We entered in the North and travelled down the full length of Laos, to the very South, seemingly hitting every pot hole on the country’s poor roads.
The lack of tarmac aside, it’s a fantastic country – towns and food bear the influence of the colonial French, there are numerous stunning natural attractions, the tough history of the secret war, crazy hedonism….plus I don’t think it’s possible to tire of the gorgeous children smiling, waving and shouting “Sabaidee!!” when they see you!
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- North Laos
We came into Laos from Thailand having made our way over the border to the tiny town of Huay Xai. From there we embarked on the two day slow boat trip down the Mekhong all the way to Luang Prabang.
We went a bit nuts for the beauty of Luang Prabang and surrounding attractions – I think it’s one of those places you just can’t help falling in love with; the white-washed French villas, sunsets over the river, great food & bars, art, amazing night market, the temples and the monks…it sounds corny but there’s all that plus so much more.
In stark contrast is the dreary town of Phonsavanh, the base for visiting the Plain of Jars and learning the harrowing story of the secret war. It was still a very worthy visit to see the impact the war had on some of the poorest people, including the Hmong villagers who recycle the bombs the US dropped on them.
The crazy hedonism of the tubing in Vang Vieng was a welcome change of pace, mixing the drinking with a stunning landscape to explore.
The capital of Vientiane was next – we stayed for a few days enjoying the food, checking out the nearby Buddha Park and going through the pain of extending our visas so we had time to visit the less-touristy South of Laos.
- South Laos
Using the town of Thakhek as a base, we headed off for a 4 day motorbike tour known as the Thakhek Loop to really explore this part of Laos, visiting a giant cave and obscure villages with decent white wine among other things. A fantastic way to uncover a totally different side to the country.
We then went down to the last major town – Pakse. We used Pakse as a hub for visiting Wat Phu and the Bolaven Plateau but unfortunately a broken toe put a swift end to our explorations.
The need to relax and rest up the toe was the perfect excuse to head to the 4,000 Islands in the extreme south. A chill out zone set amongst lovely lush greenery and sparkling water. A fitting end before we flew out of Pakse onto Cambodia.
So overall we loved Laos – even with the issues of non-existent customer service, sometimes a rip-off mentality as soon as they see a tourist and food that didn’t live up to the awesome benchmark of Thai food we’d been eating during the previous 2 months. They do have Beer Lao though which is surely one of the world’s finest beers at a bargain price – it’s a particularly good feeling to sit back with a hard-earned, chilled bottle after yet another fantastic day in Laos.
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