'Lan Xang, The Kingdom of a Million Elephants' - A Tour of Laos with Catherine Maudsley
The official history of Laos is conventionally traced to the establishment of the kingdom of Lan Xang by Fa Ngum in 1353, although human settlement in the region dates back many centuries BC. The most famous evidence of the region's prehistory is the site of the huge stone mortuary jars found on the north-central Xieng Khouang Plateau, in what is now known as the Plain of Jars. Little, however, is known about the society, which created the jars dated from the first century BC.
The last king of Lan Xang was Surigna Vongsa. He ascended the throne in 1637 and his reign was regarded as the golden age in Laotian history. After his death in 1694, the country was split into the three separate kingdoms of Champasak, Wieng Chan, now called Vientiane, and Luang Prabang. Laos became a French protectorate in 1893 when these kingdoms united to form the country known as Laos today. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but returned to French rule until it was granted autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1953 with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. Shortly afterward, a long civil war ended the monarchy and the Communist Pathet Lao came to power in 1975.
Laos is a single-party socialist republic. The Lao People's Democratic Republic forms a land bridge between its neighbours, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion for approximately 60 percent of the population. In rural areas, communities share everything and live together; the Lao word for 'mine' and 'yours'is the same.
This trip is designed to cover the cultural and historic highlights of Laos from south to north. Discover inimitable charm and serendipity as we travel to Champasak, Vientiane and Luang Prabang. By the end of the tour, as the tranquil pace of life in Laos takes hold, we would surely understand the meaning of bo phan yan – the pragmatic philosophical maxim of the Lao people to conciliate the immense complexities of life, loosely translated as – "don't worry, be happy".
The trip is now full. We are grateful to members for their enthusiastic participation which gives our committee a greater incentive to plan for more exciting trips in the future. Thank you!