by Megan Indoe
Megan from Mapping Megan shares with us the beauty of Laos, a southeast Asian country less traveled than it's neighbors- Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
As with any epic trip, the lead up for us was particularly exciting. Getting ready to backpack through South East Asia we anticipated visiting idyllic islands and traveling to hotspots like Angkor Wat, Chiang Mai, and Halong Bay. We would be visiting ancient temples, witnessing the sunrise over UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and losing ourselves in fairytale landscapes and fascinating histories. What to do in Laos. Things to do in Laos.
Though of all of the truly wonderful destinations in South East Asia, and we did find a special place in our hearts for each country we visited, when it came to Laos, something unexpected happened. We both fell head over heels in love.
Maybe we favor Laos because we had no expectations for the country. Like most backpackers, we viewed Laos as a place to visit after our visas expired. A stepping stone to the next country. Though Laos proved quite quickly to be a worthy destination in it’s own right; a country which combines some of the best elements of Southeast Asia in one bite-sized destination.
Why You Should Travel to Laos Now
On researching what to do in Laos, we couldn’t find much. The most common advice was to plan a quick visit to both Vientiane and Luang Prabang and you would be pretty much done. We didn’t expect to stay more than two weeks.
Arriving from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, our first stop was Don Det; an island which has become a mecca for backpackers offering a laidback island lifestyle, beautiful waterfalls and $5 bungalows with river views and hammocks to enjoy the view with a cold Beer Lao. (Beer Lao may be the greatest Asian beer ever!)
Within just a few days in Laos, we already knew we weren’t going to be able to see the entire country in just one month. For our inner adrenaline junkie there were underground river caves, white-water rapids and jungle ziplines. For our inner wildlife nut there were treks through some of Southeast Asia’s most pristine forests, still home to rare creatures. For our inner foodie there was the kaleidoscope of flavours that is Lao cuisine. What to do in Laos.
We found Laos to be one of the most authentic destinations in Asia, and 4 weeks was simply not enough time to take everything in. Though we absolutely tried. Here are 6 reasons why you should drop everything you’re doing and travel to Laos right now. Should I travel to Laos?
The whole country of Laos is absolutely gorgeous, and everywhere you turn you find yourself surrounded by karst mountains, scenic rivers, impressive waterfalls, and numerous caves. “Away from the cities, it’s easy to make a quick detour off the beaten track and end up in a fairytale landscape with jagged limestone cliffs, brooding jungle and the snaking Mekong River as a backdrop.” How long to spend on a trip to Laos?
Laos has to be one of the most beautiful countries we visited in SE Asia, summed up perfectly by their national slogan: “simply beautiful.”
Life Moves Slower
We ended up enjoying and taking advantage of the slower lifestyle this country had to offer. We found ourselves extending our stays to relax in sleepy, beautiful villages like Nong Khiaw, Muang Ngoi, and Champasak.
There’s no better way to relax then spending your days unconnected with the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world in a hammock while enjoying stellar views. What is there to do in Laos?
Laos is an adventure capital, and has so much to offer adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers. We fell in love with country for it’s adventure during a motorbike expedition through the windy, mountainous roads to Konglor Cave. We then rode a small, motorized canoe through a dark, mysterious cave. It was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time!
Laos allowed us to embrace our inner Indiana Jones when we jumped on a motorbike again, this time to zip around Thakhek in search of ancient caves.
Heading in to Laos we knew the country had some waterfalls. But what we didn’t realize is that the whole country is practically a waterfall wonderland. Everywhere you turn there will be a waterfall waiting, one hiding around the next corner. Which waterfalls are the best in Laos?
We enjoyed getting lost in the middle of the country chasing waterfalls in the Bolaven Plateau. Paksong ended up being home to some of the most impressive waterfalls we have ever seen. Waterfalls in Laos.
We also recommend making a stop at a homestay at Tad Tayicseua where 15 known waterfalls are scattered closely through 400 acres of magical unicorn land. And, not to forget swimming in the cascading, turquoise pools of Kuang Si Waterfall where you feel like you are living in a fairy tale land near Luang Prabang. The best waterfalls in the world. Is travel to Laos safe?
The Lao people are wonderfully welcoming hosts. We were saved by local strangers when our motorbike broke down in the middle of nowhere, and enjoyed spending our nights with Mr. Kong in Tad Lo enjoying the view of the local falls while sipping on cold Beer Lao.
We also formed a special bond with our local guide who taught us about the local tribes of Tad Lo’s animistic rituals, beliefs, and traditions.
We found the history of this country to be both heartbreaking and fascinating at the same time, and hearing the history of this remarkable country allowed us to appreciate the resilience of the people who live here.
We were intrigued while exploring the mysterious Stone Age monuments at the Plain of Jars in central Laos. We found ourselves in awe at UNESCO World Heritage Site Wat Phu where we experienced the ancient Khmer temple’s beauty without the insane crowds of Angkor Wat.
For us, we found ourselves at a loss for words by the unexpected beauty, hospitality, and adventure of this amazing country. We found ourselves feeling nothing but love for this beautiful place and the wonderful people who live in it.
The best part? You can totally afford to take your time exploring this gorgeous land. An epic month long adventure only cost two of us on average $50 a day or $25 a person (includes your hotel booking).
Imagine how awesome that is to have a month long vacation chasing waterfalls, exploring caves, motorbiking across a country or doing whatever you want for less than the price of your monthly rent.