Friday, October 28, 2005

Muang Xing

The town of Muang Xing lies on the river plains of the Nam La to the north-west of Luang Namtha. The town is a historic centre that was formerly an outpost of the Sipsongpanna Empire based in southern Yunnan in China.

The town is home to a number of ethnic minorities as well as lowland Lao, Tai Lue, Thai Neua and Thai Dam you can also find dreadlocked immigrants from Pai (once thought to be extinct). The town of Muang Xing has a number of guesthouses where trekking and hiking trips can be arranged.

In many ways, the lives of people in Muang Xing remain simple and calm, since the 'modern' world does not intrude as much as it does elsewhere - at least, not yet.


People get married at a very young age, many are not highly educated and work in farms. Men work on rice fields and collect wood while the women boil liquor, pick wild plants in the forest with friends, and feed the pigs. Old men do basketry at open-air basements, as the old women feed the chickens and take care of their grandchildren.

Self-reliance seems to be the only way for these people to go, although they do not have much money and things in today's cash economy are far too expensive for them.


Moving On

Tickets to Luang Namtha are bought at a small wooden shack on the opposite side of the road from the market and bus station, just near the post office.

Songtheaw at 08:00 – 2 hours (15,000 kip) also at 09:30, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00; 15:00 and whenever

Sleeping

Guesthouses to try are Daen Neua Guesthouse and Phou Iu Guesthouse .

Things to do

Go to the market, hire a bike, trek and generally relax etc



Luang Namtha

Located in the northern part of Laos, Luang Namtha Province shares its north-western border with Myanmar and its north-eastern border with China.

It is an interesting place to visit from an environmental, social, cultural and historical point of view and has become something of a centre for sustainable cultural and eco-tourism over the last few years. The forests are dense, and cover near 99% of the protected area.

Luang Namtha has a large and diverse range of ethnic groups, many of whom still live traditional life styles. The main ethnic groups in the area are Tai Yuan, Black Red and White Tai, Tai Lue, Khmu, Rok, Ahka, Lanten, Mien and Hmong. Most of the ethnic handicraft traditions particularly weaving are alive and well.

Getting to Luang Namtha town and away

Airport: 5km south of town. Tuk-tuk’s cost 3-5,000kip/person.
Lao Airlines Office: South of the town, on the Main Road near the bank. Opening hours Monday to Friday 08:00 -12.00, 13.00-16:00, Saturday 08:00-12:00. no tickets issued at the airport. US$ cash only. To Vientiane: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 13:00 $80. To Houay Xai: Monday and Friday 12:00 $41. To Luang Prabang: Monday and Friday 10:00 $37


Bus station: South of the town, two blocks west. The buses leave here at 08:00 but after that time, it all depends on the number of passengers and the availability of buses. During the rainy season, only vehicles, which have enough power, can be used and the fare may be raised.

To Udonxai: 21,000k 08:00, 11:00 4hrs
To Luang Prabang: 08:30-09:30
To Muang Xinh: 15,000k 08.0-15:00 many trucks, 1.5 hrs.
To Boten: 15,000k 8:00, 11:00, 13:00, 2.0hrs
To Xiangkok: 15,000k 3.5hrs
To Houay Xai: 65,000k 8:00 8-10 hr, very bad road. There is a small village between Louang Namtha and Houay Xaii, called Vieng Phukha, which has two guesthouses (single 10,000k, double 15,000k) and electricity. Fare: Houexai to this village 40,000k and this village to Luang Namtha 25,000k

Boat: The boat landing is 6km from the town. It is possible to travel to Houay Xai via Pak Tho. The journey takes two days. The availability of the service is dependant on water level and a certain amount of manana.


Where to stay

Quite a bit of accommodation has sprung up in recent years. The poshest place in town in the well regarded Boat Landing Guest House or for a cheaper alternative maybe have a look at the Gold Source Guest House or the Luang Nam Tha Guest House


Monday, October 24, 2005

Phongsali

Phongsali Province tucked between China, Vietnam and Oudomsay Province in Northern Lao is a beautiful, relatively untouched area of South East Asia. Phou Fa Mountain, the province's landmark, overlooks Phongsali city.

