12 Reasons to Travel to Laos
For some reason I still can’t understand, people don’t get very excited about Laos. Perhaps that was good in my case because I had very low expectations going in and found it to be one of the most enjoyable places to which I’ve traveled. From the peace and tranquility of Luang Prabang and 4,000 Islands to the party vibes of Vang Vieng and Vientiane, Laos has a lot to offer. Here are 12 reasons to travel to Laos.
In Luang Prabang, wake up early one morning to watch the sunrise and see the local monks heading to one of the many local pagodas and temples. Known as the Alms Giving Ceremony, local monks have relied on donations from for their daily food for centuries. This ritual has become one of the most popular things to see in this beautiful and tiny village in northern Laos.
Wander through the large night market that consumes several blocks of the main street in Luang Prabang every evening. Find something similar in Vientiane. Built and then disassembled daily, these are great places to find locally made products and do some shopping for bargain prices. Nearly everything is in the $1-5 range and often can be haggled down even further.
Watch the Sunset
Just off the main street in Luang Prabang you can climb the stairs for about $1.50 to see the highest temple in the city and watch the beautiful sunset.
Branching off the night market in Luang Prabang are a number of street food vendors, some taking up entire streets. Though there are many favorites to be found here, the pork spring rolls, beef & noodle soup and freshly made pancakes. In Vang Vieng the khao jee sandwiches on baguette made of pork & veggies are some of the best in Southeast Asia, rivaling Vietnam’s banh mi. Laotian feu also gives Vietnamese pho a run for its money.
Vientiane offers a wide range of culinary favorites, both international and local, at very affordable prices. Try out some more of the local food or international options like sushi, burgers, pizza and more. One of my favorites was a Vietnamese spot called Little Hanoi.
Tubing (Partying While Tubing)
Though Vang Vieng has calmed down a lot over the last two years, this is an excellent place to find parties. Tubing down the river allows access to two different bars each day. For a cost of less than $4, a tube can be rented for the day and beers go for around $1-2 at each of the bars. Enjoy some drinks, make a dozen new friends, play volleyball, dive in a mud pit and more. Then hop on your tube and head down the river. The water is slow and shallow, just don’t lose your friends and look out for one another in case someone has too much to drink.
It’s true. Some of Vang Vieng’s bars offer incredible deals such as free local whisky for one hour every night. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that! Pace yourself and enjoy!
Outside Vientiane is a beautiful park filled with a variety of statues of Buddha and other creations. It’s possible to climb on top of the tallest creation and overlook all of the park. I haven’t come across anything else quite like this and it was well worth the few dollar tuk tuk ride and entry to check it out.
Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands)
Similar to the vibe of Pai in northern Thailand, 4,000 Islands is praised by travelers as one of the most relaxed areas in Southeast Asia. It’s still on my list but I haven’t made it down there yet. For a complete overview, check out this page on Lonely Planet.
Support a Country in Need
While this may not factor in to every person’s travel plans, with nearly a quarter of its population in poverty, Laos is a country in need of tourism dollars. Most of the money spent in this country will go to a local vendor, guest house owner or small transportation company. Laos is still largely separate from multi-national corporations so this brings a feel different from much of the region and means the money from travelers may be one way to help this nation’s people improve their quality of life.
A Land Virtually Untouched
Dirt roads, remote villages, street markets, and travel by boat, are some of the things that stand out. Even in the more developed cities it’s clear that this is country that hasn’t developed like many of the other areas in Southeast Asia. While this can be found in other neighboring countries, it’s very much the norm here. This provides a unique travel experience and perspective.
Along with the need Laos has for tourism, most locals in Laos will give a broad smile and nod to those walking by. During my time my friends and I remarked again and again how kind and friendly everyone was. From the street food vendors, to the monks, hostel staff, and strangers, this is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been. It made it difficult for me to stop smiling as well.
In short, Laos is a very happy country that provides much to see, do, and eat for very affordable prices. The people, places, hostels, and guest houses are fun and welcoming. Though it may not have as many sites or as large a nightlife scene like its neighbors, it’s still possible to have a great time. I hope after reading these 12 reasons to travel to Laos, every traveler at least considers it as a possible option when heading to Southeast Asia. I loved the week I spent here.
Heading to Thailand during your stay in Southeast Asia?
Khob Chai! (Cheers in Laos)