Laos is a majority Buddhist country with many functional temples and sacred places. It also has some of least touched natural areas in southeast Asia. If you’re looking to contemplate life and engage in a spiritual experience, consider visiting one of these most spiritual places in Laos.
While the Lao don’t believe spirits are necessarily good or evil, they do believe they are mischievous and must be appeased or they may cause trouble. Most homes, businesses and many temples have a small spirit houses for their land spirits to reside. The houses can be simple and made of wood or elaborate and covered in mosaics. Each spirit house has a porch for offerings of water, rice, candles, flowers and incense. Well fed spirits don’t cause trouble.
That Ing Hang is second only to Wat Phou in Champasak when it comes to ancient sacred places in Laos. Built during the mid 16th century, the Stupa is a National Treasure of Lao PDR and is located 11.5 km north of Savannakhet. Said to contain a piece of Buddha’s spine, a story that Buddha rested at the base of a Hang tree at the site inspired the construction. Women must wear a traditional Lao sin (wrap skirt) to enter the temple grounds and may not enter the promenade around the stupa. Nuns and monks bless visitors and tie their wrists with colorful strings. After your visit, try some delicious black bamboo sticky rice with coconut for sale near the temple.
Built in 1818, Wat Si Saket is one of Vientiane’s best known Buddhist temples. Built in the Siamese style, it was spared in the raid on Vientiane by the Siamese in 1827, making it one of, if not the, oldest standing temple in Vientiane. Over 6000 Buddha statues adorn the cloister and the Sim, which have tiny Buddhas in niches carved into the walls. The impressive gardens are a peaceful reprieve from the bustle of the capital. Many locals come to pray and give offerings at the temple in the mornings. Visitors are permitted to observed but asked not to take photos.
To channel the meditation of driving the open road, look no further than the Thakhek loop. Feel the wind in your hair on a motorbike and drive through the Karst Mountains onto the hills of the Nakai Plateau. Stunning scenery and interactions with locals will make you feel like you’re living the pages of The Motorcycle Diaries set in Asia.
Buy a bunch of bananas from the monkey-proof road side stands and head to the sacred monkey forest in the Chomphone Districts of Savannakhet Province. These are most well-behaved monkeys in southeast Asia living on three hectares near Donmeuang Temple. The monkeys are sacred to the local people, and their images can be seen on the temple. The forest itself has a walking path with a pond in the middle and two small shrines toward the back. Visit in the dry season for Hotay Piddok, an ancient Buddhist palm scroll library near the forest.
Bokeo is the smallest and least populated province of Laos. It sits in the northwest of the country bordering Thailand and Myanmar. With over 30 local tribes and deposits of gems and semiprecious stones, the combination of cultural emersion and natural beauty is unparalleled in Laos. Visit the Bokeo Nature Reserve to see the endangered black cheeked gibbons or book a homestay with a local family.