Lonely Planet Laos (Country Guide) by Andrew Burke

By Andrew Burke

Become aware of LaosWeave your personal course during the temple-lined streets of global Heritage-listed Luang Prabang.Find out why Katang villagers sleep with their heads pointed in the direction of an out of doors wall.Explore the traditional Khmer's 'imitation of heaven' at mystical Wat Phu Champasak.Join locals for a riverside Beerlao because the sunlight units over the Mekong in Vientiane.In This Guide:Three authors, 1472 hours of on-the-road study, sixty one mapsOur advisor is devoted to delivering tourists with environmentally and culturally conscious commute adviceVisit lonelyplanet.com for up to the moment reports, updates and vacationer insights

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Just north of Phu Bia stands the Xieng Khuang plateau, the country’s largest mountain plateau, which rises 1200m above sea level. The most famous part of the plateau is the Plain of Jars (p169), an area somewhat reminiscent of the rolling hills of Ireland – except for the thousands of bomb craters. It’s named for the huge prehistoric stone jars that dot the area, as if the local giants have pub-crawled across this neighbourhood and left their empty beer mugs behind. Much of the rest of Laos is covered by forest (see Plants, below), most of which is mixed deciduous forest.

Fresh nâm màak náo (lime juice), sǐi-khái (lemongrass), bąi sálanae (mint leaf) and phák hǎwm (coriander leaf) are added to give the food its characteristic tang. Other common seasonings include khaa (galingale), màak phét (hot chillies), nâm màak khǎam (tamarind juice), khǐng (ginger) and nâm màak phâo or nâm káthí (coconut milk). Chillies are sometimes served on the side in hot pepper sauces called jąew. In Luang Prabang, nǎng khwái hàeng (dried skin of water buffalo) is quite a popular ingredient.

As a result, the mahouts (elephant keepers and/or drivers) in some elephant villages are working with NGOs to find alternative income through tourism. Projects in Kiet Ngong (p270) in Champasak Province, and Hongsa (p224) in Sainyabuli Province offer elephant trekking, and the elephant bąasǐi (p224) is growing in popularity as a tourist event. Working elephants are most visible in Sainyabuli, Udomxai, Champasak and Attapeu Provinces. Despite these problems, Laos is in the rare position of having the raw materials – enough elephants and habitat – to ensure the jumbos have a long and healthy future.

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