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Laos

Laos

Curious what backpackers do in Laos? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Day5

    With a rainy day previously, which suited how we felt with the aftermath of the previous day's events, we decided we would be slightly more active today. Having heard lots about the blue lagoons in Vang Vieng we decided to visit one of them. Despite being slightly further out, we opted for blue lagoon 3 as its meant to be far less touristy and bigger than the other two.

    The main mode of transport to get there was motorbikes, however seeing as neither of us could drive one we decided to rent a buggy. Being slightly more expensive, we thought this would be our time to splash out a little and oh my it was worth it. Although we got slightly lost on the way and almost broke down we arrived at the blue lagoon safely after 6km of very questionable road surfaces. The drive was absolutely sunning and there was so much freedom with what we wanted to do with the buggy. The trip there was through the rural landscapes and villages of Laos and it was such a surreal insight to the country itself and how the people live.

    The blue lagoon itself was definitely worth trekking the extra miles for. The water was a beautiful, crystal blue spring water. Despite being a bit chilly to start off with you could tell how fresh the water was from just swimming in it. there were various activities you could to in the blue lagoon, such as zip line into the water, kayak around or jump off platforms into the water.

    The days activities really made me think of my brothers as I know how much they love anything to do with jumping into water and mucking about around it. Driving the buggy I know would also appeal to them a lot.

    After a couple of hours we made our way back and headed out to Smile Beach Bar which overlooks the river and some of the mountainous areas, also a great viewpoint for a sunset. We enjoyed our dinner there sitting in hammocks while the sun went down. It was a pretty precious moment.

    Then a bit of a shock what happens next.. we headed back to the town and went to go follow the free alcohol.
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  • Day10

    The main attraction in Luang Prabang has got to be the Kuang Si Waterfall and having visited I can now see why.

    Having heard lots about it, the waterfall certainly didn't disappoint. We got up in good time as we wanted to get to the waterfall before the rush of tourists. This was definitely the right decision when we saw the amount of people that had come by the time we chose to leave.

    Before heading up to the waterfall you walk through a bear sanctuary where bears are rescued and looked after. The reason they need to be rescued it due to people taking bile from their gall bladder and using it for Chinese medicine. The captivity they are kept in to do this is horrendous and this organisation has saved over 900 bears over all of SE Asia.

    For the first hour it was empty making the waterfall seem even more beautiful and peaceful. To walk up the waterfall took us around 20 minutes and each part of it was as stunning as the other. I've never seen anything with such blue water it was breathtaking. I can't say there will be another waterfall from my travels that will live up to this one.

    We then decided to hike up along the waterfall and ended up trekking for 3km to find a lagoon and cave. Covered in sweat and exhausted I can't say the walk was utterly worth it but it was once we got down and had a swim in the refreshing waterfall.

    Arriving back in the main town we headed back and treated ourselves to a yummy and well deserved lunch.

    Heading back to the hostel we relaxed then headed to night market which was huge and couldn't of had more choice. I had to hold back on many occasions to stop myself buying things I would never use. For dinner we found a vegetarian buffet for only £1 (absolute bargain) and then finished up for an early(ish) night after a tiring day.
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  • Day12

    For our last day in Luang Prabang we woke up in good time and enjoyed the last free breakfast.

    Due to the heat of the day approaching we decided to head out asap so we wouldn't melt away in the sun.

    We set off to Mount Phou Si which was only a 10 minute walk from our hostel and climbed the 400 steps up. Having experienced such a trek up on our last viewpoint escapade this one was significantly easier and quicker. After 10 minutes we were up the top and soaking in the beautiful views around us. With a nice breeze it made being up top bearable and worth the walk.

    Having been in Laos almost 2 weeks I'm certain many people underrate it and will skip it out if they are short of time. Visiting the country I think this is so wrong and Laos is one of the most beautiful places I've been to on my travels and being so underdeveloped everything is still very natural and undisturbed. I couldn't recommend Laos more and I can certainly say it's exceeded expectations.

    The evening was also a very sad one as it was mine and Simona's last night with each other before we went our separate ways after the best two weeks together. We both couldn't have loved Laos more nor had more of a laugh together and the weeks have flown by. We both agreed though that Vang Vieng was our favourite place (hence the long stay) and felt we could of stayed longer. However we promised each other we would both return another time and relive our week there.

    For our last meal we had the vegetarian buffet again, being so cheap and delicious it couldn't go a miss and seemed very suited to finish on a good food.
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  • Day1

    The few days in Vientiane were definitely slower paced than my previous few days.

    On the first night I met 3 lovely English girls who happened to be from near Guildford which makes me feel almost at home being able to talk about mutual friends and the comforts of Surrey. However, being exhausted from the previous week and travelling to Laos I had an early night in order to be up in good time to do my Thai visa.

    On the return to the hostel after visiting the embassy I got surprised by Simona who had just come from Thailand. Despite knowing we would be meeting in Laos I didn't think she would be there until the evening so I was extremely happy I had her to spend the day with. We spent the day together exploring Vientiane and eating the BEST burgers I've had since being out in SE Asia. I would even go as far to say they would give some of the burgers I've had at home a run for their money. Having heard there was very little to do in Vientiane, which there literally isn't much to do, me and Simona spent the rest of the afternoon cafe hopping, treating ourselves to some goodies.

    Meeting back up with the girls from the previous night, we finished the day by going out for dinner and a wonder around the night market. The following day was another cafe hopping day as well as collecting my visa from the Thai embassy. We also treated ourselves to a £4 pedicure, absolute bargain I would say. Then finishing the day with a Rays Grille infamous burger.

    Safe to say my belly has indulged heavily in these few days.
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  • Day2

    After a relatively short bus ride we arrived in Vang Vieng. The first impressions of the town weren't quite as we expected and we became a little hesitant as to how our time here would actually be and whether our planned 5 nights would be too long. However, needless to say we were proved very wrong. Having arrived mid afternoon there wasn't really time to any of the touristy activities so we just decided to wonder around the town and check out what was there. Walking around we stumbled upon a place that plays Friends episodes back to back with sofa benches and tables and it was all free to just go sit for an unlimited amount of time. Looking so inviting, we couldn't refuse staying a little while and 4 hours later ended up leaving.

    For the evening we met up with Annabel, one of the 3 girls we had met in Vientiane. Realising she was afraid of heights, she decided to visit Vang Vieng as the other two girls wanted to the Gibbon Experience up north where you spent 3 days living in tree houses and zip lining around the jungle. For dinner went out to recommended Mexican restaurant and enjoyed a yummy burrito and nachos.

    Next up was the bar with free Laos whiskey (interesting drink) from 8-9pm, the following hour was spent moving on to the next place which served more free whiskey 10-11pm. With free alcohol Vang Vieng had truly won us over, it clearly realised we needed help with our budgets.
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  • Day9

    As our time in Vang Vieng carried on we fell more in love with the place. We didn't just extend once, but twice, totalling our stay to 7 nights.

    Most of our time consisted of enjoying the swimming pool down the road at a luxury hotel that cost only £3 to use, most of the time we even got the place to ourselves. The backdrop behind the pool was of the mountainous region of Laos, which was stunning as ever.

    After the pool we would head to our favourite chill place and relax watching Friends and usually ordering dinner or visiting our favourite restaurant, a vegetarian and vegan place which was delicious! The aubergine burger would have to be my favourite.

    As routine, at 8pm we would head to the first bar for the hour of free whiskey and at 10pm move onto the next bar, our favourite, called Viva.

    On the last day we headed to highly recommended viewpoint. The half hour trek to the top was along a very unmarked path. However the pano view of Vang Vieng at the top was definitely worth the trek up. But by the end I'm pretty sure I could fill a swimming pool with the amount of sweat I produced. After soaking up the views we headed back just in time to make it in time for our bus to Luang Prabang.

    We were both very sad to be leaving Vang Vieng after meeting so many people and loving it so much. However, couldn't tell if the the bar staff were happy we wouldn't be drinking all their free whiskey or sad to see their best customers go. Personally I think they should be grateful to us after all the free promotion we gave out about their bar and will continue to recommend it.
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  • Day13

    It was an early rise and mad rush to get our boat at 8.30am. We woke up, demolished our breakfast and gave Simona one last hug good bye. Despite it being sad saying goodbye, I couldn't wait to see what fun Thailand would bring me having heard so many good things about it.

    Luckily the two girls, Corrie and Luisa, who we had met in Vang Vieng and were with in Luang Prabang, were heading the same route so I had two companions to head to Thailand with.

