Kinship Destinations: Laos Travel Guide

Southeast Asia's hidden gem. Cruise on peaceful waters, trek green hills and discover ancient crafts. Here is your sustainable guide to the Land of Million Elephants. The name comes from the country's extensive forests and sparse human population, currently just 7 million citizens, and the wild herds of elephants that roam the land. If you venture into almost any town, you will find a different ethnic minority; in fact, Laos is home to 47 recognized ethnic groups creating a rich cultural diversity with a vibrant craft heritage. The art is traditionally passed down from mother to daughter, with families creating their own distinct variations of weaving techniques and patterns. The clothing and textiles worn by a Laotian can often tell you their social status and even the village from which they are born. Laos is on the top of our list as a Kinship Destination.
Visit Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park for an eco-tourism jungle adventure. Join the Nam Nern Night Safari, you'll discover beautiful wildlife at a relaxed pace while cruising on the Nam Nern River. Look forward to seeing Sambar Deer, Asian Golden Cat, Spotted Linsang, Civets, and Leopard Cats, to name a few. Their tours involving wildlife are also used for data collection for the NPA wildlife-monitoring program. Stay in bungalows overnight, which are built and managed by the local community. Additionally, the operation employs 40 families and financially benefits 14 villages. They have been awarded the “World Responsible Tourism Award” both in 2013 and 2014. 
Influenced by Thailand and Vietnam, Buddhism and Confucius, the traditions of the many peoples of Laos flow like the Mekong River into the capital city of Vientiane. A surprise to many visitors to the city of Vientiane is the French cultural influence — a legacy of the colonial period that lasted from the 19th century to the 1950s. One of the best things about this city is its laid-back and relaxed atmosphere - compared to many other Asian capitals you can easily get around on a bicycle to explore everything the city has to offer. Start with breakfast, inspired by the French, Vientiane has a great cafe culture. Grab a delicious baguette, and finish up with a sweet pastry. A visit is not complete without getting to know the country's silk weaving culture. Laotians have been practicing silk production — breeding silkworms and extracting the silk — dyeing and weaving for close to 1,200 years, and the two main types of looms, standing and backstop, have remained virtually unchanged in design since the earliest days of silk weaving. We highly recommend visiting the studio of Lao Textiles by Carol Cassidy, where our silk cushions are woven. As the sun begins to set, take a seat at a riverside restaurants and savor delicious river fish while sipping a Beer Lao.
Time to relax, flee to an oasis which is the town of Luang Prabang. A UNESCO World Heritage site due to its impressive architectural significance and preservation of spiritual practices and traditions. Golden temples, wandering peaceful monks, and restaurants serving local delicacies. All surrounded by rows of pink frangipani flowers. When you feel ready for an adventure, have a delicious breakfast, rent a motorbike for the day, and spend a day at one of the many beautiful waterfalls! Nature's own spas with rumbling showers and small pools shaded by the jungle trees. When back in town, go to the night market to discover local clothing, wood carvings, jewelry, and textiles. Right next to it you'll find a street food market where you just have to try everything; coconut pancakes, fish skewers, fresh fruit shakes and delicious rice and noodle dishes. Fun fact; Laotians eat more sticky rice than any other nation in the world, even referring to themselves as, “children of sticky rice.” 
For our collection of silk cushions from Laos, we partnered with Laos Textiles, among the nation’s first commercial weaving workshops. The weavers blend modern artistry with ancient local techniques and traditions to create contemporary woven art. The predominantly female weavers use hybrid looms to produce brocade, ikat and tapestry textiles. The founder, Carol Cassidy has been widely recognized for her weaving and her work supporting artisans. In 2002, Aid to Artisans honored her for her efforts at preserving silk weaving in Laos. She continues to work directly with rural artisans and to advise the UN and other development agencies on income-generating activities for women.
As always- explore responsibly, tread lightly.
The journey is the reward!

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