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One of the best ways to take in the local culture of Laos is to join a half-day cooking class led by talented Laotian chefs. The traditional food seems to be strange but soon becomes more impressive than ever because you have the opportunity not only to taste it but also to prepare it.

Related: full day in Luang Prabang

Getting a real taste of Laos with a cooking class is never a bad idea for food and culture lovers. If you are seeking for amazing places to experience the culture of food during your visit in big cities in Laos, this article is written for you.

Normally in the South East Asia countries, the most well-known cooking classes come from Thailand as a heaven of street food or Vietnam for its stunning cuisine which is so popular around the world. However, Laos food is proud to bear unique features that you can hardly find anywhere outsides comparing to its neighbors.

A typical Laos meal with sticky rice, lam (pork stew) and fresh veggie with herbs

A typical Laos meal with sticky rice, lam (pork stew) and fresh veggie with herbs

“Fresh” is the most distinctive feature of Laos cuisines. Having a chance to enjoy a meal in this country, you will find it surprising that Laos meals always serve a big quantity of fresh raw vegetables and herbs making the dish green and low in fat.

One more difference that you will find it so much fun is Laotian believe that: “sweet makes you dizzy; bitter makes you healthy” so sweet flavor is considered as the most unwanted for almost dishes, meanwhile, the bitter taste can be found frequently for using mint and dill which are favorite green herbs for Laos eat.

Another distinctive characteristic of Laos food or Laos eating habit is that food is traditionally eaten with sticky rice using your fingers. The habit must be the result of the fact that food is served at the room temperature.

Although Laos has a diversity of food culture among regions due to being influenced by its neighboring countries, there are must-try dishes that you find in a cooking class:

+ Laap: a traditional Lao food made from chopped meat, chicken or fish

+ Sticky rice/ Glutinous rice

+ Tam som: a spicy papaya salad made with chilies, lime juice, peanuts, garlic and paa daek

+ Mok Pa: herbed fish steamed in banana leaves

And now the below great cooking classes will add to your list of culinary experience in South East Asia for three most famous cities in Laos: Luang Prabang, Vientiane & VangVieng

1) Bamboo Tree | Luang Prabang 

  • Highlights:

Since having been established in 2014, the Bamboo Tree Restaurant and Cooking class is a highly recommended school in town.

From the cute name “bamboo”, you may discover that bamboo is used in so many ways in this cooking class. Not only your kids but also you will find so amazing to join in bamboo games: making bows and arrows by bamboo, walking on bamboo sticks; creating bamboo objects/souvenirs like weaving, making coaster; preparing a bamboo meal then eating in a bamboo bowl and watching a musician play a bamboo instrument for a traditional song while dancing by bamboo. All makes the authentic and cheerful bamboo experience for the single travelers, couples, the whole family with children and your group of friends. You can see more: Indochina tours Laos

Bamboo experience workshop in the Bamboo Cooking Class

Bamboo experience workshop in the Bamboo Cooking Class

Following the same process of a typical cooking class that you meet across Asian countries, Bamboo Tree’s friendly and professional chefs will take you to the local market not to buy for a fixed set menu but to choose your own favorite dishes among a list of available 20 dishes of the cooking school. Many tourists admitted that they fall in love with laap and mok pa that they prepare by themselves under the clear and detailed instructions step by step from the sister chefs.

Such a great treat after your fun cooking time

Such a great treat after your fun cooking time

  • Location: the farmhouse is located on the outskirt of Luang Prabang, surrounded by the rice valley and the forests making the whole place a chilled site for relaxing and cooking
  • Time: Morning time: 08:30 – 13:30 and Evening time: 16:00 – 20:30
  • Price: 60 – 65 USD

2) Madam Phasouk Cooking Class| Vientiane

  • Highlights:

Madam Phasouk cooking class is a family run class guided by Ms. Phasouk who had a 15-year experience as a cooking teacher at a hotel. People get amazed to know Ms. Phasouk is a brilliant and successful lady who can speak not only Laos, English but also Russian and French.

The experience of being welcomed at a local home like your family rather than a professional cooking school attracts many tourists coming back.

After being picked up by Ms. Phasouk at your hotel, you can start the session by visiting a wet market to get familiarized with various Laos ingredients and buy the necessary ones to fit your diet whether you are a meat lover or a vegetarian then you are fully ready to come to her home to prepare such an enjoyable meal.

Fresh vegetables and herbs you can find in any wet market of Vientiane

Fresh vegetables and herbs you can find in any wet market of Vientiane

Ending the cooking class with a delicious meal and cultural stories, you can also bring home a note of recipe that Madame Phasouk prepares for you so that you can make Laos food when back to your country to treat your beloved like a real Laotian.

  • Location: a small house near Mekong River
  • Time: Lunch starts at 09:30 and Dinner starts from 15:00
  • Price: 20 – 30 USD

3) Cooking Class at Organic Farm | Vang Vieng

  • Highlights:

Vang Vieng is a famous stop-over point for backpackers & adventurers on their trip from Vientiane to Luang Prabang so finding a cultural place for food lovers is quite limited. However, you can still go cycling or a tuk-tuk out of town to the Organic Farm to do a cooking class using ingredients from the farm.

The relaxing surround area of Organic Farm

The relaxing surround area of Organic Farm

The farm is proud to promote the use of organic products by natural materials and traditional method to plant without chemicals. Before starting the cooking class, you can choose to explore their organic farm with a lot of fun activities to maintain or build up the farm: digging the new flower bed, goat milking, making a bamboo bench, feeding baby animals or plant mulberry trees for a healthy drink…

All class cooking ingredients used from the organic farm

All class cooking ingredients used from the organic farm

With a maximum of 4 people join in the cooking class, you will have a chance to master making a meal of 3 main dishes and 1 dessert by Mr. T – the owner’s informative instruction. A warm and cozy welcome place is actually an ideal hub to escape the busy party place in Vang Vieng. If your time permits, why not trying to relax for a night and become a real farmer here?

  • Location: just 5 km from the town and facing the rafting area of Nam Song River
  • Time: Anytime is welcome
  • Price: From 23 USD

 

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Highly recommended destinations with great weather Hoi An, Vietnam

The beaches of Hoi An and Danang deserved in the list with good weather expected throughout the month. Average temperatures remain high at 30 °C and most of the days sunny and dry.

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Nha Trang is likely to be at its the best of the weather of the year with yellow sunshine, blue sky, and white sand that also at peak season of domestic traveling.

Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Samui in August is the right time, right place. Most days are long and generally sunny, with 29°C temperatures and a comfortable level of humidity between 61% and 88%. The wind is mostly from the west and stirs up a few waves on that side of Samui, making it good for sailing. The popular east-coast resort towns still enjoy placed 28°C, perfect for swimming with young ones on their summer holidays.

August is good for beach relaxation

August is good for beach relaxation

Fairly good choice

Phnom Penh & Siem Reap, Cambodia

Although the rainfall is almost at its peak, the showers tend to be short and intense, lasting for a few hours rather than all day. In the countryside, there is more lush and green, and water levels on the Tonle Spa Lake are high, making it possible to visit the flooded forests and floating villages by boat. The average temperature is a comfortable 26-27°C.

Pakse, Laos

Despite the wet weather all over in Laos, southern highlights of the 4000 Islands remain accessible by boat, with the region’s waterfalls (unsurprisingly) at their best. The Khone Phangpheng, the Mekong River biggest waterfall with stunning scenery is worth taking.

Khone Phapheng falls

Khone Phapheng falls – Source: internet

Be prepared with hit or miss

Halong Bay, Vietnam

The months of July – August often see sporadic hurricanes and storms, which may render cancellation and delay of your trip. In those cases, you can switch around by visiting another destination in the North of Vietnam and visit Halong Bay later (such as Sapa, Hoa Binh or Ninh Binh). These storms will not last longer than 3-4 days. However, the massive sales of cruises in low season is interesting for who doesn’t mind the weather.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Rainfall across much of Thailand is at its peak in August, with Chiang Mai and the north typically receiving their heaviest rainfall of the year. In the more rural northern regions, such as Nan and Chiang Kham, the rain can make traveling around fairly difficult. Temperatures continue to drop slightly although humidity levels will remain high at average 26-30°C.