    We all got on the boat and it wasn't busy at all so could each have a few seats to ourselves and spread out. The scenery along the Mekong certainly breathtaking and so peaceful it was like nothing I had every experienced. We would go through times when we we float for what seems like hours and see no humans and all, just wildlife. It was truly special. On the first day I was guilty of spending a lot of the time sleeping, I presume having to catch up on all the sleep I lost in the previous two weeks. Other activities on the boat included playing cards, listening to music and reading my book.

    Arriving in Pak Beng at 6ish we found ourselves a guest house for £2.50 and headed out for a bite to eat having not had a meal all day but also in need of stretching our legs. We enjoyed a nice Indian but still missing our 4th member, Simona.

    Another early rise and beautiful day on the boat despite some rain we arrived at the border in Huay Xai at around 7pm. With the border crossing fairly smooth we found ourselves a hostel in the town of ..... as we couldn't get to Chang Mai that evening. I enjoyed my first meal in Thailand which was a classic, Pad Thai, and only £0.80!

    But with a heavy day of travelling the next day we made it back for an early night.

    And finally... after 3 days worth of travel, 2 boat days, 3 buses and numerous tuk tuks, we arrived in Pai our first destination of Northern Thailand.

    Exhausted we checked in and headed straight out for food, another Pad Thai, costing a total of £0.80. Not having the energy to look around we decided to head back to the hostel and save ourselves for the next day ahead.
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  • Day4

    One thing that is a must do in Vang Vieng is tubing. This activity involves floating down the river for the duration of the afternoon and stopping off at bars along the waters edge.

    At 12.30pm we headed out on our tubes and I've never had so much fun (and alcohol) in one day.

    At the first bar we enjoyed some drinking games such as beer pong and flip cup, both I can say I wasn't very good at. At the next bar it was more chilled and we sat by the water, enjoying our drinks and the views. The final bar was definitely the best, with the heat of the day people decided it would be fun to have a water fight which was much needed to cool off.

    Despite all the alcohol and drinking you couldn't ignore the stunning scenery around us and the natural beauty of Laos.

    But at 6pm we decided to call it a day and headed back to the hostel. However, seeing as there was free alcohol at 8pm that couldn't go a miss, so we had some dinner to line the stomach then carried out our usual routine of following the free alcohol. That night there was also a jungle party on, so continued our night there. Having had a very full on day I hadn't quite thought about how I would feel the next day... oops.
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  • Day11

    Woke up to the sound of it pouring it down with rain so we decided it would be a good day to explore the cafes in the town and sort out the rest of our time in Laos, flights and some diary writing.

    Mid afternoon we thought it would be a good idea to head back to the hostel and decided to go to Utopia, a bar / restaurant to watch the sunset. The bar overlooks the Mekong river and the hills of Laos, being a beautiful backdrop to enjoy some food and drinks. The food was delicious, I chose to have the fish and chips and it was not a disappointment. The fish was fresh from the Mekong and certainly hit the spot.

    After demolishing our food and drinks we decided to pay the night market another visit but ended up returning to Utopia later in the evening for some more drinks as only bar in the town that's open. Closing at 11.30pm, everyone heads to the bowling alley as only place that stays open.

    We played an intense game of 10 pin bowling and shockingly didn't lose, not remembering the last time I picked up a bowling ball.

    Tired after a good day we made our way back to the hostel to make sure we were awake for the free breakfast the next day. I've noticed when looking back on my blog entries a lot of what I do revolves around food, but I'm going to say that's not a bad thing.
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  • Day71

    Dan: (to fellow backpacker on bus) "What's your plans in Luang Phrabang?"
    Backpacker: (Looks confused) "Luang Phrabang?"
    Dan: "Yes, how long are you staying?"
    Backpacker: "Does this bus go to Luang Phrabang?"
    Dan: ... "Errr hope so"
    Backpacker: "I thought it goes to Vientiane"
    Dan: "I just came from there a few days ago..."
    Dan: (to driver): "Is this to Luang Phrabang"
    Driver: (silence)
    Dan: "Luang Phrabang?"
    Driver "Vientenee"
    Dan: "Vientiane, wrong bus" (shit 😲) "can you stop please?"
    Driver  (silence)
    Dan and backpacker in unison: "Hello stop please"
    Driver (finally stops, confused)
    Dan: (gets off bus, hauls backpack through bemused Chinese tourists, apologies, thanks fellow backpacker and trudges back to hostel) - luckily we only went a couple of blocks.

