Laos is the least developed and most enigmatic of the three former French Indochinese states. A ruinous sequence of colonial domination, internecine conflict and dogmatic socialism finally brought the country to its knees in the 1970s, and almost ten per cent of the population left. Now, some decades after isolation from the outside world, this landlocked, sparsely populated country is enjoying peace, stabilizing its political and economic structures and admitting foreign visitors. The lack of foreign influence offers travelers an unparalleled glimpse of traditional South-East Asian life. From the fertile lowlands of the Mekong River valley to the rugged Annamite highlands and mountains along the east of Laos, travelers who have made it to Laos tend to agree that this country is the highlight of South-East Asia. We also agree !
North Laos, our main activity area for Fair Trek
Northern Laos is a wild and rugged country where, at every turn, convoluted rivers curl through layers of mountain ridges. Center of the North of Laos and beautifully located on the banks of the Mekong river, the former royal capital of Luang Prabang is by far Laos’ most magical town and the region’s tourist hot spot. Luang Prabang was not destroyed during the Indochina wars’ bombing during the 20th-century. The hidden temples, the lively cultural and religious life makes it a pure pleasure to simply stay a few days. From here most visitors move into the far northern regions and into the Nam Ou valley, or even beyond to Phongsali which is a great place for treks to hill tribe areas. The rugged mountains and rivers are an amazing playground for outdoor activities and reflect a hardly influenced region where it feels like you’ve stepped back in time a hundred years.
Visitors with more time may also visit where much of the population hid for years in caves around lovely Vieng Xai and Nong Khiaw. All over northern Laos, and what most people come for is the experience of unique rural life. Thatch, bamboo and timber houses abound, giving virtually any village a timeless, photogenic value. The small population forms an intriguing melting pot of cultures, best explored while trekking or exploring rivers with your kayak. But also boating river trips offer a wonderful way to discover the lovely sceneries and are a great alternative to some tortuous bus rides.
- Full country name: Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR)
- Area: 236,000 sq km (92,040 sq m)
- Population: approx 7 million
- Capital city: Vientiane (pop 500,000)
- People: 50% Lao Lum (lowland Lao), 30% Lao Theung (lower-mountain dwellers of mostly proto-Malay or Mon-Khmer descent), 10-20% Lao Sung (Hmong or Mien high-altitude hill tribes) and 10-20% tribal Thais
- Language: Lao and Lao dialects (closely related to Thai), French
- Religion: 60% Buddhist, 40% animist and spirit cults
- Government: Socialist republic
- Major products/industries: Rice, tobacco, coffee, tin mining, and timber
- Major trading partners: Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan