Laos in a few key words? Authenticity, unspoiled nature, beautiful waterfalls, mountains, villages and hospitality. If you visit the north of Thailand it is definitely recommend to also visit Laos. Laos is the country where time seem to have stopped, but this beautiful country has not been affected yet by the mass tourism.
A cruise on the Mekong, a walk through a Hmong settlement (northeast of Laos), wander from temple to temple in the historic city of Luang Prabang, having a meal on the riverbank in Vientiane capital city or visiting the ancient royal city of Champasak. It doesn’t matter what you do, because everywhere in Laos life happens at the same pace. And that is at its lowest. Besides of that, Laos is 100 % pure; a large part of its nature is still untouched, therefore, many roads are difficult to pass. Accommodation and dining is always at a very low price, and the amounts of experiences are endless.
Laos is located in the Southeast of Asia, bordering Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. The country has more than 6 million inhabitants, called "Laotians". Most of them live in the Mekong Valley. As already mentioned, Laos is known for its beautiful nature but also for its rich cultural heritage, and the hospitality of its residents.
After a period of almost 20 years of isolation, Laos is now increasingly opening up to foreign tourists. It is now possible to enter the country via the three international airports, in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse, and from the surrounding countries as well. There are some who think that Huay Xai for instance (Northeast), is by far the best place to arrive. Laos counts 16 provinces with large parts covered by rough mountainous terrain. For those who like to travel off the beaten track, this country is a must.
Read more about the different adventure tours in Laos here.
There’s tranquil and unspoiled nature, while the capital, Vientiane, is in full bloom. So no shortage of nice bars around here! Vientane is located in the West, and by far the largest city in the country. This cosy and still somewhat "sleepy" place is situated on the 5000 kilometers long Mekong River, the main transport artery of the country. Over here, you travel by river boat. Upon entering the city, many travelers are overwhelmed by the downright friendly atmosphere and laid-back vibe. Their amazement will be easily surpassed however, by the explosion of wonderful nature that is so abundantly available in the North of Laos.
Laos is also great for off-trail hiking. Besides and beyond the many unpolished roads there are the widespread rainforests. You can take your bike on a tour between the many villages and towns that are dotted across the Laos landscape. And if you are a watersports enthusiast, there’s lots of kayaking and canoeing to enjoy.
Many visitors start their journey in Laos with a two-day boat trip on the Mekong River by slow boat. The speedboat is not recommended, and if you see them on the river, you’ll understand why. In October you can witness the boatraces on Mekong. As a pleasant addition, you will meet lots of other travelers, probably heading in the same direction as you. In Laos it is never a problem to spot familiar faces on the slow boat. After you’ve been swayed by slow boat from Thailand across the Mekong, you’ll take another slow boat after you've been through customs.
Frankly speaking, the benches onboard are not the softest, but the fact that you can sail on the Mekong River to the ancient Luang Prabang, including a stopover in the village of Pakbeng, makes it all worth it. Meanwhile, you’ll be exposed to splendid natural surroundings, a variety of hills and mountains, interspersed with the most idyllic fishing villages. If you weren’t lyrical about Laos already, this will surely win you over!
Passengers who are familiar with Thailand and visit Laos for the first time, are surprised to see that Laotians drive on the right side of the road, also people are poorer. Laos used to be under French supervision and therefore, you can find some great baguettes here. The main languages are Lao, French and English, although only few manage English. Laotian people are very friendly, and even if their English skills are low, they are always willing to help you. One thing that you will remember about Laotians is the relaxed lifestyle, especially compared to the rest of Southeast Asia. They are very kind and they always greet you and wave when you arrive or say goodbye. Visiting such a friendly country as Laos makes it an unforgettable experience.
This historic city is located at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan river. For an abundance of culture, this is the place to be. It will take you around two days by slow boat from Huay Xai (on the Thai border) to this city. Luang Prabang is like a mini-France. Here you can find French restaurants, croissants, La Vache Qui Rit cheese, and French-speaking Laotians. And they certainly know what great atmosphere is! Travelers who have been here mention the big variety of food they offer: from wienerschnitzel and cordon bleu to french fries with mayonnaise. Of course there is also a wide range of rice and noodles if you want to eat like the locals. Furthermore, you can rent bikes all over the city. Scooter hire, unfortunately, is prohibited for tourists.
Van Vieng is located at the third point in an equilateral triangle that also connects Luang Prabang with the nation’s capital, at a 160 km distance. It is also known as the "backpacker’s village". The most popular watersport here is definitely 'tubing'. Near the border of Cambodia there’s also the beautiful Li Phi waterfall to be found, the largest waterfall in Asia. The local scenery is painted in luscious greens, the landscape dominated by high irregular karst mountains, overgrown with trees and shrubs. Apart from the fact that this local town is very popular among backpackers, it is also an excellent place to relax and allow the many impressions from a trip like the World Heritage Tour to sink in. This green oasis provides you with non-stop enjoyment of unspoiled surroundings and plenty of opportunities to meet with the hospitable and easy-going Laotian people. You can take your bike or hike to the wonderful caves nearby, where the impressive limestone formations are, only waiting to impress you.
From April 12th - 15th Laotians celebrate “Pi Mai”, or New Year. Laotians wish their family and friends a happy New Year by throwing water at each other while saying “sok di pi mai ". You can join if you dare! In November starts the ‘That Luang Festival’, a large festival in the capital that last for weeks.
Laos has its rainy season from June until October. But even when it’s raining, the weather is always pleasant, maybe even hot for some since Laos is a tropical country. During the rainy season the country looks its best, with green and lush valleys, which are fascinating to watch. There are three seasons; the coolest one is from November to February with an average temperature between 25 - 29 degrees celsius. So there is nothing for you backpackers to worry about.
Would you like to visit a country where you can find yourself floating down a river (the Mekong), checking out some stunning architecture (near Vang Vieng), swimming beneath the most breathtaking waterfalls, discovering delicious traditional food, all in one go, while even catching up on your French whenever you feel like it? If so, then 100% pure Laos will surely be after your taste.
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