Laos Tourism Is Your Worst Enemy. 5 Ways To Defeat It

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Everytime we stop in a small gloomy restaurant to eat a Phó soup or drink a Coke, they ask us a lot of questions. Here meeting people is very easy, and contrary to Luang Prabang, it’s not induced by money, people are genuinely curious and happy to see us there. Farmers are very surprised but also amused to see us there.

Around Houayla, the Mekong is quite marshy, with a lot of herbs peaking out of the water. We were quite hoping we would be able to travel by boat to Vientiane… Instead we take a bus to Houayla, an even smaller town, from where we start hiking the last 80kms to Vientiane. Nowadays, only a few cargos and luxury cruise boats stop there once in a while.

We don’t really understand why at first until a guy tells us slow boats where used to travel on this part of the Mekong river before the highway was built… Times change, fortunately or unfortunately, it is not for us to judge. There are a lot of small hotels and guesthouses in town. These interests represent a drop in the ocean however when compared Things to do shouldn’t missed in Laos China’s mammoth engineering project to construct a railway linking its southwest Yunnan province to Singapore, slap bang through the middle of Laos at a (borrowed) cost of $7.2 billion to the country.

Of the nine proposed Laotian Mekong dams, Chinese financiers and developers are involved in at least four. In 2012, it was reported that a Shanghai group invested $1.6 billion to develop 365 hectares around Vientiane’s That Luang Lake into a huge commercial complex, and over the last 20 years the Chinese government have approved the construction of a cascade of dams along stretches of the Mekong River that lie within the Laos border. There are other river library projects popping up too, such as the Luang Prabang library boat where you can donate books, or translating services.

Make sure your money stays in local hands: stay in rural homestays, use local guides, ask your guide where you can eat locally - they’re often more than happy to swerve an itinerary item in favour of this if you ask politely, shop in local food markets, buy genuine handicrafts, and ask your guide about worthwhile tourism projects that you can visit and get involved in. One particular project of note is the Big Brother Mouse literacy project, which Sarah Allard from our supplier Lost Earth Adventures discusses below. Elephant tourism is popular in Laos, a mountainous country bordering Yunnan province in southern China where thousands of wild elephants used to roam. Efforts will also be made to improve the skills of workers in the industry and the quality of the services they provide.

There will be training and development for government staff working in the tourism sector, as well as management training for business operators. The programmes include developing essential infrastructure at tourist sites and encouraging more business operators to cater for visitors, while an international promotional campaign will highlight the many attractions that Laos has to offer.