The province is extremely mountainous with elevation 450 m to 1,800 m above sea level.
Twenty eight distinct hill tribes live in Phongsali.

There are no borders open to foreigners between Phongsali and either China or Vietnam at this point, making it a bit of a dead-end destination for travellers and, as such, is relatively unspoiled by farang.

Many of Lao's endangered species, both flora and fauna, find home in Phongsali Province, and the province's 222,000 hectares of protected lands. Hunting for food and medicinal purposes presents the greatest threat to the various animals in the region, whilst slash and burn agriculture threatens some species of trees

Getting there and away

It is possible to reach Phongsali by boat, bus or car, and air.

Various bus routes include:

Direct from Vientiane (via Luang Prabang and Oudomsay, overnight)
From Luang Prabang (via Oudomsay, overnight)
From Oudomsay (depart morning, arrive evening)

The Nam Ou provides boat services to Phongsali with beautiful. From Oudomsay catch a bus to Muang Khua. From there a boat will take you to Hatsa, a 20km truck ride from Phongsali.

Similarly, boat trips can be had from Hatsa to either Muang Khua or to Nong Khiaw. Slow boats and speed boats are available. Slow boats make the journey from Hatsa to Muang Khua in about 5 hours and speed boats make it to Luang Prabang in about 6 hours.

Air transportation from Vientiane and Luang Prabang is also available every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. The plane arrives in Bounneua, a 41km bus ride from Phongsali. Bounneua has two buses a day to Phongsali, which are the buses passing through from Oudomsay. They are at approximately 11:30 and 16:00. It is not possible to fly from Phongsali to Luang Prabang directly as the plane returns directly to Vientiane.

Places to stay

In Phongsali try Sensaly Guesthouse and try the noodle soup shop opposite the Agriculture Bank and the Museum.

In Muang Hua try the Nam Ou Guesthouse right on the riverbank

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Rats for lunch, rats for tea and rats in one's fishermans pants

A series of rat stories from people who don’t like rats

Boy

At night the rats sprinted the length of the building with Olympic enthusiasm. They skittered above the flimsy ceiling and beneath the rickety floorboards. They dodged beneath my bed and scrabbled up the walls. I'd foolishly left some peanut brittle in my pack and this attracted every rat in the place. I could hear rats above and below and to either side of me, all frantically scuttling after the scent of sugar and peanuts. In the end I chucked the candy out the window and it banged loudly on the roof of the toilets, provoking indignant protests in Laotian. At this point, however, the rats left me in peace.

American Boy

In the same village during the night I didn't sleep that much because of the noises. It was a kind of swish but I didn't figure out the source. In the morning one of the first words I heard waking up was the date cursing since in the night time some strange animal had gnawed her cap that she had left on the floor. Which animal remained a mystery, but the next morning it was the fat girl’s turn, in fact her handbag got holed by the same animal who reached and stole my goddam chewing gums. Ironic or what?

Girl, Girl, Girl

We almost forgot about this, till the day we were on the way back to Luang Prabang sitting on one of the trucks Lao people use as buses. A lady got on carrying a big stinky box that she put right in front of me. It was so stinky that I almost felt to throw up and one man was laughing looking at me. Still giggling he opened the box and picked up a big black flat stinky dried rat!!!!!!!!! Shit!! It is was so disgusting! Maybe not still happy he showed me the box full of such crap rats.