Luang Prabang, Laos

High probability of rain and showers increasing in severity. Along with overcast skies, humidity levels can reach 85% in August and temperatures in Luang Prabang range from 25-30°C.

In the more remote regions, such as Phongsali and Muang Sing the heavy rain can make traveling around fairly difficult and tracks may become unpassable, with the risk of landslides in some areas. If it’s ‘off the trail’ it’s best avoided in August.

Be avoid

Phuket, Thailand

Rain can be expected almost every day on the islands of Koh Chang and Koh Kood, and the west coast beaches of Phuket, Khao Lak and Krabi will also be experiencing their wettest month of the year.

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

In the more rural north-east regions, such as Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri the heavy rain can make traveling around fairly difficult and tracks can become unpassable. If it’s ‘off the trail’ then it’s best avoided in August.

Landslide cut down a road in rural area

Myanmar

Rainfall will start to lessen towards the end of the month, however, wherever you travel in Myanmar you should expect heavy rains.

Temperatures remain high (averaging highs of 27 – 30°C) and the beaches on the west and southern coast are now closed with road travel across much of the country difficult, in many cases impossible.

To get more detail information, you can click: Travel Indochina

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Tranquil, beautiful and sometimes hidden in the clouds, Oudomxay is located in the heart of northern Laos and is one of the most accessible of the far northern provinces. The rugged mountainous landscape has peaks up to 1.850 m covered in varying forest types and widen fields. The province’s three main rivers are Nam Ou, Nam Beng and Nam Tha, Oudomxay is mainly populated by the Khmu, Hmong and lowland Lao, with a total of 23 ethnic minorities, each with their own languages, cultural heritage and lifestyles.
In Muang Xay, the provincial capital, visit the Chinese market next to the Kaysone monument to see a variety of local products from Oudomxay as well as imported Chinese goods. Take a walk outside of town to see That Phouxaya a top the mountain overlooking Xay for a birds-eye view of the surrounding valley.
The countryside around Xay has several beautiful natural features to visit, including Tad Lak Sip-et (kilometer 11 waterfall) set in a stunning limestone environment, and the peaceful Houay Nam Kat Waterfall. Chom Ong Cave is situated 45km from Oudomxay near the Khmu village of Chom Ongthai. Entering the cave you can follow the spring of the Nam Kaeng River for 1.600m passing through large halls with heights of up to 35m and widths of 20m. Visit the therapeutic baw nam hawn (hot springs) on the road to Phongsaly in Muang La to soothe aching muscles, or the Singkham Buddha Cave that was used to safeguard historical arte facts during the war. Ban Na Xieng Di has some interesting archaeological sites believed to date back about 500 years. Also unique is the Buddha footprint or phabath found in Bang Nong Nha.

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Pakbeng, located at the confluence of the Beng and Mekong Rivers is set on a scenic curve of the Mekong shrouded in green mountains. Explore Pha Ho-Pha Hong Cave in Beng District, or experience the shared Lao and Chinese heritage at Ban Theio or Ban Nam Xeng. Visitors can spend time in La District trekking to minority villages in remote and picturesque locations. If you are in Oudomxay during December inquire about the dates of the annual Hmong and Khmu new years celebrations, colorful festivals that include music, trade fairs and lots of local food and drink.

Oudomxay Province is famous as one of the places where ancient bronze drums were cast, which have been a symbol of status and wealth for centuries. Master drum makers continue to make these beautiful drums and purchasing a new drum supports this disappearing cultural heritage. Ban Bo village is well known for skilled handicraft production, especially rattan and bamboo basket weaving. Other quality local handicrafts include cotton weavings and shoulder-bag production, salt making, mulberry paper and silk products.

Source: http://www.tourismlaos.org

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When visiting Luang Prabang, most people think of strolling the quiet streets and lane-ways of the World Heritage town, visiting a wat or two and sipping a coffee as the world passes by. But activities outside of town are worth a look, including visiting the two main waterfalls surrounding the town.

