I’m a pretty oblivious neighborhood traveler; usually arriving to new places and learning first-hand about an area, then wandering from there. I travel by plotting known cities and discovering the rest as the road takes me. It should come as no surprise then, that my favorite places are the ones I’ve never heard of.
One of those hidden gems is Laos.
Laos first blipped on my radar when my visa for Thailand ended and the hype for Vietnam was high. Sandwiched between the two, I figured I’d do a quick visa run before heading to Hanoi. Little did I know, this small country packed huge thrills.
I entered Laos from the north and took a boat down the Mekong River into the culturally rich town Luang Prabang and was immediately in awe with the ease of the people, undeveloped beauty of the land, and the French inspired cuisine.
My visa was good for 30 days and I capitalized on all of them. Some highlights:
– Mediating with monks in Luang Prabang. Their chants, being one of the most hypnotic and calming sounds you’ll ever hear.
– Exploring Kuang Si falls, home of the most perfect blue water and many pools including a secret infinity pool. I later discovered it was a religious site for local monks, hence “secret”.
– Tubing in Vang Vieng, although not as crazy as it once was, it is still legendary amongst travelers for the array of bars, diving platforms, and zip lines along the way.
– Rock climbing in Vang Vieng where we had to trek through city, village, rice fields and jungle to find the crag. Also climbing at the Green Climbers home in Thakhek, located 100 meters from the crag, where cows are neighbors and climbing buddies as well.
– Riding the 450 km Thakhek motorcycle loop with one of my best friends. Exploring waterfalls, hidden springs, temples, and genuine little villages.
Laos is light on the wallet while being strong on adventure and debauchery. Unlike Thailand and Vietnam, its authenticity, and appeal, is engraved in its simplicity.