Organic Eco Girl

The rooms, with walls of woven bamboo, overlooked a ricefield and fishponds and were spartan but clean. While it was charming to look out of our window and see water buffalo grazing and hear the frogs at night, the rat that decided to visit us at night wasn't so welcome. But that is part of visiting the countryside as well. All the noise we made in searching for him convinced him not to return for a second look around so the rest of our stay was peaceful.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Savannakhet

Savannakhet (officially known as Muang Khanthabouli, but more commonly called Savan or Muang Savan) was established in 1642 by Lao prince "Thao Keosimphali"

He brought many families from Ban Phonsim (18 kms east of the present Savannakhet town) to settle down along the bank of the Mekong river and named his small town 'Ban Thahae'

Some crossed the Mekong river to settle down along its bank and named their town 'Ban HuayMuk' (it's known today as Mukdahan or Muang Muk).

The original name of the town was "Souvannaphoum". In 1883, the year of the French colonization, the province's name was changed by the French to Savannakhet. It's a second largest city and the most populated province in Laos - (2005 census: 824,662 people).

It is located just across the Mekong river from Mukdahan, Thailand.

Savan has twelve different ethnic groups, the city is mixed of Lao, Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese communities. Savan is also a major trading route in the southern part of Laos. Lao, Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese-made goods pass through this city daily.

Like many cities in Laos, Savannakhet has a number of French colonial and Franco-Chinese buildings. Savannakhet is home to the dinosaur remains discovered by the French geologist in 1936 at Ban Namo. There is an excellent museum containing many fossilised remains (5,000 kip)

Getting there


Bus

About 50m west of the bus station is the market and songthaew stand where songthaews leave regularly in the morning and very irregularly in the afternoon to destinations throughout the province. Best to get here at around 07:00 to be sure of a prompt departure, though better still to check estimated departure times the day before.

At the bus station, the station manager speaks English and timetable information is displayed in English as well, though again, best to check the day before as timetables may fluctuate. Try to get on the bus about 30 minutes before departure to be sure of a seat.

The bus to Vientiane picks up and drops of at Tha Khaek, Paksan, Pakading, Nam Thone and just about everywhere else. Other buses opereate to Pakse and Xephon

Accommodation


Places to consider are the
Nong Soda Guesthouse on the riverside and the very popular centrally located Saisouk Guesthouse.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Don Khon - The Irawaddy Dolphins

In the area around Don Khon in the Mekong River at the southernmost tip of Laos you can sometimes see the Irrawaddy dolphin. The freshwater dolphin is also called 'pla ka' and gets its name from the Irrawaddy river in Burma, and is classified as among the world's most endangered mammals.

The Irrawaddy dolphins—Orcaella brevirostris—can be found in other parts of the region, from the Bengal Bay to Papua New Guinea, from Northern Australia to the South China Sea.

Their habitat varies from estuary to the bank of fresh water rivers such as the Irrawaddy in Myanmar, Mahakham in Indonesia, Bhramabutra in India and the lower Mekong.

Traditionally, the dolphins are neither hunted nor their meat eaten. However, they come into regular contact with human beings because of their habitat—warm, shallow coastal waters.

Recent studies indicate that the majority of the dolphin population have migrated to Laos' southern neighbour, Cambodia

Current estimates estimate that there are 40 dolphins in the north-eastern part of Cambodia, from a total of about 100 dolphins altogether in the Mekong river.

During the flooding season, Mekong dolphins follow migratory groups of fishes from the eastern Cambodian province of Kratie to various tributaries upstream.

But during the dry season, usually December to mid-May, their sanctuary is limited. Usually they migrate to the river's "deep pools" to ensure their own safety and to use as feeding ground during this time, and this makes them easy to spot.

Surveys show that there are 36 "deep pools" in the Mekong, including the ones in lower Sekong and Se San Rivers, apart from the other five tributaries along the Lao-Cambodia border, for Irawaddy dolphins to take refuge in during the dry season.


When to go:

The southwest monsoon brings heavy rains around May that last into November. This is when the Mekong can rise ten or more meters. Immediately following the rainy season is a good time to visit. Waters have subsided, revealing the islands in the Si Phan Don area but the river level is still high enough to allow boats to make it all the way to Khong Island. The dolphins are best sighted during the first few months of the dry period.