Treasure Kuangsi Waterdall

Treasure Kuangsi Waterdall

The most popular of the waterfalls is Kuang Si which is located about 30 kilometers to the southwest of town. The first glimpse you get of these falls is of the lower sections, where the bright turquoise water gently tumbles over small limestone ledges. Impressive yes, but better is to come. As you move further up the falls, you come across people swimming in a large lagoon and swinging from a tarzan vine. Walking further up the hill past more and more impressive falls shaded from the intense sunshine you come to an opening where the main waterfall comes into view.

This high waterfall tumbles out of the jungle above with incredible force. At this point it’s possible to get up close to the waterfall for a better look and many choose to have their photo taken in front of it.

Picnic areas, change rooms and public toilets are available at Kuang Si, making it a good spot to spend half a day or so.

The other worthwhile waterfall in the Luang Prabang area is Tad Sae about 16 kilometres from town. This waterfall is favoured by Lao people over Kuang Si and you’ll often see large groups of locals picnicking right by the water’s edge. What makes this waterfall different is that it requires a boat to access it.

Tad Sae Waterfalls

Tad Sae Waterfalls

As with Kuang Si, stunning turquoise water gently tumbles over limestone rocks, but at Tad Sae the waterfall is more integrated with the forest, giving the impression that it is flooded. Locals and tourists alike bathe in one of the larger lagoons with more adventurous people jumping off some of the limestone ledges. The whole area is well-shaded and it’s an ideal spot for spending a little bit of time. Tours in Laos

These two waterfalls are excellent ways to enjoy Luang Prabang outside of the colonial charm of the town itself. Don’t miss them when you come to Luang Prabang!

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From Vang Vieng, I headed north to Luang Prabang. This beautiful city was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995 and I’ve got to say its one of my favourite cities in Asian. If you liked Chiang Mai in Thailand then you’ll love this place.

There is certainly a long list of exotic temples, simple museums, and vibrant markets to be visited.  I set off to see the sights of Luang Prabang, eager to absorb everything this intoxicating city had to offer.

Let’s pick up the best ways to enjoy Luang Prabang:

Morning Alms

The morning alms procession, known in Laos as Tak Bat, is a beautiful ritual that takes place at dawn all across Southeast Asia. Monks float through the quiet streets, collecting offerings of sticky rice from the devoted. It is a form of meditation for the monks who are living out their vows of poverty and humility; and an act of respect and gaining spiritual merit for the Buddhists who participate. Watching this sacred ceremony is a privilege. Like most things worth having or seeing, it comes with a sacrifice — in this case, waking before dawn.

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Morning Alms Ceremony – Monks line up in a procession to collect alms from locals, usually in the form of sticky rice. Locals scoop a handful of rice from their bamboo baskets to each monk’s almsbowl. Here, the last of the monks collect their alms for the morning and make their way back to the temple.

 

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The monks movement

Down by the river

Luang Prabang is a peninsula sitting right between the Mekong  and the Mae Kok River.  By the river banks you can easily track the pulse that these rivers add to the place. It is still one of the town’s main arteries as far as transport is concerned, and it’s also a great place to haggle for a scenic boat ride.

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At sunset the natural place

 

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Twilight falls over the Mekong River

Handicraft Night Market

The perfect way to end a day of sightseeing in Luang Prabang is to head to the Handicraft Night Market. This is one destination where tourists certainly outnumber locals, and yet it does not detract from the charm.

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Take in the views

Possibly the best thing about Luang Prabang is that the shores of the river are lined with bars. Some loud and touristy, others much more low key. Grab a front row seat to see the spectacular sunset as the sky turns golden over the Mae Kok River.

Dusk over Mekong River, Luang Prabang, Laos, Indochina, Asia

 

Exotic temples, simple museums

Wat Xieng Thong:  This is the most beautiful temple I have ever laid eyes on. One highlight is the symbolic ‘tree of life’ mosaic shown above. The colors, the materials, the attention to detail — they combine to create the visual perfect storm.

