Laos Travel Photo Essay

Before we started our travel blog, in 2004, we travelled to Laos. From Luang Prabang in the North to the Mekong Delta in the South, we spent a few weeks travelling the country. Laos was very rural and low-developed then. There weren’t many tourists, but the sightseeing, the people, the coffee, and the food were all immensely enjoyable. Browse our photos from a beautiful journey:

Monks after bathing in the river near Luang Prabang, Laos

The temples of Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang was the capital of Laos for centuries, until the abolition of monarchy in 1975. With its rich historical architecture – and French colonial elements – Luang Prabang is Laos’ first UNESCO World Heritage site.

Vat Xieng Thong Temple in Luang Prabang

Wat Xieng Thong temple in Luang Prabang
Lying buddha in Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang

The immense statue of Luang Prabang’s most important Temple has once travelled outside Laos: It was exhibited in Paris in 1931.

Vat Visounarath in Luang Prabang

Pilgrims in Vat Visounarath, Laos

The group of Thai pilgrims shared their tasks by gender: The women prayed and relaxed in front of the Buddha, while the men were clumsily trying to fix hundreds of sqare meters of orange cloth like a waistband around the temple.

The high plain of Phonsavan

Ancient stone jars near Phonsavan

Enigmatic stone jars in the Phonsavan plain

The purpose and background of these huge stone jars, hundreds of which dot the Xien Khouang plateau near Phonsavan is still debated: They may have been funerary urns or sarcophaguses, wine barrels after a great victory, or containers for salt…

The Xien Khouang plateau had been on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list for many years when we travelled to Laos. We talked to a Laotian archaeologist about documentation, visitor centres and multilingual information panels: For Laos, it was very difficult to fulfill the requirements. In fact, the region was still so insecure that the public bus to Phonsavan had an armed guard on board. The UNESCO finally inscribed the “Plain of Jars” on the World Heritage list in 2019.

The Buddha of Vat Si Phum near Phonsavan

Buddha of Vat Si Phum in Phonsavan

Most of the temple Vat Si Phum was destroyed in the carpet bombings of the Vietnam War, and even the huge Buddha that is left standing shows a lot of bullet holes.

Vientiane, the current capital of Laos

Laotian buddhas in Vat Si Saket in Vientiane
Buddhas in the temple of Vat Si Saket, Vientiane

Temple of Vat Phou in Champasak

Vat Phou in Champasak, a Khmer temple in Laos

The Champasak temple is an important site of the Khmer empire of the 10th–14th centuries. It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001.

Southern Laos and the Mekong islands

Woman washing clothes in the Mekong in Laos

Abandoned narrow-gauge locomotive on Don Deth Island

Remains of a coloniallocomotive in Don Deth

The short railway line on the island was intended to bypass the cataracts that made the Mekong impassible for ships at this point. Today, there is no option to travel Laos by rail.

You might also like our travel blog post about Cambodia, where we travelled at a similar time. Much later, we travelled to Vietnam and wrote a number of posts on that country.

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