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Need to know

Dos and Don'ts - General Advice

When in Laos, try and do as the as the Lao do and remember; don't touch heads, don't loose your cool with people and don't flash your flesh. The rest is about manners, shoes left outside, accepting hosts' greetings and not upsetting religious feelings.

General Advice

show respect and use your head and eyes and common sense will guide you well in navigating Lao culture safely.
When in Laos, try and do as the as the Lao do and remember; don't touch heads, don't loose your cool with people and don't flash your flesh. The rest is about manners, shoes left outside, accepting hosts' greetings and not upsetting religious feelings.

The Lao are very friendly and hospitable and a minimum effort will make your trip smooth and memorable.

Respect the culture and you will earn its respect in turn.

Welcome

A kiss or embrace from a stranger is insulting and humiliating. Traditionally, Lao people use the 'NOP' on meeting and using it will win you instant friends if performed sincerely.

How to use the 'NOP'?

Raise your hands in a praying gesture. The higher you go, the more respect you show, but don't be over the top!

A handshake will suffice, but try to use the Lao greeting of 'Sabai Dee'.

Feelings in public

Public displays of affection are taboo in Lao society, so don't cause shock or embarrassment by kissing or cuddling in front of people.

Modest dress and discreet behaviour will ensure you don't attract unwanted attention or embarrass others.

Foot and Head

In Buddhism and general Asian society, the head is very important to the souls and its purity, while the feet walk the earth and all that is deposited on it. Raising your feet to headheight, putting them on furniture or pointing with them is taken as a deliberate insult or sign of barbarism.

Don't gesture with your feet or touch an Asian head. You would be asking for trouble.

Here, as in all things, check out what local people do with their feet and shoes and try to follow suit.


Shouting
never raise your voice to Lao people as they never react well to it. Even shouting to friends or for taxis will cause shock and worry.

Lao is a land of calm and patience, and shattering the peace will do you no favours.


Appearance

Bodily hygiene and cleanliness are of the highest standard in Lao and a visitor's failure to meet these standards is not well received. Wash yourself and your clothes daily or prepare to be laughed at and avoided!

In a Lao House

Shoes are generally no-go indoors. Use your eyes and common sense to maximise your chances of social success.

Keep your head and general profile low at gatherings.

Particularly when passing by older people respect should be seen to be shown!

Religion
Religion is a major part of daily life and remains the practice of the massive majority.

Show respect in temples and shrines, watching how locals behave in such places. Dress neatly when visiting temples and religious shrines. You should never go shirtless, or in shorts, miniskirts or hot pants.

It is acceptable to wear shoes when walking around a temple compound, but not inside the chapel where the principal Buddha image is kept. Visitors are welcome to relax and be peaceful in all temples.

Every Buddha image is regarded as a sacred object, no matter how big, small, old or new. Never climb onto a buddah image to take a photograph or do anything which might indicate a lack of respect.

Keep your head lower than the buddahs and monks. Buddhist priests must not be touched by a woman or to accept anything from the hand of one. If a woman gives anything to a monk, she first hands it to a man, who then presents it. Don't turn your back on a buddah.

Environment
You will rarely be alone in Laos, even when you seem to be, and pollution is not well received.
Bins are scarce, so use your plastic bags to return rubbish to towns or villages.

Drugs
the penalties may be severe for you and even worse for the Lao society.

And finally
Keep smiling, and you will make lots of friends!

Shopping

Laos is famous for its woven silk and cotton which are found in varying designs throughout the country. Each area has its own specific design. Most products eventually find their way to Vientiane and can be found in the Morning Market – a rainbow of colours of silks and cotton. If you do not find what you like when travelling round the country, make sure that you visit the morning market in Vientiane before you leave.

Things to Buy and Services

Fabrics - Art and Antiques - Gold, Silver and Gems - Watches - Wine - Shipping - Hair Salon - Massage - Car Hire - Education

Lao women wear the traditional phaa sin – a wraparound skirt, worn by all government and office workers and school and university students. The sin is worn with a silver belt. A huge choice of phaa sin, shawls, bags and wall hangings can be found in the morning market and around Vientiane. As well as traditional Lao weavings, you will find hilltribe embroidery and quilts that can be used as wall hangings.