    After nearly ending up where I started in Laos the man at the hostel was very apologetic and says he thought the bus was for Luang Phrabang - he arranges another bus for the following morning and I spend the rest of the day hanging around. I head down to the river and lie in hammock - after a while a heavy rainshower occurs for an hour or so, I wait it out - a strange (possibly high) woman is frolicking about in the river dancing, spinning around and talking to herself. I watch her amused for a while before the rains cease, weirdly she sits down quietly when the sun returns.

    I'm on a bus again, well it's actually a rather cramped mini van but at least it's going the right way. Had I not chatted to that backpacker I'd be back in the capital 😕. The journey to Luang Phrabang is very steep and the roads are quite windy, but it's also very beautiful reaching high up into the Laotian hills. Luang Phrabang is a quaint little city in Northern Laos known for a relaxed vibe. I spend the first day around the hostel and make use of the pool. It's 38 degrees here and without the sea air it feels above 45. The simple act of laying still produces a river of sweat.

    I venture out for lunch and they have sandwiches again. But what's this?... avocado! I've not had avocado for the past two and half months (first world problems) I gobble down a sandwich layered in the stuff. A bunch of other backpackers are also crowding around the stall - avocado is obviously a real draw.🥑

    Unlike Vang Vieng, Luang Phrabang is quite a sleepy place and as such isn't big on nightlife. There are a couple of bars but they close early and the only place that serves alcohol any later is oddly a bowling alley (as it's considered a 'sporting venue'). Many travellers congregate here - where there's booze, there's backpackers. I had a couple of games and managed a score of 136 on one which wasn't bad.

    The next day I did the main tourist activity in Luang Phrabang which is again miles out of the city but totally worth it. Kuang Si Falls is an absolutely stunning waterfall with bright pools turned turquoise by the natural limestone - it's one of the best waterfalls I've seen. You can swim there (cold, but refreshing in the heat) and also hike to the top for a great view. Brilliant day. In the evening we went to a vegetarian buffet, it was delicious, you could basically fill a bowl to the brim. I didn't even know what half of it was but it was very tasty.

    I had another pool day before a few people I'd met decided to take the slow boat out of Laos to the border of North Thailand. The slow boat is a popular journey from Thailand to Laos and there were also a few backpackers going our reverse way. It takes two days but the scenery is lovely and the journey very pleasant. Time to think, read, listen to music etc or just watch the world go by. You get off the boat and go to a guest house for the night halfway through and then jump back on in the morning for the rest of the journey. The only issue was the food I.e the boat didn't have any unless you count instant noodles as such - they were revolting. I wisely picked up a sandwich for the following day.

    We got to the Thai border in the evening and it couldn't have been easier. They didn't even bother scanning the cases at this one - I could have have had a small child in there! The guy was so lax, unusual as normally they have been pretty strict so far in my experience - it was nearly 8pm so I guess he wanted to get off to eat his Pad Thai or something.

    So I'm back in Thailand and plan to explore the popular Chiang Mai. I'm on a rickety local bus which stops every few minutes to squeeze a few more locals on, hopefully we'll arrive sometime today.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Laos, ላኦስ, لاوس, Лаоская Народна-Дэмакратычная Рэспубліка, Народна Демократична Република Лаос, Layosi, লাওস, ལཱ་འོས།, ལ་འོསུ, Laos nutome, Λάος, Laoso, Laose DRV, لائوس, Lawoos, લાઓસ, Lawas, לאוס, लाओस, Laoska Narodna Demokratska Republika, Laosz, Լաոս, ラオス, ლაოსი, Laosi, ឡាវ, ಲಾವೋಸ್, 라오스, Pow Lao, Laotia, Lawosi, ປະເທດລາວ, Laosas, Laosa, Laôs, Лаос, ലാവോസ്, လာအို, Den folkedemokratiske republikken, Laòs, ଲାଓସ୍, República Popular Democrática do Laos, Lùaôsi, ලාඕසය, லாவோஸ், లావోస్, ประเทศลาว, Lau, Лаоська Народно-Демократична Республіка, لاؤس, Lào, Laosän, Orílẹ́ède Laosi, 老挝, i-Laos

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