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The Royal Palace Museum: The Royal Palace Museum was built in 1904, was once the main residence of the Lao king. Note that like many attractions around Southeast Asia you must be dressed modestly to enter, meaning no shorts or exposed shoulders. The interior of the residence itself is surprisingly modest, at least when it comes to royalty digs.

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So…these are all pretty good reasons to love Luang Prabang, right?

 

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Low season of travel in Asia equals with Moon soon – equals with a lot of rains. South East Asia, Low season often falls around May – September. I bet you wont like the idea of rain on your trip. But hey, moon soon in Asia is all year around, with those who travel in October – November, that will be another moon soon season. So, dont worry too too much. The most important in travelling I believe, is the attitude towards the situation. And we can look further into the case to find out why you should travel in low season.

Reason number 1: Low season = Moon soon? Depends on each regions, the rain can be all day, whole week or just part of the day. For instance, June in Cambodia – seriously, I feel so blessed with the rain here and there during the day make me feel fresh and not knock down by the heat of Siem reap while we are out there seeing the Wats (= temple in Khmer). Be here, you will understand the definition of being “Wat-out”. And though we missed the incredible view of Preah Vihear, but we had the fog and the mystery of the temple that make the story cooler than ever.

So make a small research, take your luck and go.  You may feel blessed with the rain instead of the extreme heat and humidity in South East Asia.

Rain in Angkor Wat

After the Rain – Angkor Wat

Reason number 2: Super Cost Saving. If we are talking about money, then low season is a huge cost saving time since most resorts offer the unbeatable deals like stay 2 pay 1, stay 3 pay 2 or extra bonus of services of airport transfers or complimentary dinner.  Either you can upgrade yourselves in accommodation with the same amount of money planned for  the trip, or you can save the money for spending on .. shopping for example.

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Reason number 3: Low season = Less travelers on the road. Most people dont want to go to a super touristy places yet still visit the highlights spots of the destination. And most do not adventurous enough to really take the hard-core off the beaten paths. Going in low season may solve this situation. You will find yourselves in a quaint temple, or you will see a very different Halong Bay, Mekong delta. You will easily find a quiet spot for people watching (for people like me, love people watching). And you may lucky enough to have the swimming pool exclusively for yourselves only in a rich beautiful sunset on top of the mountain looking over the sea. That you hardly have in a high season.

Quaint sandy beach

Quaint sandy beach

Of course, everything has its down sides but know to choose the right time and still be able to avoid the bad weather plus saving your money is the main core. It does not mean you cant enjoy the place, it just means you can enjoy it in a different way. Now what you are waiting for, pack your bags and hop on the plane and do not forget your rain-jacket!

 

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Luang Prabang – Phou Si mountain

If there is a place that I choose to come back in South East Asia, it will be Luang Prabang. The little town up North of Laos, beside its history, beauty, the quietness, calmness, there is one more thing that I couldn’t pass: The Grilled Fish. It is naturally – becomes a signature dish along the Mekong river.

Grilled Mekong fishes in local market – Luang Prabang

Some people may say yes, you can eat the Mekong grilled fishes the same style anywhere in Cambodia, Thailand too. But no, it tastes so different with the way Laotian make it. And Luang Prabang is the place that I can eat grilled fishes anywhere, from fancy restaurants to small vendors in the markets, it all tastes wonderfully.

I am no connoisseur, but that is my true love to Luang Prabang, behind the desire of taking the extraodinary photos by the river banks or sunsets, food is the love of my life. I don’t eat to live, never want to, I eat to live and enjoy life – fortunately, until now, I am still be able to do so.

If you ask me what I would suggest when visiting Luang Prabang, my ideal trip will be staying on the wood lodge by the riverside, walking distance to the main streets, strolling the night market at night, eating in a cute garden/riverside restaurant or in local market, sipping an icey lemon mint shakes, sitting on one of the balconies bars on main streest for people watching. And I can do all those things for days without getting bored. Luang Prabang is the sanctuary for my soul to get calm, a remedy for my never-stop life. It stops there, in Luang Prabang.

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