Armed with nothing but a map and a set of clues, exploring Luang Prabang has transformed into a game where participants are tasked with unveiling the secrets of a lost fortune; it is “The Legend of The Lost Treasure.”

Walking through the ancient streets of the UNESCO Heritage Town in northern Laos can now feel like being transported to an ancient era where mystery awaits at every turn. Starting from Sofitel Luang Prabang, tourists are guided by whispers of local legends and tales passed down through generations of Lao families. 

Throughout the journey, participants encounter 12 riddles, each one offering a glimpse into the city’s past. From the streets of the old town center to the banks of the Nam Khan River, every clue brings the tourists one step closer to unlocking the secrets of the “lost treasure.”

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The roads of Luang Prabang are known for their distinctive style that blends French colonial architecture and Lao traditional housing. Strolling through its alleys gives the visitors a glimpse into authentic Lao life, where local residents, families, and elderly couples would often recount the most fascinating stories about the town and its inhabitants. This experience lets tourists connect directly with Laos, learning firsthand rather than reading about it or relying on tour guides.

The game, launched by Sofitel and 3 Nagas Luang Prabang, isn’t just an exciting challenge for foreign visitors; it’s also a chance for locals to see Luang Prabang in a new light. While the “hunt” under the hot April sun can be tough, the excitement of uncovering the town’s secrets motivates even the most laid-back participants.

For those who need a break, 3 Nagas Restaurant offers a blend of French and Lao ice cream flavors to enjoy while waiting for the hunters to finish their quest.

With Pi Mai Lao or Lao New Year just around the corner, 3 Nagas Luang Prabang and its MGallery offer an exclusive “Pi Mai Ice Cream” from 10 to 16 April. Flavors like jasmine, pandan, and sticky rice aim to capture the spirit of the Lao New Year.

3 Nagas Luang Prabang: A Journey Through Time and Luxury

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Among the quaint streets and ancient temples, the 3 Nagas Luang Prabang stands out, boasting accommodations steeped in heritage and luxury.

At the forefront of this historic site are two distinguished properties: the Lamache House and the Khamboua House. The Lamache House, with its seven rooms dating back to 1898, was initially built for informal gatherings of the Royal Court. Later, it transformed into an ice-cream parlor, earning the title of the official supplier to the Royal Court. During restoration, essence extracts used for flavoring ice cream were unearthed, one now showcased in the main lobby. Preserving the original structure, restoration involved traditional techniques, with most woodwork crafted from May Pow wood. 

Across the road stands the Khamboua House, formerly known as the “Mantion,” dating back to 1903. Built by King Sisavangvong’s counselor, this building overlooks a garden that stretches toward the Nam Khan River. The Khamboua House, comprising eight uniquely traditionally styled rooms, also offers all modern comforts.


Representatives from Mekong Basin nations, along with development partners, convened at the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat to mark the 29th Mekong Day, focusing on initiatives to preserve and improve the health of the Mekong Basin.

The highlight of the event was the third State of the Mekong Address delivered by Anoulak Kittikhoun, the CEO of the MRC Secretariat. Kittikhoun provided an overview of the current state of the Mekong River Basin, outlining progress, challenges, and strategies for sustainable management and development.

“For 29 years, I can confidently say that our Mekong countries have cooperated far more than they do not, in areas that affect the Mekong,” Kittikhoun commented, “This year we will release our highly anticipated State of the Basin Report as well as the Mekong Atlas. Compared to 5 – 10 years ago, the Mekong has changed dramatically, for better and worse. Among better news, the Mekong region has continued to enjoy peace, which sadly is not the case everywhere in the world.”

The economic output of the Mekong basin reached USD 63 billion annually, driven by sectors such as hydropower, rice production, tourism, navigation, and aquaculture. Despite challenges, the Mekong remains home to the largest inland wild fisheries globally, generating significant revenue.

Socially, there has been progress with improved access to food, clean water, sanitation, and electricity, leading to reduced rates of malnutrition and water-related diseases across the Mekong countries.

