Top Things to Do in Laos
This post is courtesy of Agness of eTramping.com, an awesome blog for independent travelers
There are many reasons to visit Laos when you are backpacking through Southeast Asia. Stunning waterfalls, healthy and full of flavors food, smiley locals who will invite you home and show you around, Buddhist temples, undiscovered by ordinary travelers villages and local towns as well as affordable prices of transportation and accommodation.
If you’re planning to go to Southeast Asia, don’t miss Laos! You can cross the border from China, Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia, but make sure you read about border crossings to Laos in advance.
While in Laos, most of travelers mainly visit Vientiane – the capital city. They stay there a day or two and promptly come back to Bangkok. What a pity! Laos is a country with more places to discover and explore on a budget. In order to appreciate its beauty and local hospitality, you need to give yourself more than a week or two and add the following places to your must-see Laos spots list.
Where to Stay in Laos
Laos is one of the cheapest countries in the world, and while budget accommodation is plentiful here, you can absolutely enjoy a luxe experience if your pocketbook allows it. From the historic Satri House in Luang Prabang to the Riverside Boutique Resort in Vang Vieng to Vientiane’s chic Dhavara Boutique Hotel, Laos can be as high-end as you allow. (Say it out loud to get the pun!)
How to Get Around in Laos
Like its neighbor to the south, Cambodia, Laos has pretty basic infrastructure. Thankfully, some tools do exist to make overland travel in the country less stressful, namely 12Go Asia, which allows you to pre-book buses and even domestic flights online. Trains don’t run within Laos’ borders, and while boat trips on the Mekong River can be relaxing, I wouldn’t recommend them as a practical means of transport.
1. Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is (in)famous for it’s crazy parties, where young “backpackers” come and do things they are not allowed to back at home. For some this may be a good idea to visit the place, but it scares many off.
What many travellers don’t realise is that Vang Vieng has much more to offer than just insane parties. With an amazingly beautiful scenery, there’s a lot of cliffs for climbing, rivers for boat/tube riding, caves to be discovered and religious places to see. Don’t miss your chance to see this gem of Laos.
2. Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang, the former capital city of Laos, is currently an UNESCO World Heritage city, often missed out by many travelers. This place is an amazing example of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures.
The top 3 places worth visiting in Luang Prabang is Haw Kham (the former royal palace and now national museum), Phou Si (the main hill in the city from which you have an incredible view of the whole area) and Vat Xieng Toung ( one of the oldest and most extraordinary monasteries in the city).
What of the best things to do in Luang Prabang is to jump in the stunning waterfalls and explore caves. Kuang Si Falls is a massive waterfall which can be easily reached by bike or motorbike (around 25km away from the city). It looks extremely beautiful so you can spend there a couple of hours before heading to Pak Ou Caves, called by locals the “Buddha caves”. If these two attractions do not meet up to your expectations, there is also a famous Tad Thong Waterfall and Nature Trail to explore or, for example, Tad Sae Waterfalls.
Vientiane is perceived by locals and tourists as one friendliest places in the whole country. When you finally get there, the first place to sightsee should be the Golden Stupa- one of the biggest and most magnificent stupas in Laos and also one of the most recognizable. It is also very different from stupas and temples you can discover in Thailand, so you must give it a try to find out!
Vientiane will also welcome you with beautiful pagodas. One of the most impressive pagodas, in my opinion, is Pha That Luang, but do not miss out Ho Pra Keo -a small, quiet temple with some good photo opportunities.
Vientiane is also a place where COPE Visitor Centre is located. The shebang is labeled with great English so you don’t need to worry about not understanding a thing while visiting this place. You can read really emotion-churning stories here and watch some documentaries. One of the biggest advantage is that it’s totally free, although donations are very appreciated. Once you’ve been there, I’m quite certain you want to give them a little extra. Excellent exhibition about a difficult subject!
If you are a big fan of history, you definitely need to visit Lao National Museum. Exhibits range from Indochina in the neolithic period to recent history with an emphasis on the rise of the Lao Communist Party and 20th c. wars. Although you might not fancy spending there a whole afternoon, 1 hour would be more than enough to pick up the most interesting facts on Laotian history.
Pakse is the capital of Champasak province, a town which is developing at breath-taking speed offering locals and travelers a lot of activities, historical sights to explore and delicious spicy cuisine. Short day trips from Pakse can go to Ban Saphai and Don Kho, weaving centres 15km north of town so if you are nearby, take a day or two to see what Pakse is like.
Pakse is all about stunning waterfalls from which Tad Fane Waterfall is the most picturesque, spilling 200 metres down into a deep gorge. You may not only admire its beauty, but also go swimming there which is a truly fantastic experience.
If you still have another day in Pekse, you could definitely use it for exploring Bolaven Plateau. It can be easily reached by motorbike.You can spend most of the time driving around Attapeu and the hill and countryside where you can see many local people and nice villages. Afterwards, let yourself drive along the good road to Tad Lo which is famous for its many waterfalls around and villages with a very charming flair.
5. 4000 Islands
Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) is a riverine archipelago located in the Mekong River, Champasak Province in southern Laos. Why is it worth a visit? It’s sleepy, laid back and extremely friendly, so if you need to chill out that’s the perfect place for you. Secondly, affordable prices can let you stay there for a long period and you can catch up with your budget expenses. Single room can be found for a dollar or two, food should not cost you more than $3 a day and drinks are usually for $1 at local bars.
You can rent a motorbike or a boat and have a ride around the island. The area is full of spectacular waterfalls, and it’s not expensive to go and see them, so don’t miss out. Moreover, you can visit local markets and try some traditional Laotian dishes!
There are plenty of unique places to see in Laos, and even more reasons to do so. I hope this article makes you add this country to your bucket list.