Often overlooked in this region of the world, Laos is one of the biggest tourist surprise packages and a dream destination for adventurous travelers.

Vang Vieng: The Evolution of a Backpacker’s Haven

It was a warm, humid afternoon in Vang Vieng, Laos, as I was sitting poolside unwinding from the day, I looked up and saw the hot air balloons slowly ascend into the clear blue skies, which then drifted across the sprawling mountain ranges, I started to wonder if I was living in a real-world postcard.

Once a notorious ‘tubing’ tourist spot of the past, the town itself has a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere, with lush green scenery, making it feel like you’re walking around on a different planet. The clean air and limited traffic provide a peaceful respite from the usual urban chaos found in other popular Asian destinations 

Vang Vieng’s history reflects a transformation from a quiet farming village into an unlikely backpacker hub located deep within the jungles of central Laos. Vang Vieng’s allure evolved with the advent of tubing on the Nam Song river. About a decade ago, the concept of riding tractor-tyre inner tubes down the river gained popularity, leading to rapid development along the riverbanks. Ramshackle bars quickly sprouted up, offering free shots of local whiskey and adventurous activities like rope swings and giant water slides. This transition turned the once-pristine stretch of the Nam Song into a bustling hub dubbed the “Water Fun Park.” 

Tham Chang caves. Photo supplied.

Another highlight for visitors to Vang Vieng are the Tham Chang caves, which are easily accessible and walking distance from town. A unique spot offering a refreshing respite from the heat and a stunning display of stalagmites and stalactites. The walking path through a nearby mini nature park adds to the allure, culminating in a breathtaking viewpoint overlooking the town and Nam Song River.

Food enthusiasts won’t be disappointed either, with the A.M.D restaurant standing out as a must-visit. This family-run establishment serves up delicious chicken schnitzel sandwiches alongside a variety of fresh extras. If you prefer to mix up your eating options, there is the Viman German Thai restaurant which has a very outgoing and peculiar chef who serves up German inspired meals. Then to wrap it all up, head over to one of the bars that overlooks the sprawling mountains. 

However, the town’s newfound fame came with a dark side. Despite the economic benefits tourism brought, it also brought challenges, including cultural clashes, environmental degradation, and social issues among locals, as the town tries to catch up with its rapid transformation. 

Luang Prabang: A Walk Through History, Spirituality, and Nature 

Not too far away lies Luang Prabang, which is only an hour and a half train ride north of Vang Vieng on the newly built high speed rail network. 

Situated on a peninsula formed by the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, Luang Prabang is considered to be the jewel of Laos and was once a major Buddhist center and capital of the Lan Xang kingdom from the 14th to 16th centuries. Despite facing wars and economic decline, it remained the most popular town in Laos for both its history and, more recently, tourism. Laos became a French protectorate in 1893, leading to Luang Prabang being recognised as the country’s royal seat again. Today, its historic core, including ancient temples and French-built structures, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The town is also often praised for its community-led conservation efforts, work in ecotourism, and commitment to sustainability and inclusive travel. Last year, Luang Prabang received 12 travel awards under the ASEAN Tourism Standards Scheme.

Sunset view from Luang Prabang’s Phousi Mountain. Photo supplied.

But the UNESCO town is not only about history and spirituality. The province offers plenty of natural landscapes that draw visitors from far and wide. Surrounding the town are verdant mountains, flower gardens, rice fields, and waterfalls, including the well-known Kuang Si Falls and Tad Keo, which are only a 40-minute ride away.

The walking circuit around the Kuang Si waterfalls is an easy way to explore the jungle. You’ll hear the soothing sound of water as you climb. After taking it all in, you can swim nearby and relax in the sun.

Back in town, as the day comes to a close, the Luang Prabang sunsets are phenomenal. Head up to Phousi Hill for stunning views of the city and the Mekong River. Once the sun has set and you make your way down the hill, you will be guided by the bright lights into town. Every evening, the main street comes alive with food stalls and market vendors selling a variety of items. It is a popular spot where all tourists and locals come together and comfortably enjoy themselves as the street is closed off to motorcycles and cars.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/29/unlocking-laos-adventures-await-in-vang-vieng-luang-prabang/

More than 110,000 visitors flocked to Luang Prabang during the Lao New Year festivities from 10-19 April, marking an increase of 364.44 percent compared to the previous year. The festival, which showcased the rich cultural heritage of Laos, also generated an estimated revenue exceeding USD 47 million.

According to the Luang Prabang Provincial Information, Culture, and Tourism Department, the province welcomed more than 68,700 domestic tourists and over 41,500 foreign visitors from China, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. Other notable contributors included Japan, the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

This surge in attendance highlights a significant spike compared to the previous year’s number of 23,749 visitors.

Soudaphone Khomthavong, Director of the Luang Prabang Provincial Information, Culture, and Tourism Department, emphasized the heightened efforts in organizing this year’s celebrations to enhance the allure of Visit Laos Year. She attributed the increased footfall to improved accessibility, particularly with the popularity of the Laos-China Railway, which traverses through Luang Prabang and other northern provinces.

