Photo Essay: Northern Laos

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

Laos isn’t always a country I’d dreamt of visiting when I was young. In fact, I’m sad to admit I didn’t even know it existed until a few years ago. However, after living in Korea and meeting more and more people who traveled the globe, it quickly became somewhere that I gained interest in seeing. Although I had interest in visiting the country, I didn’t research it too much. All I’d known about the country is that several years ago scores of young backpackers died in Vang Vieng while tubing down the Nam Song River.

I quickly learned that the once booming party town is now a sleepy (ish) haven for adventurous souls. There are plenty of options in the town; visitors can kayak or relax in a tube down the river, go rock climbing or trekking and explore the nooks and crannies of the nearby caves. Gone are the free buckets of whisky and opium + mushroom milkshakes. In fact, there are only about three bars along the tubing path; the other 15+ that have since been shut still line the river serving as a harsh reminder of the town’s darker days. While the nightlife in Vang Vieng is not to be messed with (um, HELLO Sakura Bar and jungle parties), I did enjoy the quieter aspect to it as well.

Luang Prabang was definitely my favorite. After living in Korea for two years there was always something I craved: good bread. You know, like the kind of French baguettes that don’t come coated in sugar. I gained a pound or two from eating the $1.25 sandwiches each day and gorged on the multitude of local street fare as well…and, uh, beer. Lots of it. I REGRET NOTHING.

A lot of people wrote off Vientiene as a “waste of time,” but I have to say I sort of liked it. I’m not sure if it is because it was so different than the other two cities we’d visited, but I didn’t really get all the hate. I definitely don’t think I could spend more than 3-4 days in the nation’s capital, but I certainly enjoyed my time there.

James and I met a wonderful crew to travel with throughout the entirety of our two weeks on our slow boat journey there – two wonderful ladies from Delaware and two down-to-earth cousins from Belgium. We celebrated the Laos new year by having water fights on the streets with the locals, making this portion of the trip an extremely memorable experience. We shared lots of laughter and big Beer Laos and decided we liked each other so much that we bought matching friendship bracelets as a joke. Or was it? Either way, it’s a great example of how people certainly help make a trip special in addition to the sites. So here’s to you, northern Laos: you’re absolutely gorgeous.

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

Unfortunately, we didn’t find time to make it to Southern Laos this time around, but I’d certainly like to the next time I’m in the region. While we didn’t spend too much time in the country, my friends Megan and Scott at Bobo and Chichi spent a whopping two months motorbiking Laos, so they have a lot of stories to tell and photos to accompany their travels. If you’re keen, be sure to check out their list of 8 stunning places to visit in Laos and their guide for those interested in exploring the waterfalls at the Bolaven Plateau.

northern laos www.willfulandwildhearted.com

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8 Stunning Places to Visit in Laos

BoBo & ChiChi’s Guide for Exploring the Waterfall Wonderland in Southern Laos

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12 Comments

  1. April 22, 2016 / 6:23 pm

    Thanks for the love! Isn’t Kuangsi absolutely stunning?!!! That has to be one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to! We also loved Luang Prabang, it was such a charming place and we could sit around doing nothing as long as we had a BeerLao and wifi along the river. We ended up doing a lot of work days there! As much time as we spent in Laos, one place we didn’t make it to that I’d like to check out is Bokeo National Park, guess we gotta go back!

  2. April 25, 2016 / 5:48 am

    I enjoyed your photo essay from Northern Laos. Though I’ve never been myself, I can see myself making it out there for those cheap sandwiches and what not. The only thing I found a little creepy was your image of your legs and someone’s arm across them, haha it makes it look like the viewer’s legs and a strangers crawling arm… Maybe it’s just me, but I wouldn’t want my viewers to feel creepy looking at my own images from a trip.

  3. April 25, 2016 / 6:52 pm

    I wonder if you’re the first person to pose in front of the Patuxai Gate holding a terrible towel 😉

    I’ve only spent a day and a half in Laos and all of that time was spent in Vientiane. My impression was the city was very quiet – it seemed to go to bed at 11 p.m. But the country is definitely worth another visit.

  4. April 25, 2016 / 6:56 pm

    Beautiful pictures of Laos!

    Your observation about Vang Vieng changing was quite interesting. Hopefully, it’s becoming an enjoyable place for many visitors.

  5. April 26, 2016 / 12:00 am

    Hi Laura!
    I am so happy to have found your blog! My husband and I have travelled to a lot of places in Asia, but Laos has been one we have yet to visit. And your photographs make me want to book a ticket right now!
    It looks like the perfect place to rest and recoup.
    Thank you for sharing your travels
    x

  6. April 26, 2016 / 3:17 pm

    Amazing photos of one of my favourite countries 🙂

    I went to Vang Vieng in the bad old days, I think it’s for the best that the tubing has been scaled back – it was fun but not very culturally sensitive and definitely not safe!

  7. April 29, 2016 / 4:11 am

    Wow, great photos that really show a lot of the beauty of Laos! Although, as a Browns fan I was a little disappointed to see the terrible towel in one of the shots haha! I really liked the waterfall shots and those cool looking statues. I’d love to visit Laos someday. Thanks for sharing!

    • April 29, 2016 / 7:41 am

      Haha! I understand – I wouldn’t like constantly losing to the Steelers, either! (::cue sarcastic font::) But on a more serious note, my family is all from Ohio so we’re pretty divided so I understand. My uncle has an entire room in his house in Florida dedicated to the Browns! I take pictures with my Terrible Towel in every new city I visit so it’s pretty fun to see. The Steelers actually recognized it on social media recently so I basically died of joy. I definitely recommend visiting Laos when you get the chance. It’s really stunning and wasn’t as touristy as some places in this region can be. It’s truly magical in a way.

  8. May 1, 2016 / 2:26 am

    I absolutely love Laos! I took the bus from China’s Yunnan province down to Luang Prabang and spent a few days down there. I absolutely loved it! Same as you, I had never considered Laos a travel destination and knew close to zero about it. But I’m definitely going back down there to see more!

  9. May 1, 2016 / 1:40 pm

    Northern Laos is absolutely a place we will visit in the future and, like you, we hadn’t ever really considered it as a destination until some of our more adventurous friends recommended it so highly.

    Your photos are beautiful and do a great job of enticing my wanderlust! Thanks for the recommendations and for posting this, So good to have some more places on my list for “relaxing places to get lost” list.

  10. May 2, 2016 / 6:38 pm

    These are very interesting photos. Looks like you’re having a very relaxing vacation over there. Can’t blame you if you wish for more days in such a setting. That photo of several people on top of the tree plus more on the water looks like a bunch of happy kids just out to have a lot of fun. Are you all vacationeers there?

    • May 9, 2016 / 9:22 am

      It was a mixture of locals and us backpackers alike. It was a great day!

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