Laos or often referred as Muang Laos is famous for its beautiful sceneries and an entire city that is a UNESCO site. Did you know that the world’s craziest weed parties were once held in Laos?
Laos is a one-party socialist republic located in the heart of South East Asia. They are also one of the poorest countries in South East Asia. It is bordered by Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and China.
Other than being all these, Laos is truly an exotic location for many. The country offers its visitors with a “time machine” as the surroundings reflect their ancient eras. Locals are friendly though speak very little English. The countryside is utmost stunning and breathtaking.
I must say that the only downside to the country compared to the rest of SEA would be their cuisine. Personally, I felt that Laos cuisine is almost like a bad version of Chiang Mai‘s Lanna food mixed with Myanmar cuisine. The only thing that I can agree with is Beer Lao. BUT, maybe I did not go to the right places to eat. Someday, I will head back to Laos and try to find better local food.
5 days 4 nights is the best way to visit all 3 cities: Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang. A day in Vientiane, 2 days in Vang Vieng and 2 days in Luang Prabang. Nothing more, nothing less.
Capital of Laos – Vientiane
Contrary to popular belief, Laos never came under the attack of France. In fact, it was the French army that saved Laos from the invasion of the Chinese Black Flag Army in the late 19th century. After the attack, Laos was offered protection from France. With this, you can now find war monuments in Vientiane that has exhibits the French architectural influence.
There are mostly just temples and monuments to look at in Vientiane compared to the rest of Laos.
Patuxay, The Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane
Patuxay or sometimes spelt as Patuxai is a war monument completed in 1968. This monument represents the struggle of Laos to gain independence from France. However, the architecture of Patuxay is still mainly made up of Laotian (people of Laos) design. The arc is decorated with mythical creatures called the Kinnari which is half-bird, half-lady.
Pha That Luang
This grand golden stupa is believed to be built in the 3rd century by the first governor of Vientiane. Despite being rebuilt and reconstructed a couple of times, it is seen as the most important national cultural monument in Laos.
The stupa stands tall at 45 meters. The centre part of the stupa represents an elongated lotus bud. It is said that a Buddha relic was placed in the stupa.
Walk around the area to enjoy the temple grounds as there is more than just the stupa to look at.
Located 25km away from the South of Vientiane is a Buddha Park by the Mekong River. Across the river is one of my favourite countries in the world, Thailand.
Walk straight into the park and go into the dome-shaped building on your right. You will immediately descend into hell once you go through the entrance. Climb up to ‘earth’, and next, ‘heaven’. Be aware that the stairs are tiny. Some flexibility is required if you are bigger than 5ft and S size as you will need to squeeze through some claustrophobic spaces.
Indefinitely, there are more places to visit in Vientiane. However, these are the top 3 places that I favoured during my trip in February 2017. The rest of the places did not seem to captivate my curious mind nor interest.
Adventurous Vang Vieng
I have to admit that I was not too keen to visit Vang Vieng after knowing about the amount of drug inducing tourism that lurks around town. The image that I had of Vang Vieng was dirty, drunk people everywhere and it may feel like Kuta, Bali (I love Bali, just not Kuta). It was not just a dreadful thought but it was 100% wrongly misconstrued.
Vang Vieng is now my favourite city in Laos. The beauty that this city offers is nothing that I have expected. It is the must visit city in Laos. You will be pampered with scenic views and fresh air all day long.
Half/full day adventure packages
Go on a full day adventure trip that will cost less than 50USD per pax. During my last trip, I managed to negotiate the package price to 170,000 Laotian Kip(20 USD) for six hours half-day aerial and adventure parks trip.
Ask any tour providers, discuss with them what you want to do and be on your way to a fun experience! Zip-lining, tubing in the caves and kayaking are must-do activities in Vang Vieng.
Tham Chang Cave
Walk down a steep flight of stairs to adventure into this cave. It is not too hard of a walk as the paths are well-defined. The stalagmites and stalactites formation in the cave may not be the best but it is worth the visit.
Every step you take will be worth it when you reach its clear blue swimming area. I reckon it is better than the blue lagoon in Vang Vieng but not the one in Luang Prabang.
Park gate entrance is 2,000 Kip and cave entrance is 15,000 Kip for foreigners (Total cost is 2 USD). Bring a torchlight with you or make sure your mobile is well charged.
Pamper yourself with massage and spa
Massage in Vang Vieng is similar to Thai style. However, some of the massage parlours in Vang Vieng definitely look dodgy. Some of them appear to provide men with happy endings. One of the girls in the massage parlour flashed her boobs at my male friend when I was not looking.
For a decent and true pampering experience, visit Riverside Sala Spa in Riverside Boutique Resort. Massage and spa packages start from 200,000 Kip (24 USD) for 60-minutes.
Heritage Site Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is described as the best-preserved city in South East Asia by UNESCO. As much as I agree with this description, I will have to agree with an article published by The Indian Express as I, too, personally felt that the city has lost its soul.
It is rare to find authentic places in town anymore. Almost everything has been converted into a tourist attraction, guesthouse, massage parlours and resorts. The few things that I truly enjoyed about Luang Prabang is the perfectly-preserved architecture and its famous waterfalls.
Alms-giving to the monks
One of the best things to do is to be a part of the alms-giving activity right before sunrise through the streets of Luang Prabang near the bazaar.
There will be local vendors selling alms for you to purchase and give to the monk. Cash donations are not acceptable for monks. However, you can give them any food including rice, vegetables and sweets.
There are 2 entrances to go up Mount Phousi. First entrance, walk up the stairway located right opposite the entrance to the Royal Palace near the street bazaar. The second entrance is located at Thanon Phomsi, climbing up 355-steps to reach the top. In order to have a complete experience, climb up from the first entrance after your visit to the Royal Palace Museum and go down the other entrance.
For the best sunset view in Luang Prabang. However, that happens to be when it is the busiest to visit too. If you would like to avoid the crowd, you can always go for sunrise or at any time of the day. The peak of the hill will provide you with a 360-degree view of Luang Prabang.
Please be reminded that Mount Phousi is where Wat Chomsi and Wat Tham Phomsi are located. Thus, please dress modestly to respect the Buddhist customs. There is a small entrance fee to pay to complete the walk.
Royal Palace Museum
The Royal Palace Museum was built in 1904. The museum used to be the Royal Palace of King Singsavangvong after his previous palace was invaded and destroyed in 1887.
The museum ground encompasses the main palace building, palace apartments, a temple and a pond. Pay a visit to this museum to re-live the life of the royalties.
This is the only blue lagoon you will ever need to visit in South East Asia. No jokes! If I have to choose the one place that impresses me the most in the whole of my Laos trip, this is it.
Kuangsi Waterfalls is about 40 minutes drive out of town. It is easily reached by scooters and there are quite a number of pit stops that you can make on the way to the waterfalls. Other ways to reach there is by minivan and tuk-tuk.
Best time to be at the waterfalls will be about 9 am. By 11 am, it will be busy and, it gets busier by 2 pm. Bring insect repellents, a pair of flip-flops, toilet papers, towel and dry clothes to change.
Hike to the highest peak for an hour or two and visit one of the caves there. There is a little raft that you can pay a small fee for to reach the source of water. There is a small fee of 20,000 Kip (2.50 USD) to pay for the entrance. Whatever it is, I assure that it will be 100% worth it.