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Architectural Tourism Handbook by Andis Sīlis

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Connoisseur's Guide · Asia · laos · Laos · Architectural Tourism Handbook by Andis Sīlis

Northern Provinces of Laos

Author: Andis Sīlis0 COMMENTS

Northern Provinces of Laos

I don't know how about you, but I get tired of civilization! With all its designing, cooking, spa-visiting and other suchlike „arts"; its globalization, mass media, tourism industry and other its side effects. It is not so easy to find a place to relax - an unspoiled nature with no tourists is available only in hard to access places. On the other hand, intact by tourism spots may prove to be brutally unwelcoming or unbearable as to living conditions.

Foto: Northern Provinces of LaosFoto: Northern Provinces of Laos

The most agreeable compromise between a sheer extreme and a tolerable presence of civilization, that I have managed to find so far, is a leisurely travel through Northern provinces of Laos. Although Lonely Planet warns that rebellious types may unexpectedly emerge from the jungle, demanding to share with them your spare financial resources, there is no evidences that anything like that had lately happened. It is safe and pleasant, as steeling and begging is not accustomed there. And, unlike in India, curious locals do not fly at a first time seen white man and no one try to sell you some unwanted thing or product either.

For urbanization run-down eco-architecture enthusiasts I'd like to suggest a following route - go by car or by boat from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw; then by boat at least as far as Muang Ngoy, lingering on your way at some small and tranquil riverside villages. And there is absolutely nothing - no eateries, no stores or anything else redundant.

Foto: Northern Provinces of LaosFoto: Northern Provinces of Laos

The lack of any comfort - electricity, good roads or any tourism infrastructure - is made up by shy curiosity of local people, always smiling greeting „sabaidi" and an intact landscape in the direct sense of this word. At the same time as Europe carries on futile discussions on energy efficient building and renewable resources, in Laos a presence of human beings in their simple wooden houses naturally melt together with the magnificent natural setting.

Foto: Northern Provinces of LaosFoto: Northern Provinces of Laos

From the architectural point of view, interesting is a completely opposite building practice, than the one we are used to. Ever since freeholders' time, Latvians have tried to erect safe and substantial family house, yet in Laos it is vice versa. Withgathered in the vicinity materials, a Laotian creates something like a temporary chicken shed, raised on slits, to spare his house from turning into a family Noah's arc during rainy season.

Foto: Northern Provinces of LaosFoto: Northern Provinces of Laos

Small houses, built without any town planning or calculations, perfectly fit into the impressive natural setting. Maybe you will manage to trace a "main street" between them, yet, it is not for any kind transport (there is no such thing) but for drying pepper. The only source of water is a village pump, and of electricity - a generator that works a couple of hours a day. No architects, no regulations, no construction companies and silly ambitions. An authentic, unpretentious and sustainable environment and a highly advisable destination for ardent users of this notion - though, mostly out of place. Riga City fathers, in their turn, might fancy information that all the bridges after sprig flooding are reconstructed or built anew there, with costs never exceed 50 - 100 LVL.

Foto: Northern Provinces of Laos

There are more articles on this website, dealing with charm of Luang Prabang architecture - I will not go into details, and there is nothing much to add in fact. After peaceful time in north Laos, shop-combing German tourists may seem especially annoying, although, apart from shops, there is pretty much to see there, including unspoiled, UNESCO protected architecture.

Returning to the headline, I can just say that impressions in Laos are to be searched outside its cities. A photo, taken from a window of Vang Vieng bungalow, shows what any words cannot. It is not difficult to obtain National Geographic worthy pictures there, as the greatest "landscape architecture" is the nature itself. Just enjoy it!

Foto: Northern Provinces of LaosFoto: Northern Provinces of Laos

Another must-see spot is Vang Vieng cave, situated about 10 km from the village. After an hour long crawl into the depth of the mountain, you will find yourself in an almost Olympic size swimming pool. Although a way may lead through water and over sharp rocks, the swim in the end is fantastic. But do not go there without a guide - I trusted some local boys and hardly managed to get out, as in the depth of the cave their flashlight went off. So I sat there and smoked for an hour or so, contemplating about a perfect silence and darkness, until the last group of that day was returning and lent us a flashlight.

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