Baan Khily Gallery - Lao stars and other little paper wonders
Camacrafts - Hmong and Lao locally made handicrafts
Hand Made Studio - a most unique shop experience
Kanchana - the beauty of Lao silk
Lao Cotton - 100% cotton products
Lao Development - cotton, silk & handicraft products & sericulture
Lao Handicrafts - from Sekong Province
La Mode - fashions located in the Lao Hotel Plaza
Lao Textiles - the Carol Cassidy Collection
Maevan - a taste of Indochina
Mandarina - unique designs by Isabelle Souvanlasy
Nikone Handicraft - pret a porter - for the home
Phaeng Mai Studio - traditional hand woven fabrics
S I Garment Company Ltd - high quality garment manufacturing
Tip Top Boutique -  top quality ladies fashions, woven textiles and lots more.


Art and Antiques
Doris - A most unique shop located in the Lao Plaza Hotel
Mekong Gallery - Original paintings by Luang Prabang's local artist - P. Anousa
Satri Lao Silk - A complete line of Lao cultural art, paintings and antiques

Gold, Silver and Gems
Upstairs in the morning market you will find gold, silver and antiques. Thai tourists flock into Vientiane to buy gold which is cheaper than in Thailand. The gold found in Laos is 99.99% pure and is sold at a set price per gram. To many westerners, the colour of Lao gold seems almost artificial, a bit brassy – but it is true 24 carat gold. Silver is a more reasonable and traditional Lao product – silver is also sold by the weight. Look for bowls and jewelry in all shapes and sizes. The most interesting is made by hill tribes, who favour chunky, simple designs.
Bari Gems and Jewellery - Laos' first gems dealer

Watches
Thakral (Indo-China) Pte Ltd - a great selection of Seiko and Rado watches

Wine
Vins de France - for a great selection of wines
Other services

Shipping
BKS International Shipping Co.,Ltd - freight forwarding
DHL Worldwide Express - ship your gifts home with DHL
Lao Freight Forwarders - Agents for UPS
Societe Mixte de Transport - the freight professionals
TNT International Express - for all your freight forwarding needs

Hair Salon
New Wave Hair Salon - World class styling by Eng

Massage
Mixay Massage - special oil, medical and traditional massage

Car Hire
Asia Vehicle Rentals - A fully licensed rental service

Transportation

It is now possible to travel to every province in Laos by some form of public road transport. Laos has 18.153 km of national roads, 2.500 km of which are paved. The most important road is route No.13 linking which runs north-south from China to Cambodia. It links Pak Mong in the north with Khong in the south passing through major urban areas of Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Savannakhet, Champassack


Getting There & Away There are flights from Vientiane's Wattay Airport to Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam, Phnom Penh in Cambodia, Yangon (Rangoon) in Myanmar (Burma) and Kunming in China.

You can travel by Lao Aviation, Thai Airways International, Vietnam Airline, The Southern China Airline, Silk Air, Malaysian Airline and regular flights are available to Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Chiang Mai, Kunming, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Tip: By far the easiest, cheapest, most reliable, frequent and interesting way to get to Laos by air is to use Thai Airways' domestic flight to Udon Thani and get some form of road transport from there to Laos.

Departing Laos There are no restrictions for exit by the Lao authorities, however, entering neighbouring countries will be subject to their own visa regulations. Crossing into Vietnam or China by land from Laos is subject to their own visa regulations. We suggest that if you intend crossing by land into Vietnam or China, you make this point clear when applying for visas to enter those countries.

If in doubt, you may check with the following consulates in Vientiane:

- China: Thanon Wat Nak Nyai, Vientiane
- Vietnam: Thanon That Luang, Vientiane

Warning:
Cambodia: The official line is that it is not possible for tourists to cross into Cambodia from Laos. However, if you have a Cambodian visa in advance, it is AT TIMES possible. However we cannot give make any guarantees on this type of  crossing at this stage.

Myanmar: It is not possible for tourists to cross into Myanamar from Laos under any circumstances.

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Arrival by Boat From Kunming or Xishuangbanna, China, it is possible to travel by boat through the Mekong river straight South into Bokeo province.