How to get there

Bus

To/From Pakse


From Nakasang you can get a bus to Pakse for $3 which takes about 3 hours. Buses leave (Nakasang) at 06:00,07:00,08:00 and 09:00. There is a pickup that leave at 10:30 for $5 per person (5 people minimum).


To/From Don Khong

From Nakasang you can get a Pakse bound bus to Hat Xai Khun for the crossing to Don Khong (at Muang Khong) which costs $1. If you couldn't be bothered waiting for the bus, a motorbike will take you there in a fraction of the time for $3.

Boat

Don Khon can be reached two main ways -- by boat from Don Khong, or by boat from Nakasang. Don Khon is connected to Don Dhet by the silly French bridge.

To/From Don Khong

The trip from Don Khong takes around 1.5 hours depending on the time of the year and quality of the boat. From Don Khong to Don Dhet costs $15 for 1 to 4 people or $4 per person for 5+.

To/From Nakasang

The trip takes about 15 minutes and costs $1 per person or $3 for the boat.To/From PakseIf you are intent on doing the whole thing by boat, the boat from Pakse arrives too late in the day to continue by boat down to Don Khon unless you want to hire a whole boat. You will have considerable trouble convincing a boatman to do the trip at night.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Pakse

Although counting only about 30,000 inhabitants, Pakse is the most important town of South Laos. Situated at the confluence of the Xe Dong river and the Mekong, Pakse is an important traffic junction.

From Pakse routes lead to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia and as a base for exploring the Bolaven Plateau and Four Thousand Islands.

To get to Pakse you have several options.

Lao Aviation flies to Pakse from Vientiane.

You can reach Pakse by boat from the north or the south, although these services change regularly.

Buses run from Vientiane daily and the journey can take as long as 15 hours. This bus service also serves the towns of Tha Kek and Savannakhet.

There is an international check point at Ban Muang Kao on the Thai border with Chong Mek. You can get a Visa on arrival at this checkpoint. After entry into Laos, a short taxi ride to the new Bridge into Pakse.

Coming from Thailand, the nearest airport, train station and bus terminus to Chong Mek is Ubon Ratchathani - about 1 hour by road from the border.

Accommodation options include
Sabaidy 2 Guesthouse at about $4 or the more upmarket Seng Aroun Hotel at around $12.

A couple of the more commonly recommended eateries are Lhan Kham Restaurant (for breakfast), Mai Fai Restaurant (basic Western and Lao fare) and Riverside at the confluernce of the Mekong and Se Kong rivers for a chilled Bia Lao.

Bolaven Plateau

Situated on the north east of Champassak province, the plateau covers parts of Salavan, Attapeu and Sekong provinces although there are more options for tourists visiting the plateau in Pakse.
The plateau is fertile farmland specialising in coffee, tea, cardamom and fruit. The plateau houses a dozen mainly animist ethnic minorities, including Laven, Alak, Katou, Ta-Oy, Houne, Ngai and Suk communities. Accomodation on the plateau is limited, but Tad Lo waterfalls has a number of bungalows.


Sii Pan Don - Four Thousand Islands

The southernmost part of Champassak province, forms the border with Cambodia. Here, the Mekong river spreads to a width of up to 14km during the rainy season forming hundreds of islands and islets. The larger islands are inhabited and the largest southern island, Don Khone has an old disused 5km railway, built by the French as part of the Mekong bypass route.
The river cannot be navigated south of Don Khone because of the Khone Falls - the smaller Samphamit Falls and the larger Khong Phabeng Falls - the biggest in Asia, and maybe the widest falls in the world. Near the falls can be found the endangered Irriwaddy dolphins.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Phonsavan - Plain of Jars

On a windy plateau some 1050 m above sea level in northern Laos, hundreds of one-to-three metre tall stone urns, some weighing as much as six tonnes, lie scattered across a grassy plain. The local inhabitants say that the jars were made to ferment wine to celebrate a great military victory 1,500 years ago.

