Lao P.D.R – Lao People’s Democratic Republic – is the official name of Laos, but it also stands for Lao, Please Don’t Rush. Life in Laos is slow, as if emergency and urgency were not in their vocabulary. This what makes Laos unique and attracts thousands of travelers.

I took a day bus from Vientiane to Luang Prabang during Pi Mai Lao (Lao New Year, similar to Songkran in Thailand). During the ride, a lot of children splashed water to our bus. All with happy faces smiling to those came across. About 345 km covered in 11 hours, a long journey but was worth every minute because of the breathtaking sceneries along the way. The bus made two memorable stops in Vang Vieng, with its limestone karst and paddy fields, and at a noodle shop before we reached Luang Prabang, famous for its stunning mountainous scenery.

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I arrived in Luang Prabang in the early evening, early enough to watch the sun set gradually behind the mighty Mekong from my balcony. I booked a few nights at a riverside guesthouse but ended up staying for a week. At the end of the week I made conclusions of why people should visit this UNESCO heritage town soon:

1. Time travel from the modern world to this old town, stay in a French colonial building, and experience the authentic Lao lifestyle at the Mekong and Nam Khan river. Watch how the locals earn their living from the river.

2. Experience Pi Mai Lao like nowhere else. Watch the locals dress in traditional clothes, sing traditional songs and drink endless Beer Lao. There are a number of parades and festivities in town during Pi Mai, including the Rocket Festival.

3. Get unique handcrafted souvenirs at the night market: silk textiles with intricate pattern which can take months to finish, Mulberry paper paintings, Hmong style fabric wall décors, and cutleries made from recycled Indochina war bombs.

4. Visit the historical temples and museums. The two most remarkable temples are Wat Xieng Thong, which was built in the 16th century, and Wat Phu Si, a hilltop temple which is perfect for city view sunset. One thing not to miss is the arm giving ceremony every morning, where the locals give food as a way of making merit to hundreds of monks queue in a single line.

5. Enjoy the slow pace of life. Luang Prabang is the perfect place to get in touch with your inner peace, inspiration, and self growth. There are a few meditation classes and yoga courses offered in the town.

6. Visit the one and only Kuang Xi fall. The beauty of this 40 meter waterfall has made it a well-known tourist destination. There’s no better way to spend a hot day during Pi Mai week than plunging into the cool refreshing turquoise pool at the bottom of this waterfall.

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In general, Laos is slowly opening itself to world tourism and globalization, which may cause the traditional local life charm diminish in the next few years. With the ease of transportation and better road condition to China, Luang Prabang is exposing itself to the effects of Chinese tourism, with the good and bad of it. If you have heard about the beauty of this ancient capital but keep on postponing your trip, it’s time to turn your plan into reality before it’s too late. Visit Laos before it’s too late.

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