"If you have time for but one
  province in China, Yunnan should
  be it.
- Lonely Planet


Volunteer in Kunming, Yunnan,
a city with year-round Spring weather. Trips to 26 cultures &
5 nearby countries.

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The Peoples' Democratic Republic of Laos is relatively undeveloped in this region compared to other nations in the southeastern Asia of the Indochina peninsula. As one of the few communist nations in the world. It was not until 1988 that the country was started open up the world and travelers were allowed to enter into Laos. The government is maintaining the momentum of opening up and development recent years and there are increasing number tourists, in groups or individually, coming to discover this seemingly forgotten place. The beauty of being laid-back is being appreciated, as this also means more authentic cultures, centuries old traditions and heart-lightly ease life to slow down yourself for a vacation. Laos is in the center of this region, bordering with China to the north, Myanmar to the northwest, Thailand to the west, Cambodia to the south and, Vietnam to the east.

Laos is in the center of this region, bordering with China to the north, Myanmar to the northwest, Thailand to the west, Cambodia to the south and, Vietnam to the east.

Laos is mountainous country, with three quarters of the territory made up by mountains and plateaus, and the rest being plains.
These landforms make Laos a perfect place of plants and animals. It is estimated that over half of Laos vegetations are considered primitive forest, especially tropical rain forest. Within which are wide varieties of animals, some are rare and exclusive to this region. People believe that there are probably some other species that are unknown to us in certain remote areas.

The Mekong River run through the west region of Laos and it becomes boundary line in certain part of the river. Laos is very important nations on the river. There are about 60% of water that enter into the river from Laos. Because of the river people along the Mekong developed their own distinctive lifestyle over the centuries.

Like its neighborers, situated so close to two of the most influential ancient civilizations, China and India, Laos has been affected quite lot by these two nations. Laos has quite long history though it can not be compare to these two. It was believed that it was about the 4th and 8th century that people along the Mekong river started live together and communities came into being. In 14th century the first Laos kingdom Lane Xang was established. As the kingdom became more and more powerful, its territory was extended as well. In the middle of the 16th century, one of the most wise king Setthathirath move the original kingdom capital from Xieng Thong to Vientiane. The kingdom reached its climax in the 17th century, it was this period of time that many Europeans came to visit and conduct business. The capital city Vientiane was praised by one missionary to be the "most magnificent city of Southeast Asia". It was a downturn after this period of prosperous, Lane Xang kingdom was broken into three smaller ones. Wars and conflicts were ceaseless on this land weakening its own strength as a nation instead in 1893 the French took control over Laos. Went through a period of colony, Laos regain its independence together with Vietnam and Cambodia in 1954 under the international Conference and the Geneva Agreement on Indochina. However, it did not mean Laotians were given peaceful and happy life. The subsequent war on the Indochina peninsular in its neighborer Vietnam dragged Laotians into troubles. The communists party the Laos People Revolutionary Party established the People's Democratic Republic in 1975.

It took another ten years also before foreigners can access this war tortured nation. Its hidden beauties are making known to the outside as Laos is undergoing a rapid development. However it never losses its centuries old traditions. It seems that people's life here is still as ease as it used to be. People still takes their time to enjoy themselves and without being rush.

Laos like many southeastern nations is greatly influenced by Buddhism. Now there are about 90% of Laos people professed to be Theravada Buddhism followers. The society and people's daily life are shaped by their faith. Women give offering to monks in the morning. Traditionally men are suppose to spent about three months in Buddhist temples, which is called Wat in Laos, when the rainy season comes every year. Though not exactly three months, every man will be a monk for a short time in his life. Introduced during the 8th century into Laos, Buddhism was promoted to be the state religion when the King Fa Ngum ruled the Lane Xang kingdom in the 14th century. Abominated all other forms of religion or believing system, his ideal was to make Lao people a common faith.

Laos is where you can appreciate old and diverse cultures inherited from its long history and religious beliefs. There are a great number of architectures all over the country, most of them are Buddhist buildings. Among them the most significant one is the Pha That Luang, or the Great Stupa in Lao, in Vientiane. It was a Buddhist complex believed to be built in 16th century on the ruins of previous temples which could be traced back to a 3rd century Indian temple.
In the northern Laos, theres is United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listed World Heritage Site the Luang Prabang town. On the official website of UNESCO, these words were written to describe the town.

Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved town scape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.

In southern Laos of the Champasak province is the site of Wat Phou temple. It was built in the 5th century initially as an Hindu temple and later on developed into a Theravada Buddhism worship center. Together with its surrounding environment, it was list as World Heritage Site in 2001. This is how UNESCO describe this site.
The Champasak cultural landscape, including the Vat Phou Temple complex, is a remarkably well-preserved planned landscape more than 1,000 years old. It was shaped to express the Hindu vision of the relationship between nature and humanity, using an axis from mountain top to river bank to lay out a geometric pattern of temples, shrines and waterworks extending over some 10 km. Two planned cities on the banks of the Mekong River are also part of the site, as well as Phou Kao mountain. The whole represents a development ranging from the 5th to 15th centuries, mainly associated with the Khmer Empire.

Vientiane is the capital city as well as the largest city in Laos. Though categorized as a capital city, it's more like a big town compared to many other national capitals. Beautiful landscapes, centuries old architectures and slow-paced life, plus less modern infrastructures and facilities, it presents a feeling of ease, relax, cozy and peace.

It is the Laotian version of the Arc de Triomphe. With a authentic Laotian architectural style, it seems that Patuxai was to resemble the world renown landmark in Paris, it is a city monument dedicated to people who were fighting for Laos independent from France in 1962 or 1968. What interesting was that the Laotian government built this monument by using the funds that the US gave for the purpose of building a new airport.

Buddha Park
It is basically a sculptures park displaying a great number of statues of various objects. Not being a Buddhist temple, Wat, there are various statues of Buddha, Hindu gods, humans, demons and animals. The park was built by a religious guru in 1958 who combined Hinduism and Buddhism. Laid out in three stories, all these sculptures reflect what his idea of hell, earth and heaven. The park is 25 KM, or 15 miles, south of Vientiane.

Pha That Luang
Also known as the Great Stupa in Lao, it is one of the most famous Buddhist stupas in Vientiane. It was believed that the original site of this temple was an Indian temple in the 3rd century AD. It was the Emperor Asoka, one of the most famous Buddhist propagator, who sent some missionaries built the Indian temple. People believes that the relics of the Buddha are housed in the stupas. It was one of two buildings built by King Setthathirat to commemorate the moving of the capital of Lan Xang from Luang Prabang to Vientiane in 1560 based on the ruins of a Khmer temple left from 13th century. It was destroyed during warfares in subsequent centuries. It was not until 1930s' that it was restored back to its former design.
Pha That Luang has been resembled on coat of arms of Laos, of which tell us its significance for Laotians. People liken the spirit of resilience to the history of the building. Being destroyed several times, Lao people rebuilt it to its former glory time and again with kind and perseverance.

There are a couple of other Buddhist temples around Vientiane. Built upon a site of krmer Hindu temple, the Wat Si Muang (or Simuong) is a small temple with hundreds years old houses handful of Buddha images. It is along the road to Thailand from the Friendship Bridge, at the east of the city entrance. Built in 1818 Wat Si Saket is probably the oldest Wat in Vientiane. Unlike most Laotian buildings, it followed the Siamese Buddhism architectural style. Haw Phra Kaew is temple turned museum. It is at the southeast of war Si Saket. It is famous for the bronze Buddha statues that was build in the 1550s' and an Emerald Buddha figurine.




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