The jars are at least as old as the legend claims, but if any were used for making wine, that was not their original function. In the 1930s, French archaeologist Madeline Colani documented the jars in a 600-page monograph, The Megaliths of Upper Laos, concluding that they were funerary urns carved by a vanished Bronze Age people.

Getting to Xieng Khouang Province, where the plain is located, unless you have an ox cart, is a choice between taking the nine to ten hour bus journey (60,000 kip) from either Luang Prabang or Vientiane or to fly. Internal flights from Vientiane with Laos Airways to the airport at Xieng Khouang take about 45 minutes (US$51 single US$97 return).

As you approach the airstrip you will see thousands of bomb craters pockmarking the barren plain, a grim memento of the American presence in Southeast Asia. Phonsavan has been built over the past thirty years to replace the former provincial capital (Xieng Khouang), which was destroyed during the war.

A little more than a mile southeast of Phonsavan lies the principal jar site, called Ban Ang by Colani: sixty acres of wind-swept prairie containing more than 250 urns.

A few stone lids are scattered among the jars, some incised with a design of concentric rings. All the jars may have been fitted with lids, most of which were later pilfered. Another theory, however, is that these stone lids served some other function, and that the urns originally had wooden covers. In any case, all the jars appear to have been open to the elements for centuries.

There are several places to stay in Phonsavan.

Three to have a look at are
Kong Keo Guesthouse, Kou Kham Guesthouse and Meuang Phuane Guesthouse

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Scams and warnings

Some recent scams and warnings from Lonely Planet

The first night I arrived in Vientiane I was walking down the street with two girl friends. We were across the street from the mekong, near a seated police officer, in a well-lit, well-traveled area. These conditions, along with the consensus suggesting how safe Laos is, lulled us into believing all was well. However, a man came running up behind us, grabbed my camera case, and struggled with me for it until the strap broke and he ran off with his prize. I screamed, but absolutely no one came to help, not even the seated police officer. My arm was hurt, scraped, bruised and swollen from the struggle, and so we went into a restaurant to recover. There we were informed that the number of attacks against women is growing tremendously along with the use of amphetamines. Every day since I have met one farang woman who has experienced a purse snatching on the same road near the river.

On the same note, one of my travelling companions, the same night I was mugged, had a man break into his hotel room at 3 am while he was sleeping. Fortunately it happened to a man big enough to shove the intruder out and barricade himself against further attack.
I'm afraid too many tourists go about here with a false sense of security. I think a more serious warning about the disintegrating situation in the capital would do some good.

Kathleen Ellen, USA (Sep 05)

I would like to let young people travelling know of the dangers of swimming in rivers and waterfalls. My daughter Mia-Lucy Rose died whilst swimming in the Li-Phi water fall on Don Det, 4000 islands, in Laos. A strong current took her legs from under her and swept over the water fall, it was three days before we found her body. There were several people swimming in the same pool as Mia There are no danger or warning signs about the water and this island is very popular with travellers from all around the world. Mia is the fourth person to die in this way at the same spot. Apparently there was a message written in German (a paper note covered in plastic pinned to a tree) giving warning as a young man had died there recently.
Pauline Rose, UK (Aug 05)

For the benefit of future travellers we want to bring to your attention our bad experience with crossing the Laos-Cambodia border. There are 2 options for crossing the border and heading to Stung-Treng: pick-up truck/ bus or speed boat (the option we chose). After talking to the driver we agreed to pay 15 $ for the trip. After stamping the passports at the Cambodia immigration post and 5 minuets crossing ... the boat engine conveniently broke down in front of the driver's village.(not the usual route we learned after). 10 minutes after we got stuck, a friend of the driver came and offered to take us for 60$. We asked him to take us back to the border (we were stuck in the village with no other transport) in the hope of finding another boat for a regular price. Eventually two of our company took a small motor-boat with one of the fisherman back to the boarder. When the boat drivers found out about our plan him immediately phoned someone. When the two arrived at the border the prices were all 50-100$. The drivers also told them that they know about our "situation". In the end we were forced to pay the money. Please warn future travellers in your next edition. Even if the all scam hadn't occurred, we would have preferred to take the bus over the dangerous boat.
Ariel, Yuval, Moshe and Mayan, Israel (May 05)