However, environmental challenges persist. Erratic hydromet conditions, including droughts and floods, have impacted the region. Declining trends in sediment balance, salinity intrusion, and plastic pollution pose threats to the ecological health of the Mekong.

Efforts to address these challenges are ongoing, with initiatives such as sediment monitoring showing positive results in certain areas. CEO Kittikhoun called for cooperation among countries, strengthening relations with upstream riparian China, building ties with ASEAN, and maintaining partnerships worldwide.

The MRC also announced the continuation of the “Transboundary Water Cooperation in the Lower Mekong Basin” project in collaboration with the German government, emphasizing the commitment to fostering transboundary cooperation and sustainable water management in the region.

Annette Knobloch, the German Ambassador to Laos, highlighted the importance of international cooperation in water resource management for the peaceful and sustainable future of the region.

“Through the Transboundary Water Cooperation Project (TWC), Germany will continue to cooperate with the Mekong River Commission on its pathway to provide services for an integrated water resources management, not only along the Mekong core river but as a basin-wide approach,” said  Knobloch.

Additionally, the Canadian government also provided CAD 2 million (about USD 1.48 million) to the MRC for institutional development, emphasizing the significance of water resource governance in the Mekong Basin as a priority area for Canadian engagement.

These Mekong Day celebrations showcased the collective efforts to address challenges and promote sustainable development in the Mekong Basin, highlighting the importance of cooperation and partnership in safeguarding the region’s future.


In a significant stride towards sustainable mobility, the CEO of LOCA announced at the ZEEKR Launch event that the company is now operating 20 DC Fast charging stations across Laos. Demonstrating an ambitious vision for the future, LOCA aims to double this number, reaching a total of 40 stations by the end of 2024.

This announcement underscores LOCA’s commitment to expanding electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, aligning with Laos’s national goals for economic and environmental sustainability.

(Photo supplied)

The government of Laos, along with parliamentary support, has endorsed the EV transition as a strategic response to economic challenges. Transitioning to electric vehicles is seen as a pivotal move to curb the rising demand for gasoline in the short term and to reduce long-term dependence on oil imports. Laos, with its abundant clean energy resources, is positioned to make a significant shift towards sustainable energy consumption, provided there is continued improvement in its power infrastructure.

During the 15th Lao Business Forum, the Prime Minister highlighted the government’s efforts to encourage the adoption of EVs, including imposing higher excise taxes on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Despite these measures, the importation of ICE vehicles has not slowed, increasing the demand for oil imports and underscoring the urgent need for a shift to EVs. The government might be considering further restrictions on the importation of ICE vehicles to accelerate this transition.

(Photo supplied)

LOCA stands at the forefront of this transformative journey, leading the market in building a comprehensive EV charging network. With plans to expand the network to 100 stations by 2026, LOCA’s efforts are pivotal in supporting the country’s transition to electric mobility.

A significant aspect of the EV adoption wave in Laos is the substantial cost savings reported by EV drivers. Data from actual EV users reveals a dramatic decrease in energy costs compared to traditional gasoline vehicles. For every USD 100 spent on gasoline, EV drivers now only spend about USD 10 on electricity for the same distance traveled.

This stark difference in operating costs, combined with the decreasing prices of EVs, is making electric vehicles an increasingly popular choice among new car buyers in Laos. As of December 2023, a total of 3,598 electric vehicles (cars) have been imported into the country so far, with 2,101 imported in 2023 alone. This represents 25.1 percent of all new passenger cars (Sedan & SUV segment) imported in 2023, signaling a significant shift in consumer preference towards sustainable transportation options.

(Photo supplied)

LOCA’s ongoing efforts, supported by proactive government policies, are significantly contributing to the growth of the EV market in Laos. By capitalizing on clean energy resources and advancing power infrastructure, Laos is set on a promising path toward achieving its economic and environmental goals through electric mobility.


Australia’s ASEAN Senior Official Michelle Chan visited Vientiane this week on a mission to further strengthen Australia’s partnerships with Laos and ASEAN.

Last month’s ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne commemorated 50 years since Australia became ASEAN’s first Dialogue Partner. It was also an opportunity to look to the future. 

