I made a last minute decision to make Laos my second travel destination when plans to go to Myanmar came to a holt because of visa issues. With very little knowledge about the country I quickly packed up from Thailand, booked a 3-day bus and boat trip that would take me along the Mekong River and left behind my favourite place in Thailand, Pai.
But I’m pretty glad it happened that way. A lot of travellers I’d met in Thailand had spoken about missing out Laos because they said there “wasn’t much to do”. So as I arrived with little, to almost no expectations, I completely was blown away. Not because there was so much to do – they were kind of right about that one, but because of how beautiful the country was.
I’ve had the most incredible time in Laos, seen some of the most picturesque landscapes and met some awesome people who I hope to one day see again.
So here’s a cut-down, blog-friendly version of the 15 days I spent travelling around Laos.
The 3-day bus/boat ride to Laos ended with being dropped off in the ancient town of Luang Prabang. The two days spent getting there via boat was better than I imagined – no sea sickness. WIN! I made some cool friends on the boat and the views were pretty spectacular too.
Watching the sunset as our boat was became stuck in the river for an hour, unable to move. We eventually got pulled along to mainland by another boat. With views like this, I didn’t mind being stranded. 😍
Get on your bike and explore!
On my first day me and Antonia, who I’d met on the boat to Laos, decided to cycle around the town and explore. Luang Prabang has been a designated UNESCO world heritage site since 1995. Here’s a typical street where local Laos live.
Just having a wander around the town you’ll find interesting little gems. We stumbled across this cute little art shop. My pictures definitely don’t do the artist any justice!
After cycling around for 2 hours in 30+ degree heat, stopping off for an ice cold drink was very much needed!
Wake up early for sunrise
Watching the sunrise didn’t really work out for me – it was a very misty morning. To be honest it reminded me of a cold chilly morning back in England!
If you plan on watching the sunrise from Mount Phousi you’ll pass various Buddha statues as you make your way to the top where you can get a 360 degree view of Luang Prabang. Hopefully you’ll have a better, or be it clearer view than me!
A visit to Luang Prabang wouldn’t be complete without a trip to see Kuang Si Falls. I headed over there with a bunch of friends I’d made on the boat to Laos.
Kuang Si Waterfalls, is a three tier waterfall around 29 kilometres just South of Luang Prabang.
As you follow the marked out trails you’ll see falls beginning in shallow pools. The further you walk they get slightly bigger and more beautiful.
As you reach the end of the path you’ll end up here (as pictured above) – the main waterfall. Now I’ve seen a few waterfalls in Thailand, but this has got to be the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen. If you take a right and go across the bridge you can hike up the hill path and you’ll be led to the top of the waterfall. Watch your footing as you Spider-Man your way up as the path becomes unclear and the the rocks get a bit slippery.
This town definitely lived up to its crazy party reputation. Again there’s not really a heap of things to do there but during the day you can kayak, tube, visit the caves & blue lagoon, or simply just grab a beer and find a spot to sunbathe. I pretty much did the latter for most days I was in Vang Vieng. But who wouldn’t with these beautiful views.
The town is infamous for its tubing activities. Unfortunately I had a cut / open wound on my leg and didn’t want to risk getting that infected – so I gave tubing a miss. My friends all went though and said they had an amazing time! You basically start at one bar and tube down the river to the next. You’re in the water for a few hours though so they said it did get super cold towards the end.
As for the evenings, by 7pm free whiskey starts flowing from one of the main party hostels – Chillao. After this other bars also start their happy hours and drinking promos offering free whiskey & beers. If you’re on a budget it can be a great cheap night out – but like all things, be careful about how much you’re drinking!
Sometimes all you need is F.R.I.E.N.D.S
And if after that crazy night out last night you need a chilled day then head to one of Vang Vieng’s cafe restaurants that play back-to-back episodes of Friends all day.
I left for Vientiane with the group of girls I’d met in Vang Vieng. Together me, Antonia, Antonia, Sarah, Emma and Demi spent one night together in Vientiane and to be honest I think that was enough. Not because we got sick and tired of each other, there just wasn’t a whole lot to do there apart from the main sites such as visiting Buddha Park, the UXO bomb museum and night markets.
If you do go to Vientiane though it’s worth eating at the Indian restaurant ‘Namaste India’. We went there on the first night and back again the following day before we set off for Pakse. Great food, affordable and awesome service. Check them out here.
Final meal together before we all went our separate ways. Antonia S and Emma headed home, Antonia C to Thailand, Sarah to explore more of Laos on bike and me and Demi to headed for the south of Laos.
So off me and Demi headed for Pakse, but I don’t know why. I wouldn’t bother staying here again. Although it’s the capital and most populous city in the southern province of Champasak, there really wasn’t a whole lot to do in the city. If you need to go to Pakse for a stopover / change then fair enough, otherwise it’s pretty much a waste of time. We did nothing here apart from hike up a steep hill that had a Buddha at the top.
The hike was nice, and the view from the top was pretty, but again nothing super special.
4000 Islands – Don Det
Now this was probably my most favourite place in Laos. It was a very bumpy bus ride, followed by a slightly crammed boat ride, there were about 20 of us on this narrow long tail boat with all our backpacks, but when we got to Don Det we were greeted by the most beautiful landscapes.
Laze around in a hammock
I spent a large part of the beginning and end of my days in Don Det laying in a hammock – either with a book in hand or watching the world go by. If you want to relax and enjoy the tranquillity, this island is the place to be.
Although the main tourism is from backpackers, Don Det was a surprisingly quiet and peaceful island. There are bars and restaurants along the main street but they close fairly early so you can have a chilled night if that’s what you want. Alternatively a lot of tourists stay on nearby Don Khon where it’s supposedly slightly quieter.
Rent a bike
The easiest, and probably most fun way to get around the island is by bike. We rented bikes for the 4 days we were in Don Det. If you’ve got the maps.me app you’ll find it easy to get around. On our first day with the bikes we headed to Somphamit Waterfalls.
If you want something more active to do why not sign up to do a kayaking tour. We paid around £18 for a full day of kayaking with stop offs at a small waterfall, Khone Falls – the widest and largest waterfalls in the world and a chance to spot some pink dolphins near the Laos – Cambodia border – which we did actually see. Even from afar they were beautiful! Food and water was included in the price too. It was a really fun day trip and I’d recommend anyone do it. I can’t swim but the guides always made sure I was ok and had a life jacket.
As I’ve already broken one phone out here due to water damage I decided not to take my phone/camera – so unfortunately no photos for you guys! You can check out what the waterfall looks like here though.
And with that it’s Ciao for now Laos, thank you for an incredible 15 days in your beautiful country! I’ll probably be back to enjoy your stunning landscapes again before you know it!
Current location: Blogging from my hostel bed in Cambodia