11/2010 - Laos 2nd part: Central Laos

20-day trip to Laos visiting Huay Xai, Luang Namtha, Muang Sing, Pangthong, Nam Ha, Oudomxai, Luang Prabang, Ban Xang Hai, Pak Ou caves, Tat Kuang Si waterfalls, Van Vieng, Phou Khoun, Ventiane, Ang Nam Ngum artificial lake, Pakse, Tat Fan waterfall, Tat Lo waterfall, Pha Xuam, Champasak, Kingfisher, Don Khong Isle, Muang Khong village, Don Khon island, Li Phi waterfalls, Khon Phapheng waterfalls and the villages of the following ethnic groups: Hmong, Yao, Thai, Akha, Alak, Katu, Kamu, Khmu, Kanu Akha, Landlam, Mong, Phonsaad.

After the visit of the northern Laos, we began the visit of the central  Laos.

We left Luang Prabang and moved towards Vang Vieng .

Along the way we stopped at the market in Phou Khoun.

In Vang Vieng, first we visited the Elephant Cave (Tham Sang) with some Buddha statues and Buddha’s  footprint, then we went up the river with small boats.

We enjoyed beautiful rural scenes and we saw many young tourists sailing down the river on big inner tubes; there was the possibility to rest in numerous “bars” that sold a little of everything.

    Early in the morning, we visited the Tham Jang , the most famous cave in the area, located at the end of a long and tiring flight of steps. Inside , thanks to a good lighting we could see beautiful limestone formations. Those who wanted had the possibility to swim in an underground river.

    We began to travel the road that would take us to Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

    We made a stop at Thahua to visit the fish market.

During our journey towards Vientiane, we stopped in a small town and visited the Ponsong Temple . In the afternoon, we went for a boat ride on the artificial lake of Ang Nam Ngum .

Once in Vientiane, as first thing, we visitedthe  Xieng Khuan (Buddha’s park) . This is a park with several Buddhist and Hindu sculptures made in cement . The idea came to Luang Pu, a famous shaman and yogi master .

In the afternoon we visited the National Museum of Laos. The main complex is interesting and so are the gardens that surround it. Inside there are memories of the revolutionary struggle of the past.

The most important monument in Vientiane is the Patuxai (Gate of Triumph), which vaguely resembles the Parisian Arc de Triomphe. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens and it is a “must” for Laotians .

Wat Si Muang is considered to be the abode of the guardian spirit of the city and the place where the phallic pillar of Vientiane ( Khmer origin ) is guarded . They trace its construction back to 1563 and it has been used for religious purposes for over thousand years.

Wat Si Saket is the oldest temple in Vientiane . In the inner cloister there are more than three hundred statues of Buddha made ​​of different materials . Most of the statues come from Luang Prabang and date back from the fifteenth to the sixteenth century. Inside there are over seven thousand Buddha images .

The Haw Pha Kaeo was built to house the famous Emerald Buddha , and today is a museum of sacred art in which it is strictly forbidden to take pictures .

I close my visit to Vientiane with the most important monument of the country, the Pha That Luang (Golden Stupa ) .

The king ordered its construction in the middle of the sixteenth century. The great stupa is visible from afar, not only for its size but also because it is completely golden.

Nearby, typical stalls were selling tourist products and I present some pictures to show their brightness.

The visit continues in the trip named Southern Laos .