Laos is one of the hidden gems in South East Asia that many people seem to miss. Many people know it for the tubing however there is more to this country that floating down a river drinking in a rubber donut.
To get to Lao from Chiang Mai in Thailand you either have the option of taking an 18 hour coach journey or a two-day boat ride along the Mekong River from Chiang Rai. I of course chose the boat ride and let me tell you, the scenery along the way was breathtaking; from riverside forests to meeting people from the riverside villages, it is definitely the better of the two choices of travel in my opinion. Sadly, once arriving in Laos I didn’t have a lot of time to spend here and so only stayed in Luang Prabang, the main city in the north, however most people also normally visit the capital, Vientiane, and Vang Vieng as well. Next time these two cities are defiantly on my list visit. However, more on my trip in Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang, once called ‘the last refuge for lovers and dreamers’, is an old French town situated in North Laos at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong River. The town is known for its numerous Buddhist Temples, the main one being the Wat Chom Si, which is located at the top of mount Phou si, in the centre of the town. Each morning, if you get up early enough, you can see the Buddhist monks give alms throughout the town, a site I feel anyone should wake up for at least once. You just have to remember to dress respectfully though by covering your shoulders and knees.
Whist in Luang Prabang you also have to visit the Kuang Si Falls. Now this is something you shouldn’t miss! The falls are now seen as a major tourist site for the town and it is better if you get there earlier when it isn’t as busy (normally gets busy around 1/2pm). To get to the falls you have to walk through a bear sanctuary (the bears are mega cute), where you will then reach a small pool at the bottom of the fall. At this stage you won’t be able to see the actual waterfall however as you start to climb up towards it you will see small pools of water that can be swum in. Yes the water is cold to begin with, actually freezing would be a better description, however after about two or three minutes you get used to it. Well, I did at least! When you finally reach the waterfall, you will know you’ve reached it. I mean, it is a 200ft high waterfall so it is pretty hard to miss. This is the place to take the selfie sticks out!
You can also climb to the top of the waterfall, view seen above. It’ll take about 20 minutes to climb, you can either take the stairs (which I somehow missed), or you can bring out your inner Tarzan and climb the side that is mud and rocks. This side isn’t dangerous or steep however I would say not to wear nice shoes as they will get ruined and also flip-flops are the WORST IDEA EVER! I had to take mine off half way up as they were too much of a pain and I kept losing them. At the top there are many bridges linking each area together so you can get the front of the waterfall for spectacular views. There is also a swing however when I went the current was too strong making it was unsafe to reach it. It easier to get down from the waterfall I promise!
Oh, I almost forgot, whilst in Laos you have to try all their food. The food markets at night are the places to go, with them offering large buffets for around £2.00 where you just cram as much food into a bowl as possible (the food is more filling than it looks) and it means you get to try all the local and traditional delicacies, mostly vegetarian so safe to eat. However, the highlight of the food for me were the baguettes! As Laos used to be a French colony, a lot of their food is inspired by French cooking and let me tell you, they are the best bagettes that I have ever tasted. A favourite for me was chicken, bacon and avocado with a passionfruit shake (a new obsession that I still have back in England). Seriously, just try them…that’s all I have to say.
For me that was my time up in Laos as I was only able to spend three days here before I moved on to Hanoi in Vietnam, however you could spend weeks in this country taking in the sites and views and it is definitely a country I will be coming back to visit.
Vietnam is next so that’ll be up soon for you all to hear about.