In an interview with the Laotian Times, Deputy Secretary Chan spoke about Laos and Australia’s shared priorities and challenges for the ASEAN region.

Deputy Secretary Chan is Head of the Office of Southeast Asia in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. (Photo supplied)

“Australia sees ASEAN at the heart of the Indo-Pacific region and critical to our shared prosperity and security”, Deputy Secretary Chan said.

“We are partnering with ASEAN on the regional challenges we face — from food, health, and energy security to climate change and geostrategic challenges.”

“ASEAN and ASEAN-led institutions are central to achieving the stable, peaceful, and prosperous region we all want to live in, a region where sovereignty and territorial integrity are respected and differences are resolved through dialogue”, she said. 

She said that enhancing regional connectivity was critical for a sustainable future for the region. This joint ambition is supported by Laos’ ASEAN Chair year theme of ‘ASEAN: Enhancing Connectivity and Resilience’. 

She said Australia is proud to support Laos’ leadership of ASEAN this year and will continue its support for Laos’ ASEAN Chair Priority Economic Deliverables. 

Deputy Secretary Chan acknowledged the key role Laos played as co-chair of the Special Summit and as Australia’s ASEAN Country Coordinator from 2021 to 2024.

“We are grateful for the dedication and support Laos has provided us as Country Coordinator. It was instrumental in delivering a successful Summit,” Deputy Secretary Chan said.

At the Summit, a new historic milestone was reached with the signing of the Laos-Australia Comprehensive Partnership by His Excellency Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The Comprehensive Partnership reflects the Leaders’ commitment to bring the two countries even closer together. 

During Deputy Secretary Chan’s visit, she discussed ways to deepen cooperation through the Comprehensive Partnership. The Partnership will strengthen opportunities for Laos and Australia to work together as trusted partners across many sectors.

In a meeting with Vice Minister Sthabandith Insisienmay, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Deputy Secretary Chan spoke about Australia’s efforts to boost two-way trade and investment with the region. 

Deputy Secretary Chan meeting Vice Minister Sthabandith Insisienmay, Ministry of Planning and Investment.

At the Summit, Prime Minister Albanese announced an AUD2 billion Southeast Asia Investment Financing Facility to support the implementation of key objectives in Invested: Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040. 

Australia is exploring opportunities in Laos in the key sectors of agriculture, resources, and clean energy. To promote increased two-way trade and investment between Laos and Australia, AgCoTech Executive Director and Co-founder Charles Olsson has been announced as Australia’s Business Champion for Laos.

Deputy Secretary Chan met Anoulak Kittikhoun, CEO of the Mekong River Commission, to discuss the Commission’s work strengthening subregional coordination on critical environmental, economic, and livelihood issues.

“Australia is working with Mekong countries to bolster the subregion’s resilience and promote inclusive, sustainable growth,” she said.

Through the Mekong-Australia Partnership (MAP), Australia supports climate, water, and energy projects across the subregion. In Laos, this has included the construction of a fish passageway in Vang Vieng, which will benefit over 400 families and help preserve over 100 local fish species.

At the Special Summit, Australia announced a further investment of AUD 222.5 million (approximately USD 146 million) for MAP to support the resilience and prosperity of the Mekong subregion. 

The second phase of funding over the next five years will address shared priorities and challenges, focusing on improving water security, responding to climate change, building economic resilience, and combatting transnational crime.

Australia’s Partnerships for Infrastructure program will also be expanded with an AUD 140 million (USD 92 million) funding commitment. This will support regional priorities such as Laos-Australia cooperation in the fields of energy and transport connectivity.

These announcements show Australia is serious about deepening its cooperation with ASEAN and working with Laos for peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.


UANG PRABANG, Laos (AP) — Senior finance and central bank officials from Southeast Asia and major economies met Thursday, 4 April in the scenic Lao city of Luang Prabang to discuss ways to help the region build resilience against shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters brought on by climate change.

