine is also popular in Laos.

 

The typical Lao stove, or brazier, is called a tao-lo and is fueled by charcoal. It is shaped like a bucket, with room for a single pot or pan to sit on top. The wok, maw khang in Lao, is used for frying and stirs frying. Sticky rice is steamed inside of a bamboo basket, a huad, which sits on top of a pot, which is called the maw nung.

 

A large, deep mortar called a khok is used for pounding tam mak hung and other foods, and is indispensable in the Lao kitchen. Familiarity with some of the food items or ingredients of Laos would be helpful for tourists:

 

  • galangal: typically used in soups, mixed dishes and marinades

 

  • kaffir lime: typically used in soups and stews

 

  • shallots

 

  • shredded papaya: used in spicy papaya salad

 

  • lemon grass: used in soups, stews and marinades

 

  • tamarind: used in soups

 

  • tamarind leaf: used in soups

 

  • cha-om (acacia): used in soups, curries, omelet’s, and stir-fries

 

  • coriander (cilantro)

 

  • hot pepper: seven popular types

 

  • Thai basil: eaten raw with pho

 

  • mint: used in goy/laap, and eaten raw

 

  • dill: used in stews and eaten raw

 

  • lemon basil: used in soups and stews

 

  • garlic

 

  • ginger

 

  • banana flower: typically eaten raw in vermicelli soups

 

  • ginger flower

 

  • bamboo shoot: used in stews or boiled as a side dish

 

  • rattan shoot: typically in stews (bitter)

 

  • shiitake mushroom: used in soups

 

  • wood ear mushroom (called "cat ear" in Vietnamese): used in egg rolls and soups

 

  • yanang leaf : used to color (green) and flavor stews

 

  • mak kheua poy: green and white striped eggplant, used in stews or eaten raw

 

  • mak kheng: "pea eggplant," typically used in stews

 

  • yard long beans: eaten raw, in stews, and can be made into a spicy bean salad(tam mak thoua)

 

  • phak kadao: (neem), a bitter green, eaten raw

 

  • phak lin may: a bitter green, eaten raw

 

  • phak ileut: a green, eaten raw (this is probably betel leaf)

 

  • dok khae: flower of Sesbania grandiflora (bitter)

 

  • phak bong: ipomoea aquatica, stir fried or eaten raw

 

  • nam pa: clear fish sauce (Thai nam pla)

 

  • padek: Lao-style fish sauce

 

  • "three-layer pork": pork belly

 

  • dried water buffalo skin: used in jaew bong and stews

 

  • sa khan: stem of Piper ribesioides, used in stews

 

  • kaipen: river algae sheets

 

Grilling, boiling, stewing, steaming, searing and mixing (as in salads) are all traditional cooking methods. Stir frying is now common, but considered to be a Chinese influence. Stews are often green in color, because of the large proportion of vegetables and ya nang leaf used in it. Soups are categorized as follows: tom, tom cheut, keng, and keng soua. Keng is soup that contains ginger and padek, and keng soua is keng that contains both galangal and ginger. In effect it is similar to the Siamese tom yum. Tom cheut is mild soup that isn't flavored with strong spices.

 

"Ping" means grilled. It is a favorite cooking method. Ping kai is grilled chicken, ping sin is grilled meat, and ping pa is grilled fish. Before grilling, the meat is typically seasoned with minced garlic, minced cilantro root, minced galangal, salt, soy sauce, and fish sauce, each in varying quantities, if at all, according to preference. The Lao seem to prefer a longer grilling at lower heat. The result is grilled meat that is typically drier than what Westerners are accustomed to. The Lao probably prefer their food this way, because they wish to keep their hands dry and clean for handling sticky rice. They also typically eat the grilled food with a hot sauce (chaew) of some sort, which takes away the dryness.

 

Lao food differs from neighboring dishes in multiple respects. One is that the Lao meal almost always includes a large quantity of fresh raw greens, vegetables and herbs served undressed on the side. Another is that savory dishes are never sweet. "Sweet and sour" is generally considered bizarre and foreign in Laos. Yet another is that some dishes are bitter. There is a saying in Lao cuisine, "van pen lom; khom pen ya," which can be translated as, "sweet makes you dizzy; bitter makes you healthy." A couple of the green herbs favoured in Lao cuisine but generally ignored by their neighbours are mint and dill, both of paramount importance. Galangal is a cooking herb that is heavily favored in Laos, unlike in neighboring countries. It appears in probably the majority of Lao dishes, along with the conventional herbs: garlic, shallots, lemongrass, etc. Another distinctive characteristic of Lao food or more properly, Lao eating habits, is that food is frequently eaten at room temperature. This may be attributable to the fact that Lao food served with sticky rice is traditionally handled by hand.

