Improved infrastructure along the Mekong River has bolstered tourism numbers in recent years with the increasingly popular centres like Vientiane and Luang Prabang now drawing significant numbers of visitors from around the world. Cities like Luang Prabang are now as prominent as other well known destinations on the tourism trail, offering accommodation at all levels, with restaurants serving both local and international cuisine. The area’s hills are steeped in cultural heritage and offer an excellent choice for the educated or inquisitive tourist, or even simply for a relaxing break from busy city life.
Of primary importance to Laos, the Mekong flows through the country’s two major cities of Vientiane and Luang Prabang. As the long-serving capital, Vientiane is a vibrant city, rich in sights and history. With fewer than a million people, it is easy to get around yet large enough to offer any amenities that the seasoned traveller may expect used to. Dotted around Vientiane are numerous temples, markets, statues and parks. Perhaps the most famous landmark may look distinctly familiar to visitors. Based on Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, the Patuxai monument is still distinctly Lao with fine symbolic carvings adorning its exterior.
Laos’ second largest city, Luang Prabang once served as the country’s ancient capital, making it a must-see location for tourists. The quiet old town is home to a collection of stunning ancient temples, peaceful riverside walks and proud old French colonial buildings. The morning ritual of monks accepting offerings from local people is certainly worth rising early in the morning to see. Small shops selling artisan crafts and a nightly central market entice the curious traveller and provide a wonderful opportunity to pick up a souvenir for home. Despite being a popular tourist spot, the people here are still some of the most laid-back you’ll likely encounter in Asia and the quaint, colonial surroundings make for a picturesque stay.
Outside Laos' two major cities, the town of Vang Vieng has become something of a rite of passage for budget travellers, although more recently the town has been moving slightly upmarket. Hours, indeed days can be spent relaxing or floating in tubes down the river in this popular spot. approximately four hours north of the capital. The landscape is a natural attraction in itself with rising limestone mountains standing guard over the gently flowing river. Numerous activities await the more adventurous traveller in and around Vang Vieng, including rock-climbing and caving. Despite the high tourist numbers, a strong local culture is still evident in ethnic villages that surround the town and the bright colours in their textiles reflect the vibrancy of the region.
Original source http://www.vatphou.com/mekong_river_laos.html
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