The need for faster progress was dramatically apparent as the city and surrounding region were engulfed in heavy smoke from fires — some set to clear forests for crops, some ignited by record-high temperatures and tinder-dry conditions. The air quality index early Thursday, 4 April was nearly 300, or “very unhealthy.”

Laos and other countries in Southeast Asia have committed to seeking more sustainable ways to feed their people and power their economies. The question is where the money will come from to do that.

Green finance is among several items on the agenda of the finance meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations related to countering the mounting impacts of global warming. The officials also were set for talks on an ASEAN infrastructure fund and disaster risk financing and insurance, according to the agenda provided by hosts of this week’s meetings.

Also on the list, refining a “taxonomy” to help identify and agree on projects that support ASEAN’s sustainability agenda and align with its climate change commitments and other goals.

The 10 member nations of ASEAN — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam — range from tiny but wealthy Brunei and Singapore to big, fast-growing economies like Vietnam and Indonesia. They have pledged to cut carbon emissions to help reduce the impact of climate change but are struggling to find ways to unlock the financing needed to make that transition.

ASEAN members are extremely vulnerable to extreme weather, drought, and rising sea levels. Investments in clean energy need to increase by five to seven times, to more than USD 200 billion a year, according to various estimates. Laos and its neighbors also are contending with a raft of other regional troubles, including human trafficking, a growing illicit drug trade, and fast-growing enclaves of online scam centers run by criminal syndicates.

A landlocked country of about 7.5 million people, Laos is rich in hydroelectric power, but its economy has been shrinking in recent years and its national finances are fraught — strained by a heavy load of foreign and domestic debt, a weakening currency, and inflation.

Longstanding traditions and a lack of funding to persuade farmers not to rely on crop burning — their most affordable option — mean that progress is slow. The government has set a goal of reducing the number of fires by 35% by the end of 2025. Similar burning in neighboring Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia leaves the region shrouded in heavy smog for weeks at a time during the spring.

Countries in the region have begun to build regional electricity grids as one step toward improving a balance between supply and demand.

A higher priority for Laos, a country where annual incomes average below USD 2,000 per person, is weaving itself into the wider regional economy of about 660 million people. Combined, the region is the world’s fifth-largest economy, at about USD 3.3 trillion.

Like many countries in the region, Laos’ economy has become increasingly entwined with that of China. Those ties have deepened with the building of a USD 6 billion high-speed railway that links to railways in southwest China’s Yunnan province and eventually will be connected with a line running to Bangkok and the Gulf of Thailand. The downside: debts that are a heavy drain on the country’s resources.

Along with regional financial leaders, senior officials of major international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank, along with delegates from Japan, China, the U.S., and other major economies, are attending the talks in Luang Prabang.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is not attending the talks, but traveling to China this week, where she will meet with American business leaders and Chinese officials in South China’s Guangzhou and in Beijing.

Also in Beijing this week were Indonesia’s President-elect Prabowo Subianto and the foreign ministers of Vietnam, Laos, and Timor-Leste, which is aspiring to become an ASEAN member.


New aviation routes are under discussion between Thailand, China, and Laos to alleviate air traffic congestion.

In response to an anticipated surge of 100,000 additional flights traversing their skies, Thailand, Laos, and China are in discussions to establish new aviation routes, as revealed by Nopasit Chakpitak, President of Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Co., Ltd. (Aerothai), on 29 March.

The proposed parallel routes aim to alleviate congestion in the existing flight path designated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), particularly in northwestern Laos.

The aviation industry in Asia has been witnessing rapid growth, particularly in countries like China and India, as evidenced by orders exceeding 1,000 aircraft. In light of this, Nopasit emphasized that Aerothai, a state enterprise under the Thai Ministry of Transport, recognizes the necessity to enhance airspace capabilities to accommodate this expansion.

Nopasit indicated that once the three nations reach an agreement on the new aviation routes linking Thailand and China through Laos, they will seek approval from the ICAO. The parallel routes are anticipated to commence operations in early 2026, pending compliance with the ICAO’s safety standards.

The planned routes between Thailand and China are set to serve flights connecting northern Thai provinces such as Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai with major Chinese cities including Kunming, Guiyang, Chengdu, Tianfu, Chongqing, and Xian, according to Aerothai. 