 

A ka toke, a platform for arranging and presenting a Lao meal. The traditional manner of eating was communal, with diners sitting on a reed mat on the wooden floor around a raised platform woven out of rattan called a ka toke. Dishes are arranged on the ka toke, which is of a standard size. Where there are many diners, multiple ka tokes will be prepared. Each ka toke will have one or more baskets of sticky rice, which is shared by all the diners at the ka toke.

 

In recent times, eating at a ka toke is the exception rather than the rule. The custom is maintained, however, at temples, where each monk is served his meal on a ka toke. Once food is placed on the "ka toke" it becomes a "pha kao." In modern homes, the term for preparing the table for a meal is still taeng PHA kao, or prepares the phah kao.

 

Traditionally, spoons were used only for soups and white rice, and chopsticks were used only for noodles. Most food was handled by hand. The reason this custom evolved is probably due to the fact that sticky rice can only be easily handled by hand.

 

Lao meals typically consist of a soup dish, a grilled dish, a sauce, greens, and a stew or mixed dish (koy or laap). The greens are usually fresh raw greens, herbs and other vegetables, though depending on the dish they accompany, they could also be steamed or more typically, parboiled. Dishes are not eaten in sequence; the soup is sipped throughout the meal. Beverages, including water, are not typically a part of the meal. When guests are present, the meal is always a feast, with food made in quantities sufficient for twice the number of diners. For a host, not having enough food for guests would be humiliating.

 

The custom is to close the rice basket when one has finished eating.

 

  • laap: a spicy meat salad 
  • tam mak hung: green papaya salad 
  • soup noh may: green bamboo stew 
  • soup phak: vegetable salad 
  • keng noh mai som: sour bamboo shoot soup 
  • ping sin: dry grilled beef 
  • ping kai: grilled chicken 
  • sai oua: sausage 
  • nem: Lao "fried rice" 
  • sin savane: sweet crisp fried beef 
  • som moo: pickled pork ("ham") 
  • som pa: pickled fish 
  • som khai pa: pickled fish roe 
  • som phak kad: pickled greens 
  • mok pa: fish steamed in banana leaf 
  • mok kai: chicken steamed in banana leaf 
  • or: green vegetable stew 
  • or lam: Luang Prabang style green vegetable stew 
  • tom padek: fish stewed in padek 
  • tom tin moo: pig's trotter soup 
  • tom mak ha: bitter melon soup 
  • keng som kai: sour chicken soup 
  • khao poon nam jaew: rice vermicelli soup 
  • khai khuam: stuffed eggs "upside down" 
  • pon: spicy puree of cooked fish 
  • khao nom maw keng: coconut custard cake

 

Lao coffee is often called Pakxong coffee (cafe pakxong in Lao), which is grown on the Bolovens Plateau around the town of Pakxong. This area is sometimes said to be the best place in Southeast Asia for coffee cultivation. Both Robusta and Arabica varieties are grown in Laos, and if you ask for Arabica, there is a very good chance the proprietor will know what you are talking about. Most of the Arabica in Laos is consumed locally and most of the Robusta is exported to Thailand, where it goes into Nescafe. The custom in Laos is to drink coffee in glasses, with condensed milk in the bottom, followed by a chaser of green tea. The highly-regarded tea is also grown on the Bolovens Plateau.

 

There are two general types of traditional alcoholic beverages, both produced from rice: Lao hai and Lao Lao. Lao hai means jar alcohol and is served from an earthen jar. It is communally and competitively drunk through straws at festive occasions. It can be likened to sake in appearance and flavor. Lao Lao or Lao alcohol is more like a whiskey. It is also called Lao khao or, in English, white alcohol. However, there is also a popular variant of lao lao made from purple rice, which has a pinkish hue.

 

 

Wild Life

 

Laos is home to over one hundred species of large mammal. Many of these are familiar Asian species such as Tiger, Asian Elephant and Gaur (a species of wild cattle). Laos is also home to an impressive diversity of primates including five species of gibbon, five species of macaque and four species of leaf monkey including the incredibly beautiful Dour Languor.

 

In recent years Laos has received international attention after the discovery of an amazing variety of species new to science. These recent discoveries include the Saola, a strange and beautiful forest dwelling antelope-like creature, an incredible diversity of small deer species known as muntjacs, a small striped rabbit and a completely new family of rodent known locally as the Kha-nyou and closely related to porcupines.

 

In addition to mammals, Lao supports over 165 species of amphibians and reptiles, including species such as the Rock and Burmese Pythons, King Cobras and the large and noisy Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko) a formidable resident of many Lao houses.

 

Opportunities to view this incredible diversity of wildlife are steadily growing. A long history of market and subsistence hunting has depressed many wildlife populations across the country. The increase in ecotourism and travelers’ interest in viewing wildlife now provide positive financial reinforcement for residents to conserve many of these species. Let people know that you want to visit the habitats of Lao wildlife. In particular there are several projects that specifically search for gibbons and elephants.