Getting Around Within Laos

It is now possible to travel to every province in Laos by some form of public road transport. Laos has 18.153 km of national roads, 2.500 km of which are paved. The most important road is route No.13 linking which runs north-south from China to Cambodia. It links Pak Mong in the north with Khong in the south passing through major urban areas of Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Savannakhet, Champassack.

By Air Travel by air is the most convenient means of transportation within Laos. Lao Aviation files daily from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, Xieng Khouang, Pakse and Oudomsay. Furthermore, there are several flights a week to Luang Namtha, Sayaboury, Houeixay, Sam Neua, Saravane, Lak Xao, Muangkhong and Attapeu. The latest information about flight schedules and routes is available at the Lao Aviation Head Office in 2 Pangkham Road, Vientiane

By Bus Buses ply Rte 13 between Luang Prabang and Savannakhet. Other routes in the South, eg, Pakse to Sekong, typically use flat-bed trucks mounted with carriages and seats that serve as buses.

By Boat The alternative mode of getting around is river transport. The main thoroughfares are the Mekong, Nam Ou, Nam Khan, Nam Tha, Nam Ngum and Se Don. With the increase in road travel, river passenger services are declining year by year, but you can still catch long-distance ferries (called heua duan, express boats, not to be confused with the extremely fast heua wai, speed boats) between Huay Xai and Vientiane. For shorter trips it's usually best to hire a river taxi or, in the upper Mekong, a speed boat.

By Taxi There are a few taxis in the larger towns, plenty of three-wheeled motorcycles and, for shorter distances, pedi-cabs. Bargaining skills will be required.

By Motorbike Small 100cc motorbikes can be rented in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet.

By Bicycle Bicycles can be rented in Vientiane, Savannakhet, Don Khong and Luang Prabang.

Place To Eat

Lao food is spicy and delicious. It is served in communal dishes with meat, fish, chicken and vegetables. Glutinous rice, mostly served with other dishes, is eaten with fingers. In major cities, European, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes are also served in many restaurant.

Vientiane

$ John Restaurant, Thanon Fa Ngum, near the Chinese shrine. A basic Lao food place on the riverfront serving fried rice and various laap (minced meat salad) dishes.

$$ Khyber Pass, 71 Thanon Samsenthai, tel: 511 112. Halal restaurant serving Indian, Arabic and Mongolian food.

$$ La Terrasse, 55/4 Thanon Nokeo Khumman, near Wat Mixai, tel: 218 550. A brasserie and snack bar. Serves both Lao and French food along with pizzas and some Mexican dishes.

$$ Le Bayou, Thanon Setthathirat, opposite Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan. Excellent value breakfasts, salads and fondues. Try the Rocquefort cheese salad.

$$$ Lo Stivale, 43/2 Thanon Setthathirat, near Fountain Circle, tel: 215 651. An excellent Italian restaurant, with everything from pizzas to gnocchi, also a good wine list.

$$$ Nam Phou, Fountain Circle, off Thanon Pangkham, tel: 216 248. Mainly French food, but also some German dishes. Perhaps the most exclusive restaurant in town, it's been around a long time.

$Restaurant Santisouk, Thanon Nokeo Khumman, tel: 215 303. Very much a 'French Grill' style of cooking and perhaps the best value French restaurant in town.

$$ The Saya, Saysana Hotel, Thanon Chao Anou, tel: 514 742. Lao and Thai specialities.

$ The Scandinavian Bakery, Fountain Circle, tel: 215 199. A great place to pick up fresh bread, croissants, sandwiches and pies. Also good for breakfasts.

$$ Tamnak Lao or Lao Residence, Ban Phonexay, Thanon That Luang, tel: 413 562, fax: 213 635. Serves Lao specialities with Western palates in mind, hence the dishes are not overly spicy.

$$ The Taj, 75/4 Thanon Pangkham, tel: 212 890. Very good north Indian food and lunchtime buffet, also serves excellent vegetarian meals.