These plans align with the Thai government’s ambition to position Thailand as a regional aviation hub.

Travel demand from China to Thailand has significantly increased, with flight numbers reaching about 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels, with India also seen as a growing market with ongoing growth.

Consequently, Aerothai anticipates an influx of over 900,000 flights into Thailand this year, up from 800,000 in 2023. By 2025, flight volumes are projected to rebound to pre-Covid levels of 1 million.


In a notice released on 25 March, the Vientiane Capital governor issued regulations for residents to follow during the Lao New Year period, effective from 13 to 16 April.

New Year celebrations come with guidelines to ensure safety and respect for traditions. 

The issued regulations dictate conduct both on the roads and in public spaces. Among the rules: refraining from the use of unsanitary or colored water, ice, water tanks, or basins for dowsing, avoiding revealing clothing, abstaining from creating excessive noise without proper authorization, and prohibiting the use of fireworks, firecrackers, or possession of explosives. 

Additionally, drivers are prohibited from consuming or vending alcoholic beverages near temples, and shops are instructed not to hike prices or sell substandard goods during the festivities. Moreover, vehicular access to the Mekong Riverbank, except for police vehicles, is strictly prohibited.

Actions that violate these rules, whether they are intentional or not, will result in consequences, including warnings, fines, or apprehension, depending on the severity of the offense. Fireworks or firecrackers found will be confiscated and destroyed, and their owners will face punishments, ranging from warnings to fines.

Traffic police will also be stationed in numerous areas, including residents’ households, official establishments, restaurants, and workplaces to prevent potential crimes and road accidents.

These regulations are aimed at ensuring a safe and respectful celebration of the Lao New Year in Vientiane Capital. By adhering to these guidelines, residents can enjoy the festivities while also maintaining the cleanliness and orderliness of the city.


In recent days, several ancient Buddha statues were retrieved from the Mekong River’s shore in Tonpheung district of Bokeo province. Believed by some to be remnants of a 14th to 16th century temple, the true historical context of these artifacts remains shrouded in mystery, awaiting further investigation.

Shortly after retrieval, the artifacts were transported to Thongthip Phatthanaram temple in Yaitonpheung village for safekeeping.

In the meantime, research on the site continued. On 15-19 March, provincial authorities, in collaboration with experts from the Heritage Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism, conducted further search for buried artifacts near Done Phuengkham island. 

The search was prompted by a suggestion from the provincial administration office and the expert team, who deemed the area a likely hunting ground for such treasures.

The mission proved fruitful, a total of 38 Buddha statues, with sizes ranging from small (20-25 cm) to large (40-80 cm), were excavated, with ongoing investigation efforts planned. 

One of the largest statues measures 80 cm tall, 56 cm wide at the shoulders, and has an overall width of 88 cm, as reported by the tourism office in Ton Pheung district.

Provincial authorities excavating a land once buried beneath the Mekong River to search more ancient relics (photo: Vientiane Times)

The excavation efforts were spurred by a prior discovery on 11 March, when the provincial authorities found the head of a Buddha image and several small headless images during road repairs near Thongthip temple. The head was found in sand, once buried beneath the water of the Mekong River, used by the construction company for the road upgrade, prompting further exploration of the area.

As excavations continue, speculations among a prominent Lao social media page – and several Thai media – have arisen about the possibility of discovering a lost Buddha statue known as “Phra Souk.” Legend has it that “Phra Souk” was one of three sisters—Phra Souk, Phra Serm, and Phra Sai—built during the reign of King Setthathirath of the Lan Xang Kingdom, originally located in Vientiane Capital, from 1548 to 1571. 

During the reign of Thailand’s third king, the three statues were being transported from Vientiane to Nong Khai, Thailand, via ship along the Mekong River. However, tragedy struck when a storm hit the vessel, causing “Phra Souk” to plunge into the river, where it has remained lost ever since.

Presently, Phra Sai resides in a temple in Thailand’s Nong Khai Province, while Phra Souk is housed in a temple in Bangkok.

