Laos is a tiny landlocked country in South-East Asia, wedged between Vietnam and Thailand and close to Japan. Many tourists don’t go beyond the capital Vientiane, but they are missing out on a lot.
In the past few years the United Nations have been promoting programs all across the world for ‘sustainable development’ and the tiny Asian nation is no stranger to these programs. One of the emergent tourist hubs is in central-northern Laos. Phonsavan, the capital of the Xieng Khouang province, is a town of about 37,000 people, but it’s located in an area of Laos known as the “hills of paradise.”
Colorful wooden houses, cattle raising, green hills and pine forests is what characterizes this part of the country.
The area is highly lucrative and has been receiving many grants from the UN and also UNESCO. One of the most wonderful experiences you can have as a tourist there is to stay with local people under the aegis of “village tourism”, which is the perfect way to get your money directly where it matters – into local people’s pockets.
Village tourism is the eco-friendly, conservationist minded and altruistic tourist’s way of supporting sustainable development projects worldwide. The money you pay for your lodging and food is given directly to farmers and villagers, who then use it to strengthen their local communities and economy, bringing prosperity to otherwise neglected areas.
One amazing thing to see if you are in the Phonsavan areas is to check out the nearby Plain of Jars, which is a World Heritage site now. The plain itself is covered in megalithic stone jars which date back to the iron age. They date from a period of prehistory so we don’t really know who built them and why. These stone jars provide a fascinating contemplative location for a hiker who is staying a few days with a village in the nearby area.