Wellness in ASEAN: Laos and Philippines
Welcome to Wellness in ASEAN, where we explore all the best places to unwind and recharge in the fabulously warm climates of southeast Asia. So far, we’ve discovered a host of health-boosting activities and sights in Brunei and Singapore to help you escape to peace and calm. And, our discoveries don’t stop there.
Join us this time, as we journey further towards the balmy climates of Laos and the Philippines. From the luscious jungles and ancient heritage-sites of Laos to the enchanted rivers and rice fields of the Philippines, there are plenty of options to help you plan the ultimate self-care escape.
Sunset in Luang Prabang, Laos. Image: Mills Baker / CC-BY-2.0 / Flickr
Most commonly known as the “land of a million elephants,” the breathtaking country of Laos offers visitors a rustic and less touristy option than some of its neighbors. From strolling through peaceful historical towns to zip-lining amongst luscious green jungles, there’s plenty to boost your well-being in this incredible part of southeast Asia.
Wat Xieng Thong, a famous landmark in Luang Prabang, Laos.
Ranked as an UNESCO world-heritage site, the enchanting town of Luang Prabang deserves a place on every wellness-seeker’s itinerary. Located in the northern part of Laos, Luang Prabang features over thirty temples and former royal palaces amid French-influenced cafes and boutiques. Home to one of the largest community of monks, various Buddhist rituals can be observed daily for a fascinating insight into local culture. With plenty of day spas offering traditional Laotian massages and treatments, it won’t take long to melt into the slow pace of life that Luang Prabang exudes. A captivating town with a Zen-like ambience, it’s a fantastic place to unplug and tune out.
The Gibbon Experience, Laos. Image: thegingerwanderlust / Instagram
Offering a more exhilarating escape amongst nature, The Gibbon Experience is one not to be missed. Featuring some of the tallest tree houses in the world, thrill-seekers get the chance to fly through forest canopies and lush jungle greenery on 500-meter long zip-lines.
Home to the black gibbon apes, this tourism-based conservation project uses the proceeds of The Gibbon Experience, to help preserve the ancient trees within the forest and support reforestation. Offering various experiences including gibbon-spotting, waterfall-trips and overnight stays in the tranquil forest – prepare yourself for a truly unforgettable adventure amongst the incredible jungles of Laos.
Plain of Jars, Xieng Khouang. Image: thegingerwanderlust / Instagram
For those seeking an off-the-beaten track venture into the remote corners of Laos, head to the enigmatic Xieng Khouang Province, to experience the curious plain of jars and swim in the natural hot springs. One of Laos’ most impressive megalithic sites, the plain of jars offers a strangely alluring escape away from the usual tourist routes. A large scattering of stone urns dating back to the iron age lay randomly across hundreds of square kilometres. The history of these stone jars remains a mystery, with various speculations and beliefs surrounding their existence. To see the immensely relaxing natural hot springs in this province, head to the Ban Nyai vicinity or Ban Xang village.
Located on seven hectares of land at the edge of Beung Kiat Ngong Wetlands in the Champasak province, Kingfisher Ecolodge is the perfect escape for nature lovers. Surrounded by an abundance of natural greenery and stunning beauty, this tranquil oasis is a fantastic spot to unwind and reconnect with nature. The warm hospitality and tranquil ambience will relieve tensions of even the hardiest of city-dwellers. With an on-site restaurant serving up delicious local and non-traditional cuisines, there’s something to suit all taste buds. Wake up to the calming sounds of Laotian countryside and choose from one of many activities on offer, including mountain biking and jungle trekking. For those seeking a sanctuary of peace amongst the breath-taking green lands of Laos, Kingfisher Ecolodge is the place for you.
TRAVEL FROM LAOS TO THE PHILIPPINES
As Laos is land-locked, the best way to travel from Laos to the Philippines is by air. Several airlines run flights between the two countries, with the fastest routes including one stopover in either Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia or Bangkok in Thailand. One of the quickest routes runs from Vientiane to Manilla, with a total journey time of 7-8 hours. If you are in Luang Prabang, there’s also the option of flying to Manilla from there with one stopover and a similar journey time of 7-8 hours.
Happy-go-lucky locals, stunning beaches, and long sunshine-filled days are just a few highlights visitors have come to enjoy in the enthralling country of the Philippines. From sublime underwater diving experiences to head-to-toe detoxification retreats, the Philippines has a wealth of soul-soothing delights to help relax the mind, body, and spirit. Here’s where to find them.
Known for its incredible variety of diving spots, the Philippines has many spots to choose from, for those wishing to dive amongst calming deep-sea paradises. One of the most popular spots being Coron Bay and certainly one not to be missed. Attracting keen divers from all over the world, Coron Bay is one of the best diving wrecks in the Philippines and one that is all contained in a small area. This gives divers the chance to explore a stunning diversity of underwater sea-life, without needing to dive too far. Swim through the tranquil waters in a meditative trance while observing the magnificent aquatic wonders, wreckage artifacts, and stunning coral reefs.
Hinatuan Enchanted River
Tucked away on the island of Mindanao amongst gorgeous green rainforests, is an enchanting deep spring known as Hinatuan Enchanted River. Its mystical clear blue waters resemble a vision that wouldn’t look out of place in a fantasy movie. Inspiring many local folk tales about how it came to be, the shimmering waters of this incredibly beautiful spring draws in hoards of curious locals and visitors.
The waters run so clear that you can even observe swimmers deep down in the spring – appearing as though they are swimming in air. With depths of up to 80 meters, visitors can enjoy views all the way down to the bottom through the turquoise blue waters. If your idea of total escapism involves immersing yourself into other-worldly natural experiences, Hinatuan Enchanted River is well worth a visit.
Women from Ifugao Minority near a rice terraces in Banaue the Philippines. Image: Shutterstock
Banaue Rice Terraces
Dating back 2,000 years, the hand-carved mountain terraces that forms the Banaue Rice Terraces showcases the breathtaking vision that can be created when man works with nature. Formed using primitive tools, the UNESCO World Heritage site stands as a magnificent wonder and continues to draw in travelers from far and wide to view its spectacular aesthetic beauty.
Banaue Rice Terraces. Image: Jon Rawlinson / CC-BY-2.0 / Flickr
Tours can be booked with local guides, where visitors have the chance to trek through the emerald-green rice field and enjoy the vast captivating ambience of this incredible site. For those wanting to enjoy a slow extended trip, there are several local guesthouses offering reasonably-priced accommodation, so you can wake up in serenity amongst luscious green surrounds.
Located in the lively capital city of Palawan, Bahat Kalipay (meaning happy house) offers a back-to-basics peaceful retreat for those desiring a rustic wellness escape. A community-centered sanctuary, consisting of healers, teachers, and volunteers, Bahat Kalipay focuses on raw food, yoga, and nature in its simplest form. Enjoy a stay in one of the peaceful open treehouses and wake up to the relaxing sounds from the natural surrounds. The perfect detox spot for those wanting to cleanse mind, body, and soul - you can choose from massages and a range of activities to customize the experience to suit your needs.
Thanks for joining our Wellness in ASEAN journey – have we inspired you to discover the soothing delights of Laos and the Philippines? We look forward to hearing from you! Join us next time as our self-care expedition takes us to the immensely beautiful countries of Malaysia and Myanmar.