I spent about 11 days in Laos and really only skimmed the surface of this beautiful country. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it there on this trip but I was getting signs from all over – high praise brought up randomly by acquaintances, a feature in a textbook I was teaching my kids – so I braced myself for the high flight costs and went there anyway. There are cheaper options than flying, but I was a touch short on time because I was meeting my sister and my friends in Chiang Mai (and I’ll be honest, I was a little unsure about the slow boat). I ended up doing a land border crossing by flying from Bangkok to Udon Thani, a Thai town that is quite close to Vientiane because the internal flight in Thailand is much cheaper than flying to Vientiane itself. This post is helpful if you’re doing the same.
I only spent 2 days in the capital, Vientiane. It was a nice city but I had a hard time adjusting to the heat (especially after an all-nighter in Bangkok airport) so I didn’t actually do much and in terms of tourist attractions there isn’t all that much to do. I enjoyed myself a lot though, just walking around, having some lovely meals, taking in the streets and a few temples, getting lost in markets.
…But then I went to Luang Prabang and fell in love. Walking around, everywhere you look is like a postcard! It’s such a quiet town and feels incredibly peaceful. There are a huge number of temples so seeing monks in beautiful orange robes is a special but daily occurrence. There are flowers everywhere, and leafy trees, and lovely little alleys. The town is on a peninsula so you can walk or ride a bike all along the riverside – the views are stunning. There’s an eleven-thirty curfew so it weeds out some of the more rambunctious travellers, making it the absolute perfect first stop for me after my whirlwind final weeks in Korea. I spent my days walking around, sitting in cafés, reading, admiring the views, getting a massage or two, exploring nearby waterfalls and Buddha-filled caves and lounging about at bars with river views. It was such a wonderful time.
- Utopia: There’s no chance you’d miss this bar with the aformentioned riverside views if you go to Luang Prabang. It’s very popular but still manages to be so laid-back and fun. My favourite was to go at happy hour when it was even quieter, lie on the loungers and chat with new friends.
- Coconut Garden: Delicious food, really good service, and a beautiful outdoor courtyard at the back with pretty lanterns.
- Big Brother Mouse: Every day at 9 and 5 they host drop-in volunteering for tourists to come and talk with local students so they can practice their English. I went a couple of afternoons and found it such a humbling and fascinating experience.
- Kuang Si waterfall: The most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Make sure you climb up to the top of the falls – the path on the left hand side is much less treacherous! It’s sweaty and slippy at parts but 100% worth it to wade out to the edge (surprisingly calm at the top) and peer over the bamboo railing to see all the pools cascading down. The water here is milky turquoise and you can swim at a few different spots on your walk up. I spent my 24th birthday here and I’ll never forget it.
- Night market: Another thing that you really couldn’t miss but worth mentioning anyways. It’s so quiet in the market, full of beautiful art and jewelry and clothes, and nobody hassles you beyond saying “sabaidee” (hello). It’s lovely.
I stayed at Matata Guesthouse, in the dorms and liked it a lot. It’s a bit more expensive than a regular backpacker’s hostel, but I met some lovely people there, it was in a great location, and the place was really nice.