We took a short flight from Vietnam across to the capital city of Laos, Vientiane. I couldn’t believe that I’d already spent a month with my group (SE Asia time is definitely on fast forward!)
As our tour guide, Kit, gave us friendship bracelets embroidered with ‘Kit’s Family’, we knew how lucky we were to have all been thrown into such a perfect, crazy, compatible group. I’ll always be thankful that I booked a tour for my 1st month abroad. It really was a God-send for a solo traveller to have awesome like-minded backpackers and easy travel plans handed to me on a plate! (The perfect backpacker demo…)
As we arrived in Laos, I could feel the ominous cloud marking the end of the tour approaching but I was excited for the unknown. I didn’t know a great deal about Laos and had no idea what to expect so I welcomed the sense of mystery and anticipation as we headed to the tour bus.
Laos is known for its incredible scenery and waterfalls. If you’re heading this way to explore the rocky pools and rolling hills, you won’t want to miss out on my Top 5 Places to Visit:
- Vang Vieng
Just north of the capital, Vientiane, you’ll find the small town of Vang Vieng – and to this day I don’t think I have seen a more picture perfect place!
If you want to stare out into the misty jungle hills of South-East Asia as you sip on a beer and float peacefully along the still waters – This is the place for you. There’s caving, tubing and kayaking available to get your adrenaline fix and soak up this incredible backdrop.
You can also visit the famous ‘Blue Lagoon’ where a small natural lake is absolutely packed to the brim with backpackers and tourists making the most of the rope swings and jumping from the high overhanging trees.
Tip: Make someone below video you at the top before you jump. You’re kinda forced to go once they hit that Record button!
- Ancient Luang Prabang
If you’re taking a bus trip to Luang Prabang, prepare yourself for the endless winding hills taken on full speed by the drivers! I found this photo the other day and found it absolutely hilarious… Me at the side of the road about to traumatise the local kids and puke from roadsickness!!
I wasn’t the only one who felt the twists and turns of the landscape. The whole group stopped along the way to get fresh air, stomachs churning as we delicately nibbled on lunch and made the most of finally having stable ground! Despite this, the views along the journey were unforgettable as always.
Once we arrived in ancient Luang Prabang, I headed straight out to explore! I enjoyed taking some time by myself to wander at my own pace around the many intricately decorated temples, admiring the brightly coloured robes of the young monks, the gleam of golden Buddhas and learning about Laos’ royal history at The Royal Palace Museum.
If you’re feeling exercise-ready, make sure you climb Mount Phusi!
This was practically deserted when I stumbled upon it and it was a hidden treasure. After climbing the hundreds of steps, you are rewarded (and exhausted!) when you see the small temple, built in 1804 by King Anourat, with views overlooking the city. Entering the temple alone, I deeply inhaled the incense and spent precious time reflecting on my adventure so far. I left with a new appreciation for the serene nature of these beautiful religious buildings.
- Bustling Night markets
No matter where you are in Laos, you will be able to find a bustling night market and if you’re a food lover like me, the Luang Prabang market is definitely the most impressive!
The main strip is made up of hundreds of sellers displaying jewellery, bags and ornaments on laid out blankets like an impressive trade show. If you have travelled in SE Asia, you will know how many market stalls across the various countries sell much of the same merchandise (hello elephant harem pants) but I found that there were such unique and never-before-seen items available at the Luang Prabang market. Not only this, it was really great to share the space equally with both travellers and locals – I ended up sipping on a beer with a local family as I rested my shopper’s feet!
Tip: If you venture down one of the side streets you may uncover one of the hidden mazes of food-coma heaven! For just 15 Kip (£1.40 or $1.80), you can grab a plate and load it up with whatever Laotian delights take your fancy!
- Kuang Si Falls
What’s a visit to Laos without checking out Kuang Si Falls?
Around 30km south of Luang Prabang, you will be able to take in the sight of the famous 3-tier waterfall and bathe in the natural waters below.
Much of the area has boardwalks to safely march around and families and tourists fill the space – So if you want a peaceful natural swim, this is not the place for you!
Despite this, I absolutely loved exploring the different rock heights and wading through the clear fresh water flowing over trees – Definitely better than the morning commute!
There is also a nearby Bear Rescue Centre where you can see the beautiful sun bears playing together in the trees and help support their conservation. Definitely a day well spent.
Peter Andre eat your heart out.
- Mekong River
There is no better way to immerse yourself in the local culture than to travel on a slowboat down the Mekong River.
Despite it living up to its name (it took an entire day and lots of games of Uno…) it was incredible to see the wooden houses nestled in the hills, local fisherman casting their nets and naked, free children doing back-flips into the water.
As our boat pulled into shore, we were definitely ready for stable ground. A local tribe village are kind enough to give tour groups beds for the night and it was such a quiet and peaceful place up in the mountains.
From the very first moment we arrived, our welcoming was so warm and the tribe’s children gathered excitedly around us.
Those few hours dancing, playing and communicating in our different languages gave me some of the best memories of my life so far.
To choose my Top 5 Places has been extremely difficult! Help jog my memories of this beautiful country and share your experiences – What was your favourite hot spot?