If you’re looking for a secret land, someplace to explore that is not really on the beaten path, Laos is it.

For the majority of its history, Laos has been secluded from the world due to foreign countries invading their land, and later, a communist government. The city of Luang Prabang is filled with warm hearted people and hidden treasures.

Taking part in the Alms Giving Ceremony.

One thing for sure about Luang Prabang: There are a lot of monks. The city is home to 3,000 of them, and to witness the Alms Giving Ceremony, which has taken place daily for over 700 years, you have to wake up before dawn. The majority of the city’s population and tourists take part in the ceremony. You offer the monks sticky rice or other simple foods in an offering bowl, and in return, they give blessings and send up prayers for your well-being.

The atmosphere is very tranquil, and one that’s hard to duplicate.

To find the majority of the other sights, you have to take to the Mekong River. While out on the river, I found the Pak Ou Caves, still used for special ceremonies by monks. The cave was home to hundreds of Buddha statues and candles that were left by believers and well wishers.

Buddha statues by the Mekong River.

I used the river for more than just commuting, taking to the rapids for a little fun in the sun. The heat in Southeast Asia is unreal, so a little whitewater kayaking was a perfect remedy. Traveling over 17 kilometers, I encountered hard working families on the Mekong’s banks, fishing or panning for gold. As I passed by, children dipped into the river to cool off, or take a closer at my “big muscles.” All of them knew a little English, and asked if I was a boxer, which made me laugh.

All in all, Laos was interesting and still a ways off from becoming overrun by tourists. If you are visiting the area, it’s worth a drop in.