We spent roughly a week in Laos, I was truly torn as to whether or not I wanted to go. I was itching to get some beach time in, but the weather forecast for the west coast of Thailand wasn’t great. Meanwhile, the forecast for Laos was sunny and 85 just about every day. Since we’ve been chasing the sun for most of the trip thus far, I decided last minute to join Erik and hit up Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, and Vientiane. Additionally, it’s one more country to add to the list, sitting at 20 now.
Overall I wasn’t impressed with Laos. It’s a beautiful, tranquil country, and the people are really nice, but it didn’t strike a chord with me the way Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam have.
Luang Prabang is a Unesco World Heritage site, and is a lovely, quaint, colonial city, There isn’t much to do there, but it is relaxing none the less. We caught a sunset from Mount Phu Si, perused the night market, and took a day trip to visit the Kuang Si Waterfalls about 45 minutes outside of the city. As of most of Laos, the food caters to westerners in just about every restaurant, and pizza is everywhere. There are also a few good french bakeries, due to the french colonization.
From there we took an awful 4.5 hour “VIP” private minivan ride to Vang Vieng. While the driver was pretty tame for SE Asia standards, the road was pretty poor, it was a winding, bumpy ride. While that was expected, what we got on our ride was not. There were only two seats left in the van, so we both had to sit in the front bucket seat. I sat in the middle for the first half and had my knee jammed up against the center console and the gearbox. At the half way point Erik bit the bullet and sat in the middle.
Vang Vieng is really only known for one thing, and that’s tubing down the river amongst the beautiful background of the limestone karsts. It was much more of a party town a year or so ago, with many bars set up along the river, and swings/zip lines into the river, but due a number of deaths, everything was scaled back and the majority of the bars were shut down. What used to be 25 bars, is now 3 bars, and probably 125 tubers a day, down from 500. We checked out the scene, but it wasn’t anything special, in fact it was pretty sad as the town itself seemed to be on life support. Every one of the restaurants plays Family Guy and/or Friends. It’s really quite odd, but for some reason this is what they think will keep the westerners coming back for more.
I believe we spent 4-5 days there, and that was really way too long.
From there we opted for a real bus ride to Vientiane which is the capital of Laos, and that was roughly 3.5 hours. That was a much tamer ride than the previous ride. One night was spent in Vientiane, and there really wasn’t a whole lot to do. We caught dinner and called it an early night for our am flight to Bangkok.
All in all it’s nice to check Laos of the list, but it’s not a country I’d go back to. I’ve heard good things about the 4,000 lakes and the Plain of Jars, but doubtful I’ll make it back anytime soon.