Golden Stupa, Laos

Insider's Choice: Burma and Laos

Zegrahm Contributor|October 20, 2004|Blog Post

Our expedition to Burma and Laos via the Golden Triangle of Thailand is always a big hit among our well-traveled clients. They love the people first of all, but also the rich cultural history, as well as the amazing scenery and unique natural surprises all along the way. I have been traveling regularly to Burma since 1977, and have led every Zegrahm or Eco Expeditions exploration of that country, the first almost ten years ago. It is always an exciting journey for me.

Like their Tibetan cousins, against all odds, the Burmese refuse to give up their spirit, and they grace all visitors with their warmth and charm. Their religious and cultural sites are a great source of pride to them and instill wonder to every traveler who visits. My favorite place is Inle Lake with its unique floating gardens and an intriguing feeling like no other place on earth.

Mandalay conjures up the romantic mystery of Burma. The thousands of temple sites of Pagan leave everyone in genuine awe, and the Shwedagon Pagoda of Rangoon is, for many, one of the greatest wonders of the entire Indochina Peninsula.

When democracy finally rises on Burma, travelers will swamp the country. They are already increasing steadily. But another reason to get there now is to send a signal to the charming common people of this lovely land that they are not forgotten.

We depart Burma via a remote overland route into the famed Golden Triangle region of Thailand. The contrast as we enter "the Land of the Free" is most impressive. Here, at a luxurious five-star resort on the Thai side, we take time to digest our adventure in Burma and recharge our batteries for our explorations in Laos. Our resort hotel at the Golden Triangle deserves special mention, as it doubles as a private nature reserve with hiking and optional elephant rides.

From our Thai respite, we cross into Laos for a full two-day cruise on the Mekong River and into "Inner Laos." Here the Mekong is intimate and alive with incredible thick jungle vegetation gracing its shores. We see no power lines for two days as we stop each day to visit remote tribal villages whose only access to the outside world is the river itself.

We spend a night at a tranquil river lodge, and although it is the only somewhat-rustic accommodation of the whole journey, it often ends up being the favorite out of all our other, more luxurious, hotels due to its beauty, charm, and singular location along the banks of this enchanting river.

Farther downriver along the Mekong, we explore famous Buddhist caves and finally end our cruise in the old royal capital of Luang Prabang. This peaceful town is so friendly that some visitors fall in love and never leave. The word is out about this special place and the gentleness of the Lao people. Be prepared to find it difficult to say goodbye. Our last stop is the current capital of Vientiane--a fitting place to round out our rewarding journey into Southeast Asia's most alluring of destinations.

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