I have just recently done the 1 day kayak trip from Vang Vieng to Vientiane in Laos. Here's the heads up; this is potentially dangerous, I noticed you had a tubing warning but the same should be said for kayaking. There is one set of rapids on this trip that is rated as class 3 by the tour companies. I'll confirm it, it definitely is class 3. Inexperienced paddlers should not be on this kind of water in these conditions. The rescue gear carried by the guides is non-existent, life jackets are ill-fitting and sub-standard in quality. Most guides are not trained in river rescue and could not help you if they had to. We scouted this rapid and I saw the reaction of my fellow paddlers when they saw what this rapid looked like. I have paddled water bigger than this at home and I took a step back when I saw this water, and this is the dry season.

I have extensive experience guiding school trips for my school. I have a Swiftwater Rescue course, I'm a Canadian Recreational Canoe Association certified instructor and I have a couple of White-water Canoeing certificates. I would not take a school group on this river, it must be crazy when it is the wet and the river is in flood.

Of course no one backed out of running the rapid because they may not have known the danger, and of course there is the "macho factor" as well. It was a great day I thoroughly enjoyed myself and no one got hurt. Travellers need to think big picture with these trips. If something happens on this river there is no Emergency Response team that will airlift you out of there. At home when we do these trips we expect a certain standard of care, in fact we probably don't even think about it, we just assume it's there. We assume the guides are trained and qualified, and the gear is top notch. This same standard of care just doesn't exist for this trip so travellers need to be advised of what they are potentially getting into.
Trevor Hale, Canada (Mar 05)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Bombies

Between 1964 and 1973, the United States conducted a "secret" war, dropping over two million tons of bombs on the mountains and jungles of Laos. Many of these bombs - especially a newly developed weapon called a "cluster bomb" - failed to explode when they hit the ground, leaving the landscape littered with millions of unexploded bombs, as dangerous today as when they fell from the sky three decades ago.

Dubbed "bombies" by Laotian villagers, these eye-catching but deadly orbs, as brightly coloured as exotic fruit, are still found by children playing in shallow dirt, in the clefts of bamboo branches, or in the furrows of fields where farmers still till the soil by striking the earth with a hoe.

In 1964, as the Vietnam War was intensifying, the United States attempted to staunch the flow of North Vietnamese people and supplies moving along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which detoured through Laos before heading into South Vietnam. Laotian Communists, backed by North Vietnam, were fighting in a civil war against the U.S.-supported Royal Lao government. Because the United States signed the 1962 Geneva Accords prohibiting American military involvement in Laos, the bombing, organized by President Kennedy, the CIA and the Air Force, was kept secret, both from Congress and from the American people, to pursue a covert strategy for ridding the countryside of Communists. Initial targets were Communists troops, supply depots and lines of communication. Later, to prevent the soldiers from having access to men and materials, the U.S. began to bomb farms, villages and towns.


The consequences for Lao civilians were devastating. American planes delivered the equivalent of a B-52 planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years. More bombs were dropped on Laos at that time than on Germany and Japan combined during World War II.

In the last three decades more than 12,000 people, many of them children, have been killed or injured by bombies or other unexploded ordnance (weapons). With an estimated 90 million cluster bombs dropped on Laos, many experts consider Laos to be the most heavily ordnance-contaminated country in the world.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Cafe Lao

Around 100 or so years ago the French colonialists planted coffee in the southern highlands of Laos on the Bolaven Plateau, and since independence, the (mostly small) plantations have continued. Coffee from Laos is not widely known because most of the country's small export quantities have previously gone to France - the old colonial connection. However nowadays Laotian coffee is now exported all over the world.

