Laos – the underdog of South East Asia – is often overlooked by it’s more popular neighbours: Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. However those who’ve been there will say just how great this beautiful little country is! With its hidden caves, lush jungles, terraced rice paddies and rural villages it has all the potential to be a contender in the running for your favourite SE Asia destination yet. Here are just 6 reasons why, if you’re planning your Southeast Asian adventure, you simply can’t skip Laos!
1) Southeast Asia’s prettiest city
Luang Prabang is one of the most charming cities and arguably the prettiest city in South East Asia. This city has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is nestled in the heart of Laos, between two rivers. There really is something for everyone here – whether it’s eating and shopping at the night market, climbing to the top of Mount Phousi for spectacular views, spotting Monks in their saffron robes or admiring the glittering temples juxtaposed against French colonial style architecture.
You’ll also find the famous Kuang Si falls located just outside of Luang Prabang. The seemingly never ending pools and terraces of the falls will blow you away. The water is refreshing so jump on in! If swimming in these turquoise waters isn’t on your bucket list already then you need to change that ASAP! The Free the Bears Rescue Centre is located next to the waterfall and is included in your entrance ticket. Watch the bears swinging on their hammocks, climbing and happily play fighting with each other and learn about the work the team is doing to save the Laos Moon Bears.
If you want more information, make sure to check out our blog about Luang Prabang here.
2) The Secret War
To understand Southeast Asia’s recent history, you need to know about the Secret War in Laos. Laos was the most bombed country per capita in history (more than all of the countries during the second World War) and Laos didn’t even participate in this war! The COPE Centre in Vientiane tells the story of a country struggling to overcome extensive bombing during the Vietnam War. So much unexploded ordnances (UXOs) still remain in Laos and still effects people today. While you’re in Vientiane check out the Pha That Luang Stupa – the most important buddhist monument in Laos. Phou Khao Khouay National Park is easily accessible from Vientiane, as is the rather extravagant Buddha Park.
3) Stunning Scenery
Visitors to Laos will find themselves immersed in stunning natural scenery. Travel by slow boat down the Mekong River and you’ll see what we mean! Along the river banks you’ll see Cotton Trees, Coconut Palms, lush green jungle, sandy beaches, water buffalos, herds of cows, goats and rock formations.
Vang Vieng is one of the most scenic parts of Laos. Here you can go tubing or kayaking down the clear, Nam Song river. Or for the hardcore adventurers out there you can try cave tubing at Tham Nam! Discover breathtaking landscapes, ride in a hot air balloon, go rock climbing or even abseil down a waterfall…. the possibilities are endless!
Check out our blog about Vang Vieng here.
4) The People
It’s true that you’ll meet fantastic humans all over South East Asia but the locals of Laos are some of the kindest, most welcoming people of them all! They are relaxed, light-hearted people with a great sense of humour. Their friendliness is extended to backpackers and foreigners so be prepared for endless smiles and waves from locals. They are so eager to share their culture and traditions with travelers and, if you travel with Stray, you’ll be able to get a taste of traditional Lao village life by staying with a family in their home.
5) The Food
“Have you eaten yet?” is a standard greeting in the Lao language and food is just about as central as anything to Lao culture. This might seem strange if you’re used to finding mainly Vietnamese or Thai restaurants in your local neighborhood but, trust us, Lao food is right up there! You can sample the freshest baguettes, steamed fish, bamboo soups and crunchy salads but no meal is complete without sticky rice 😉
6) The Lifestyle
The PDR in the country’s title may stand for ‘People’s Democratic Republic’ but locals will tell you that it actually stands for ‘Please Don’t Rush’. This couldn’t be a more accurate interpretation of the lifestyle here. No-one is ever in a hurry, so don’t be surprised to find a shopkeeper asleep or a bus schedule changed to suit the driver. It’s a shock when you first arrive, straight from the hustle and bustle of the Western world or other Southeast Asia cities like Bangkok or Hanoi, but it’s certainly good for the soul to just kick back and enjoy the laid back vibe of Laos.
Laos is a truly magical country with many ‘off-the-beaten-track’ adventures to be had. It’s a unique place with so much to offer and we urge you to get out there and explore it! You can check out our Laos passes and tours here: https://www.straytravel.asia/passes-and-tours/laos/