Golden Fish Garden Restaurant:No. 13 Road,Bane Donenoun,Tel: 732002, 732016

Kua Lao Restaurant:111 Samsenthai Road,Tel & Fax: 215777

Lao Residence Restaurant:308 Thatluang Road,Tel: 413562

Mekong Restaurant:Km 4 Thadeua Road,Tel: 312480, 313016, 313017

Soukvimane Restaurant:081/13 Bane Sisaket,Tel: 214441
Luang Prabang

$$ Ban Lao, Ban Mano, tel: 212 438. Lao and Chinese food.

$$ Le Calao, Thanon Rim Khong, tel: 212 100. An extensive western menu with Lao specialities.

$$ Le Saladier, Thanon Sisavang Vong,

$ Luang Prabang Bakery, Thanon Sisavang Vong, tel: 212 617. Café style establishment serving salads, quiches, sandwiches and various different pastries.

$$ Malee Lao Food, Thanon Phu Wao. Excellent local Lao food with daily specialities.

$$ Pak Huoy Mixay, 47/5 Ban Vatnong, Thanon Savang Vatthana, tel: 212 260. Serves excellent fresh fish from the Mekong. Probably the best place in town for Lao specialities, they also have a barbecue out on the terrace.

$$ Villa Santi, Thanon Sakkarine, tel and fax: 212 267. This place has connections with the last king's personal chef, so the food ought to be good. They serve both traditional Lao and French cuisine.

$ Visoun Restaurant, Thanon Wisunalat, tel: 212 268. Some Lao favourites, but mostly Chinese food. Open early morning to late at night.

Bane Lao Restaurant:Chaovannasenethai Road,Bane Mano,Luang Prabang district,Tel: 071-212438

Duang Champa:Khaemkhan Road,Bane Vatsene,Luang Prabang district,Tel: 071-212420

Vixun Restaurant:154/4 Vixounarath Road,Bane Vixoun,Luang Prabang district,Tel: 071-212268

Luang Prabang Restaurant:Vixunnarath Road,Bane Vixun,Luang Prabang district,Tel: 071-212381
Tha Khaek

$ Phavilai Restaurant, Thanon Kuvoravong, near the ferry landing point. A good place for basic Lao cuisine and Chinese noodle dishes.

Along the riverside on Thanon Setthathirat there are large shade trees covering a few tables. This is a good place to sit and have a cold drink or order noodles from the small noodle shops across the road. Further north along Thanon Setthathirat is a floating restaurant, serving fresh fish dishes. Shoes are removed and one sits cross-legged at low tables in separate dining enclosures.


Savannakhet

$$ Haan Ahaan Lao-Paris, Thanon Tha He, tel: 212 792. A wide variety of Lao, Vietnamese and French food. They even serve French wine.

$ Savanhlaty Food Garden, Thanon Si Muang, near the Sala Savanh Guesthouse. Only open in the evening this small night market serves a variety of Lao, Thai and Chinese dishes as well as the ubiquitous Beer Lao.

Daoheung Restaurant:Oudomsinh Street,Bane Sounantha,Tel: 041-212536

Daoleuang Restaurant:Phetsarath Road,Bane Xayamunkhune,Tel: 041-212477

Savanh Banehao: Senena Road,Bane Xayamunkhun,Tel: 041-212735, 212202
Pakse_Champassack

$$ Champasak Palace Hotel, 718 Thanon Ban Pra Bath, tel: 212 263. A variety of Lao, Chinese and Thai dishes at very reasonable prices considering it really is a palace.

$$ Ketmany Restaurant, north side of Route 13. Very good Chinese and European food, with a family atmosphere.

No.9 Restaurant: Bane Thaluang,Pakse district,Tel: 031-212068

Sengtavanh: Bane Thasalakhame,Pakse district,Tel: 031-212611

Saykhong Restaurant,Bane Pakse,Pakse district,Tel: 031-212516
Bolaven Plateau

$$ Heaun Mittaphap Lao-Thai, Tadlo Resort, next to Taat Lo Waterfalls. A restaurant at the base of the falls serving excellent French and Lao food. A lovely atmosphere.

Hanoi City Office

Asia Pacific Travel - Vietnam Hotels Reservation
Add : 87 Hoang Quoc Viet Str,Cau Giay Dist
Tel: (84.24) 3 8 364212 - 37568868
Fax : (84.24)3 7567862
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Ho Chi Minh City Office

Asia Pacific Travel -Location Map
Add : Suite 403, Floor 4th, 134 Cao Thắng, District 3, Hochiminh city, Vietnam
Tel:(84.28)383 333 88 / 627 299 25 / 383 377 14
Fax :(84.28)3 8 334 083
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