In Laos, you need to learn to order "Cafe Lao Dam" (Black Laos Coffee), and if you don't take sugar, add "Baw Sai Nam Tan." The Lao people tend to drink their coffee very strong - beans are roasted to a coal black, and they mostly add condensed milk. They use lots of ground bean in a muslin bag to soak in hot water for their brew. Here we're talking serious black caffeine syrup, and if you don't want an involuntary hyperactivity attack, you also need to say "Nam Hawn" (sounds like "numb horn") to get a glass of hot water for diluting purposes.

“Kafae thung”, literally means 'bag coffee' and it is, quite simply, thick, strong and sweet. Why 'bag coffee'? Well, that refers to the traditional method of making Thai coffee, that is by filtering hot water through a bag-shaped cloth filter - there have even reportedly been times that the ubiquitous sock has been used as a subsitute....

It is customarily seen in Thai outdoor morning markets, though one can find it in Bangkok at almost any hour of the day, being one of the favourites of street vendors. Kafae thung, is typically mixed with sweetened condensed milk and, sometimes sugar...however, if you would like it less sweet, do be sure to tell the vendor beforehand - say mai sai naam-taan (condensed milk but no sugar). You like your coffee black? Well then say "kafae dam".

To have a really good cup of this brew, it is recommend going south, the best versions are made and enjoyed in the Hokkien-style caf├ęs in the southern provinces. It is without a doubt a-roy (delicious).

Adapted from an article by John McBeath

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Laos Airlines

International Flights

Laos Airlines offers international services from Vientiane to Bangkok (daily), Chiang Mai(Tue, Fri, Sun), Hanoi (Daily), Phnom Pehn (Daily), Siem Reap (Wed, Fri, Sun), Kunming (Wed, Sun). From Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai (Tue, Fri, Sun) and from Pakse to Siem Reap (Wed, Fri, Sun)

Domestic Flights

Laos Airlines offers multiple flights from Vientiane to the following provincial capitals: Luang Prabang (daily), Savannakhet (daily), Luang Namtha (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun), Xieng Khouang (daily), Pakse (daily), Oudomxai (Tu, Th, Sat, Sun), Xayyabuli (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun), Houixay (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat), Thakhek (Fri), and Saravane (via Savannakhet, Sun. only).

Fares and booking

The Laos Airlines website contains details of fares. The site does not deal with reservations or online booking. If you wish to book in advance you should use a reputable agency such as Traveller 2000 who will deliver tickets internationally and within Thailand where they are based.

Aircraft

Lao Airlines operates a fleet of Airbus A320s, Aerospatiale ATR72s and Chinese built Y12’s on domestic and regional international routes from its main base at Vientiane (Wattay) Airport. International flights are usually serviced by the airline's new Airbus A320-200.

Safety


There are quite a few references to Lao Airlines not maintaining its planes but its safety record doesn't seem to be poor – its planes keep flying. (The last recorded fatalities were in October 2000 and all accidents recorded by Airlines Safety Network concerned the Chinese or Russian built aircraft.)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Climate in Laos

The climate throughout Laos is monsoonal. There are three distinct seasons with some variations between north and south. In general, it is wet between May and October and dry between November and April.
  • The cool dry season occurs from November to January. In the Mekong valley, temperature can drop to around 15 degrees Celsius and the mountain temperature drop to zero degrees celsius or lower at night. Humidity is low at this time of the year and the most visitors consider it the best time to travel to Laos.
  • The hot dry season follows through May. And toward the end of this period, there is high humidity and thunderstorms. Temperature can reach 35 degrees celsius.
  • The wet season generally lasts from June until October. It is typified by a consistent pattern of low clouds and rain. Flooding occurs along the Mekong River and some tributaries. The average rainfall in the capital Vientiane is 1,700 mm, although in the north of Laos and the highlands it is wetter, with more than 3,000 mm each year.