Friday, February 16, 2018

Laos, an unspoiled country with a lot to offer

Destination: Laos
Travel Companion: Solo
Duration: 8 days
Budget: 580$ pp (excl. flights)

Luang Prabang Blogpost "Top things to do in Luang Prabang"
Vang Vieng and Vientiane Blogpost " Top things to do in Vang Vieng and Vientiane"

South East Asia Trip: Least expectations were for Laos

I had to plan a month trip that included Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, and I was expecting the least from Laos. Plot twist (you saw that coming) I fell in love with Laos, 5 minutes after getting out of Luang Prabang's airport. It immediately reminded me of the friendliness I saw in Sri Lanka, the modesty, the marvelous nature (competes with Vietnam and Indonesia) and the food was quite delicious (Vietnam would still win on the food front though).






Why did I pick Laos as part of my SEA month vacation?

It all started when I was planning my trip to south east Asia with friends, and they suggested Laos. I remember thinking: "Laos? Where's that!". I ended up doing some research and to my surprise, I found that I can get visa on arrival (as a Lebanese passport holder, this is music to our ears). Next, I went to looked for images of Laos; the results were beautiful nature landscape photos, I was sold.


View from the airplane's window of Luang Prabang



Aerial view of Luang Prabang - Laos (shot on DJI Spark)

Why should you visit Laos?

You can think of Laos as an unspoiled territory; there are just the right amount of tourists to feel like you are in this together, and equally locals are still being themselves, so you get that authentic experience. I visited 3 cities while in Laos, in addition to Luang Prabang (blogpost), I went to Vang Vieng and Vientiane (blogpost); I preferred the first two as they're still calm and quiet with a lot to offer.


Cute little girl in Earth Bar, Vang Vieng - Laos

The fact that locals are still super chill, is something to highlight. You will appreciate this quality once you get to Vietnam and Cambodia where in popular areas, the people (still very nice people) are extremely pushy when it comes to trying to sell you something, with the high frequency of this happening within a very short span of time over the whole period can drive you insane. There's immense poverty there, and specifically in Cambodia, it's heartbreaking to see people struggling so much to find a profitable way to make a decent living, but that's for another blog post. For now, let's focus on Laos.


On that morning I met Katy on a tour, and here we were having coffee at Le Banneton French Bakery in Luang Prabang
Without further ado, below you will find ample information on how to get by, tips to make the best of things, and what to visit. I owe Laos another visit as I only saw 3 cities yet there's plenty of places to see and things to do (hint: the 4,000 islands).

How to get to Laos + Visa on arrival info 

One of the options is connecting in Bangkok (if you're coming from Dubai), there might be some extra scrutiny and questions regarding residency, tickets, accommodation etc before boarding (I believe airlines do this to avoid having someone returned and have to bear the cost), so just make sure you are prepared and have everything printed or ready on your phone.

Visa on arrival in Laos was super straight forward. You'll need:

1) one passport photo on you
2) cash in USD (visa cost ranges between 31$ and 43$ depending on country - this includes the 1$ fee)


Landing in Luang Prabang Airport - Laos


General transport / money / connectivity tips 

  • Sim Card / Data: You can get a sim card for as cheap as 3$ depending on how many days you want it for, and they're available right at the airport. I got mine for 7$ for 7 days, as roaming wasn't reliable at all there at all. 
  • Transport from airport to hotel: I also recommend arranging pickup from airport by your hotel. I actually didn't see any taxi line while coming out of the airport. Moreover, chances are they won't even charge for it, in fact the hotel I was staying in was super modest and affordable (30$ per night). 
  • Cash: You don't really need to convert your money, just make sure you have USD as everyone takes it and the rate is quite fair. There is a lot of ATMs around in Luang Prabang and Vientiane, not so much in Vang Vieng.
  • Transport in general: Most of the tours I took pick you up and drop you off. Walking / biking or moped (most hostels / hotels offer free bikes, and moped rental is extremely cheap - just be careful as there are a lot of potholes on the road outside the city). You can also walk or take a "tuk tuk".
  • Transportation between main cities: You can take the bus, hotels and any tourist place will have plenty of info to book them for you. Buses tended to be too cold so have a thick jacket on you. They will tell you it takes 5 hours, depending on the driver's mood, it could potentially take between 6.5-8 hours from LP and Vang Vieng and around 4 from Vang Vieng to Vientiane. Your hotels can easily help you arrange these, you can also take sleeper buses to travel during night time.
Lao lady transporting some goods on a bicycle in Vang Vieng - Laos


On the top of the hill, you can visit Mount Phousi.
BEST THING EVER! Coconut Pancake. You can find it in the night market in Luang Prabang

Local drinks

  • Lao Lao whiskey (many different variations)
  • Lao Lao rice wine (sweet and less sweet)
  • Beerlao (traditionally people drink in in a short glass with ice)



No comment :)

Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane

  • Laos Blogpost - To read more about things to do in Luang Prabang, where to eat and where to stay, please check my dedicated post to LP as I spent most of my time there and I do have a lot of tips :)
  • Vang Vieng and Vientiane Blogpost -  I also made another dedicated post for Vang Vieng and Vientiane together, the airport is in Vientiane, so chances are you can do both on any trip. 

Road Trips you can do in Laos

There are plenty of journeys you can take. The one I did was landing in Luang Prabang airport, spending few days there, taking the bus to Vang Vieng where I spent two nights, and then another bus to Vientiane where I spent one night only. I would recommend dedicating at least 10 days for Laos. Another great spot you can visit in 4,000 islands. A lot of people also combine a borders crossing from Laos to Cambodia. I do not recommend this as I've heard it can be super tiring, being in a bus full of people, having to step out to show your passport and deal with immigration. I met few people who did that and they all recommend taking a flight instead.

Sunset as seen from Mount Phousi, Luang Prabang - Laos


Packing tip / Laundry available

You can do laundry at most hotels, and they charges 1$-1.25$ per 1 kilos which is very cheap. I realized I could've packed for one week instead of two (my whole trip was a total 4 weeks, as I wasn't sure if in the other countries doing laundry would be as accessible and affordable as Laos - they were!).

Buddhist monks

You will see a lot of young monks (age 8-9 and young teenagers), but actually they're not monks, they're referred to as novices. Usually a young man becomes a monk around age 20. Reason why there are a lot of really young novices is for education purposes. Many come from remote and rather poor villages, and it's their one chance to get a good education. They don't all proceed to become monks on the long run.

Moreover, you can also observe a nice Meditation ceremony that they perform every sunrise which is known as Alms giving, unfortunately it has become a bit of a tourist attraction where it attracts locals selling bad fruits to people so they offer them back to monks who can't really eat them, in addition to that you're not really supposed to get close to them and take pictures as this is not a performance, it's their way to meditate. If you want a chance to get close to monks / novices, a lot of them need to practice their English and they sometimes dedicate hours to sit with foreigners to practice English with them. So maybe try that!



7 Everyday Lao words you can use

  1. Sabaidee (Hello)
  2. Sabai sabai (Relax)
  3. Bo ping yum (Whatever, chill, it's cool..)
  4. Gnoc gnoc (Cheers)
  5. Mutt mutt (Bottoms up / down it - for drinks)
  6. Kop jai (Thank you)
  7. Kop jai lai lai (Thank you very much)
What time is it? It's time to visit Laos!

On that note, I'd like to wish you the best of time in Laos, it's truly wonderful and I am sure you will have a great time there. I would like to say Kop Jai for reading my post and I hope it helps you plan your trip to the best.

#FROMLAOSWITHFUNK (instagram).

No comments:

Post a Comment