In 2024, Luang Prabang has set a target of welcoming over 1.7 million tourists, with anticipated tourist spending surpassing USD 900 million. 

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/25/luang-prabang-welcomes-record-numbers-during-new-year-celebrations/

The survey and preliminary design of an expressway, linking Vangvieng district in Vientiane province to Luang Prabang province, have been finalized. This development signals an important advancement in Phase 2 of the Laos-China expressway construction, which aims to connect Vientiane to Boten in Luang Namtha on the Chinese border.

The completion of Phase 1 of the Laos-China expressway in 2021 saw the inauguration of a 109-kilometer highway stretching northwards from Vientiane Capital to Vangvieng.

During the 2023 Transport Works Summary Meeting on 9 April, Deputy Minister of Public Works and Transport Lan Sengaphone highlighted the focused efforts on building major highways and stressed the importance of finishing the proposed expressway connecting Vientiane Capital to Boten.

The expressway section from the capital to Vangvieng represents only 9.3 percent of the extensive Vientiane-Boten expressway. This expressway’s construction is divided into four phases.

Phase 2, from Vangvieng to Luang Prabang, has now concluded the survey and preliminary design phase. Meanwhile, Phase 3, extending from Luang Prabang Province to Oudomxay Province, is currently in the process of formulating development cooperation agreements with investors.

As for Phase 4, spanning from Oudomxay to Boten, a Memorandum of Understanding on construction has been initially signed with investors, with ongoing efforts to renew and update it.

The expressway connecting Vientiane Capital to Vangvieng has become highly popular, significantly cutting travel time between the capital and the tourism hub to just one hour, a substantial decrease from around 3.5 hours, facilitating day trips to the picturesque riverside town.

Additionally, the Vientiane-Vangvieng section of the China-Laos expressway is the first joint venture between the Lao government and China’s Yunnan Construction and Investment Holding (YCIH) Group, with YCIH holding a 95 percent investment stake and the Lao government contributing the remaining 5 percent of costs.

The expressway, operated under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model for a duration of 50 years,  represents a collaborative effort aimed at enhancing infrastructure and connectivity between Laos and China.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/24/survey-complete-for-vientiane-luang-prabang-expressway-link/

Laos is expected to see moderate economic growth this year and next year, largely driven by external demand fueled by tourism and trade, as outlined in the latest Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.

The ADB’s “Asian Development Outlook for April 2024” predicts that Laos’ gross domestic product (GDP) will rise by 4 percent in both 2024 and 2025. The growth in services will be sustained by external demand, with international tourist arrivals forecasted to reach 4.2 million in 2024, propelled by improved infrastructure connectivity.

The report also highlights the role of foreign investment in renewable energy, driving moderate industrial growth. Projects like the Monsoon Wind Power, scheduled for completion in 2025, are expected to contribute to this growth. 

However, macroeconomic pressures continue to pose challenges to the country’s economic outlook.

Sonomi Tanaka, ADB Laos Country Director, noted some improvement in the economy in 2023, primarily driven by sectors such as tourism and trade. Nonetheless, ongoing challenges such as high debt and inflation have slowed down the country’s economic advancement.

In the first quarter of 2024, Laos experienced an overall inflation rate increase of 24.93 percent compared to the same period last year. Specifically, inflation stood at 24.4 percent in January, 25.35 percent in February, and 24.98 percent in March.

Inflation is anticipated to continue rising as businesses adjust prices to deal with increased expenses from currency depreciation and wage hikes, with consumer prices predicted to go up by an average of 20 percent in 2024, slowing down to 7 percent in 2025 after a 31.2 percent surge in 2023.

This inflationary trend has led to a decline in household purchasing power, particularly affecting food, hotel, and restaurant prices. As a result, more students are dropping out of school, and labor migration is increasing as individuals seek employment opportunities.

Additionally, high inflation and economic challenges have exacerbated food insecurity in the country, with one in seven people experiencing shortages in 2023. Rural areas are particularly affected, facing twice the rate of food shortages compared to urban areas. This has led to slowed growth due to malnutrition, impacting a child’s productivity over their lifetime.

To tackle these challenges, the Lao government has collaborated with development organizations to expand social assistance, enhance healthcare services, and invest in clean water and sanitation.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/12/lao-gdp-forecasted-to-grow-in-2024-2025-says-asian-development-bank/

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.”

Photo supplied

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

Photo supplied

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.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/12/unearthing-luang-prabangs-mysteries-the-legend-of-the-lost-treasure/

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.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/09/mekong-day-celebrations-emphasize-cooperation-conservation-efforts/

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.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/09/loca-currently-operates-20-fast-ev-charging-stations-plans-to-boost-ev-infrastructure-with-40-stations-by-2024/

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.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/08/australia-strengthens-partnerships-with-laos-asean/

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.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/04/southeast-asian-countries-consider-ways-to-boost-green-financing-as-region-chokes-on-smog/

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.

Source: https://laotiantimes.com/2024/04/01/thailand-laos-china-in-talks-for-new-aviation-routes-to-handle-surge-in-flights/