While this marks a great discovery for Laos, some Thai Facebook users are raising concerns over the legitimacy of the findings as many cited the fresh and new state of the statues despite being buried beneath the water for hundreds of years. 

“Wow, lost for 400-500 years, they said? Looks pretty new to me!” said a Thai Facebook user.

“Anyone can tell that these images aren’t 100 years old. They all look below 50 years old,” added another user.

However, some other users argued that the reason behind the buddha images looking new is attributed to the fact that they were not exposed to oxygen when buried underneath the river hence their coppers did not undergo the oxidation reaction, a process in which a chemical substance changes because of the addition of oxygen. 

“Whoever said that the statues look new, please do your research. The process in which they were forged is unique and is no longer practiced in the modern day,” a Facebook user wrote.

Despite mixed reactions from the neighboring country, Lao authorities stated that Thai people who live on the other side of the river are allowed to cross to Laos to pay homage to the relics without going through any document processes.

Meanwhile, efforts to uncover more artifacts continue, with the hope of revealing further insights into the region’s old days.


The first Beijing to Laos cross-border tourist train of 2024 departed from the Chinese capital during the early hours of Monday morning, 18 March. Dai Kaiyi was there.

Slowly pulling out of the platform, the Y445 tourist train, carrying over 400 passengers, embarks on a cross-country tour spanning China and Laos. Before the train departed, I spoke with a few of the passengers about their trip.

“I’m really happy to be part of this trip. It feels good; I can’t really describe it in any other way.”

“I’m excited to find out that we have trains to go directly to Laos now, and with both sides being so friendly, especially the people being able to go to Laos to learn their traditional culture.”

Dai Kaiyi Beijing “Chinese railway officials say the trip covers many iconic sightseeing spots in both China and Laos. It lasts for a total of fifteen days, allowing tourists to experience the charm of both countries.”

GE RONGYAN Train Driver “With many elderly passengers on this journey, our main focus during duty is ensuring passenger safety, emergency response, water supply on the train, catering, and providing excellent customer service.”

Railway authorities have organized a team of chefs offering a diverse range of meals and onboard entertainment. Trained medical personnel and emergency equipment are available onboard to guarantee passenger safety.

Wang Xu Business Manager of China Railway Travel Service Group “This year, we have introduced our specialized tourism offering, which includes domestic tourist special trains and cross-border trains for international travel, creating a comprehensive travel experience.”

Since its opening, the China-Laos Railway has transported over 30 million passengers and more than 34 million tons of goods. The line has seen an upward trend in both passenger and freight traffic.

The China State Railway Group says it will strengthen cooperation with its Laos counterparts while contributing to the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative, bringing benefits to the people of both countries. Dai Kaiyi, CGTN, Beijing.


Myanmar Airways International (MAI) has announced its plan to introduce direct flights between Yangon, Myanmar, and Vientiane, Laos, in early May this year as part of an ambitious expansion plan to bolster its international network.

The announcement was made during the MAI Flight Forward ceremony on 8 March. During the ceremony, Tanes Kumar, acting CEO and chief commercial officer of MAI, said that the airline will introduce new routes to Chiang Mai, Thailand; Vientiane, Laos; Dhaka, Bangladesh; and others.

“Although there are many challenges at present, MAI will further expand our travel network. The number of foreign flights MAI is flying will increase to 21. I believe that the new flights that will be run again will benefit passengers and colleagues a lot,” said Kumar as reported by Eleven Myanmar.

According to Myanmar’s Ministry of Information, MAI’s new routes to Vientiane, Laos, will operate weekly flights on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting 4 May. Additionally, MAI plans to increase its new international flights with other countries and expand its domestic flight offerings.

Direct flights between Laos and Myanmar have been unavailable for decades. In the 1980s, Lao Airlines stopped flying to Yangon due to the route’s lack of profitability.

The plan to connect the air link between Vientiane Capital and Yangon was also introduced in early 2013. However, Lao Airlines later canceled the plan within the same year, stating the necessity for more time to develop a marketing strategy to ensure adequate profitability of the route.