Laos, Thailand's sleepy neighbor to the north, is far less "discovered" than any of its neighbors. Vientiane, the country capital, is a charming and attractive place filled with lovely architecture left behind by the French. Luang Prabang, the country's former royal capital, is one of the most interesting, most laid-back places in Southeast Asia. You can smell the baguettes baking and even find a decent bottle of wine. Laos is devoutly Buddhist country and many people rise at dawn to feed long processions of monks. Since LP is a UNESCO World Heritage site, nothing new can be built, and little can be changed. We often hear it called "Chiang Mai fifty years ago." The ideal visit to Laos will include both Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Since people often tell us they hated to leave, you may want to stay longer.
Traveling to Laos is easy. There are regular flights to both Vientiane and Luang Prabang from Bangkok, to Luang Prabang from Chiang Mai and Sukhothai, and to Vientiane from Phnom Penh and Hanoi. You can enjoy a leisurely Mekong River cruise from Chang Khong (near Chiang Rai) in Thailand to Luang Prabang, or across the Friendship Bridge near Nongkhai (also in Thailand) and then by road to Vientiane. Pakse can be reached by air from Bangkok, Vientiane and Siem Reap, or by road from Thailand. We will be happy to help with these logistics when it comes time to create your special Laos adventure.
Planning Your Holiday
Purple Dragon offers all-inclusive travel programs and unique side trips designed to help first-time visitors get acquainted with magical Laos.
Creating the perfect adventure could not be easier! Our tours (we hate to call them that) are all modular. Choose a destination and arrive any day. Our programs use carefully-chosen gay and lesbian-friendly hotels. Your tour includes a private transportation and guide, so you'll never be herded around on a bus with 40 strangers. Although we have already chosen the optimum amount of time to visit each place you can extend your stay in any of our destinations.
Before your trip we will give you extensive "Before You Go" information that includes tips about packing, weather, money, shopping, food, travel practicalities and local culture that will help you enjoy a worry-free holiday.
What We Have For You in Laos
Purple Dragon's packages offer great value and save you time and effort by arranging your choice of hotel, round trip airport transportation, and touring with a personal English-speaking guide. You can always add extra nights and optional sightseeing if you wish. We will give you plenty of help to prepare for your adventure, including detailed "Before You Go" information.
Leisurely Luang Prabang ▸ Four Days and three nights to Discover Laos' tranquil royal capital. This is just enough time to see the basics. of course, you may stay longer to experience Luang Prabang more leisurely and in greater depth. We offer quite a few optional activities that will help you enjoy your time, like cooking classes, elephant adventures (one day or two), and more. See our optional sightseeing and activities in Luang Prabang below.
Beyond Luang Prabang ▸ Five days and four nights who want enjoy Luang Prabang as well as the natural wonders of a spectacular eco-lodge two hours by boat up the Mekong River. You have time to see all of the most important things Luang Prabang has to offer, walk through a pristine forest, trek to a spectacular waterfall, pan for gold, try your hand at planting rice, and see what village life is like for some of Laos' ethnic minority people.
Way Beyond Luang Prabang ▸ This is undoubtedly the most spectacular way to make the journey to Luang Prabang. Begin in Chiang Mai, where our driver and guide drive you to Chiang Rai to spend one or two nights before you cross into Laos to board a first class Mekong River cruise to Luang Prabang that makes stops to visit unspoiled landlocked villages local colorful local markets. Overnight stops along the way include a night in a luxury eco-lodge in Pak Beng, followed by three nights or longer in Luang Prabang. You may begin in Luang Prabang and end in Chiang Rai/Chiang Mai if you wish.
Way Beyond Luang Prabang - Two Nights ▸ This two night adventure is exactly the same as the cruise/tour above, except that you also spend one night at Kamu Lodge, in between Luang Prabang and Pak Beng. Kamu Lodge is described in "Beyond Luang Prabang" above.
The Perfect Circle ▸ This overnight round-trip from Luang Prabang takes you to Pak Beng--one way by boat on the Mekong, and one way by land through the villages and forests of the country's interior. If you are not able to journey to Chiang Rai to take one of our Way Beyong Luang Prabang trips you can still see much of what is along the river, plus the picturesque and historic interiorz
Luang Prabang Side Trips ▸ Stay a bit longer in Luang Prabang and enjoy more fun activities. We have quite a few fascinating optionals exclusively for guests using one of our Luang Prabang Packages.
Vientiane ▸ Take two days to enjoy sensual "Sandalwood City." This nostalgic town is still the most charming and most French of al the former Indochinese capitals. You will see lovely boulevards and stately villas, and massive monument with a dubious history, a bizarre public garden, and several interesting places of worship. There is even a bit of a gay scene for you to enjoy at night.
Southern Laos ▸ The River of Four Thousand Islands plus the Bolaven Plateau Southern Laos is still very undeveloped. Here, you can visit one of the furthest and most impressive outposts of the Khmer empire, and enjoy a luxury two-night luxury cruise on one of the most picturesque stretches of the mighty Mekong, and explore the magical Bolaven plateau, the misty home of coffee plantations, waterfalls, wild orchids, working elephants and picturesque villages.
Gay Life in Laos
Laos will probably not be your favorite destination if your primary interest is nightlife. The gay scene in Laos is nothing like Thailand. People here are traditional and conservative. Lesbians are somewhat hidden. However, Lao people are also extraordinarily friendly. While there are no exclusively gay venues in Luang Prabang, nightlife in Vientiane is somewhat more interesting. But after a week in Thailand you need a rest from all of that, don't you? Read More
There is no bad time to visit Laos. The climate is virtually the same as Thailand, Laos' neighbor to the south. The most popular months to visit are October through March. April through June are quite warm. The "green season" begins in July and continues through September. Occasional afternoon rain keeps the country lush and cool.
Passports & Visas
A visa is required for citizens of most countries. Visas are issued on arrival at a cost of about $25 and require two passport photos.
What We Do
Purple Dragon is Asia's oldest, largest and most respected tour operator specializing in programs for discerning gay and lesbian travelers. All of our tours are private and include private transportation and one of our legendary private guides. We do not offer group tours. The big advantage to a private tour is, of course, that you do not have to put up with other people or compromise your own schedule or activities to suit others in a group. You can spend a bit more time at places that really matter to you, avoid places that do not, and go at your own pace. We use gay-owned or LGBT-friendly hotels wherever possible and show our guests the local gay nightlife where it exists. You do not have to be gay to enjoy one of our all-inclusive tour packages. A growing number of mainstream guests travel with Purple dragon because they know they will get something better from a gay tour company.
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Gay Travel Laos: Vacation in the Land of a Million Rice Fields
Already seen plenty in Thailand and Cambodia? Laos may be the last great adventure vacation spot in Southeast Asia. It is charming, mostly unspoiled, inexpensive, and very gay-friendly. Laos is a quick hop by air from neighboring cities, or journey in leisurely comfort on a Mekong River cruise from Chiang Rai. Nobody gives you Laos like Purple Dragon. We are Asia's gay and lesbian travel pioneers. Purple Dragon pioneered LGBT travel to Laos, but anyone can enjoy our adventures off a lifetime.
Photos: Gordon Crofoot,