Follow the river and you will find the sea. –French Proverb
Laos is located in the Greater Mekong Subregion. It is the only country in Southeast Asia that is landlocked. Laos is a communist country, which has been tied for centuries to its official religion – Theravada Buddhism.
Throughout history, the powerful Mekong river ̶ known as the “mother of all rivers” – has supported the Lao people to make a living. More than half of the river flows through the landscapes of Laos. There are jungle covered mountains, cave-filled rocks and fertile plateaus.
Laos had been labelled the world’s most bombed country. More than 2 billion tons of bombs were dropped during the Vietnam war. However, despite the country’s violent past, there is a remarkable peaceful atmosphere and strong presence of spirituality in the everyday life of the Lao people. Locals respect traditions, follow their heart and do not lose sight of where they are going.
The biggest agricultural export of Laos is coffee. We started our journey throughout the country in Pakse, at the Boloven Plateau, in the South, where most of the coffee and tea is cultivated. Many rivers cross the plateau and there are plenty beautiful waterfalls. There are ethnic villages and numerous coffee and tea plantations. We rented a motorbike and explored the area. A famous tea master of the region prepared fresh green tea for us before we explored his tea plantation. Both of us never visited a tea plantation before. We also stopped at various coffee plantations, where the owners were proudly operating small, simple wooden stalls to offer freshly roasted coffee to visitors.
We travelled to the capital. Vientiane is a small city, which reflects the typical character of Laos: simple beauty, tranquillity and laid back people. There are many Buddhist temples. We experienced a fusion of traditional Lao and French culture. Until its declaration of independence in 1945, Laos was a French colony.
Our next stop was Van Vieng, a town surrounded by a breathtaking landscape of giant limestone rocks with all kinds of surreal shapes rising out of the ground. Some indifferent looking water buffaloes were peacefully eating grass under the afternoon sun.
Luang Prabang, where we intensively experienced the vibrant practice of the centuries old Theravada Buddhism, was our last stop in Laos. The city – which is located in the middle of the jungle – is an UNESCO World Heritage site and filled with temples and tranquil monks. The gentle and powerful Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, which surround Luang Prabang and the presence of the monks contribute to the miraculously peaceful atmosphere of this place.