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.
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.