Waterfalls, Tubing and Opium? - Laos
Laos is the country in between Thailand and Vietnam. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry, we hadn’t either until we found ourselves on a 2 day slow boat heading there.
Theres 3 main places people visit in Laos, which is Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane. I’ll break it down with our favourite things in each place.
Luang Prabang - Home to Kuang Si Waterfall
Firstly, Laos is home to Kuang Si Waterfall which is on par with Kawasan falls in the Philippines. The bluest water you've ever seen. We knew a secret pathway which led us to our very own private blue lagoon, infinity pool. A lot of tourists found out about this little gem and I think they've now gated it off which is sad, but if you get a chance, have a good walk around and see if you can find it. Probably the single best thing about Luang Prabang.
The town itself is pretty cool. They have a great local market which is worth checking out for sure, be careful around the food side of the market as I got food poisoning, but like any street food, if it looks like you shouldn’t be eating it, then don’t. Its not worth testing the water, trust me.
At the end of the day once your waterfall’d out, theres a great spot up a slight hill in Luang Prabang where you can watch a lovely sunset (the stairs to this spot are opposite Haw Pha Bang Temple), finished with some beers in a local bar.
Driving mopeds in Laos in general, is not a good idea. The roads are soo soo bad. Those of you from the uk will know how annoying pot holes are, imagine 30 pot holes on each road 90% of the time. Yeah. Not the best. Sam and I actually come off our moped in Laos (sorry to most people who don’t know about this ha) - Absolutely fine mind and to be fair, we actually only crashed because a lizard ran out in front of us as we were going around a corner and we crashed into our friends who were in front... Good times.
Vang Vieng - Tubing
Ever heard of the stories where backpackers went to Laos, smoked a load of opium and went tubing down the Nam Song River? WELL... we did exactly that!! (minus the opium, obviously). My 22nd birthday was spent getting hammered at the bars either side of the river. This used to be a huge thing! But something stupid like 27 people died in a year of doing this because thousands and thousands of people would take to the Nam Song River in a day and get so hammered and they would literally drown. There were so many people you couldn’t even see the water, only yellow rubber tubes. Its so much more controlled now and only 2 bars are allowed to be open either side of the river, whereas before there were like 20 bars open at once. Still one of the best things I’ve ever done though! Floating down a river, hammered has to be on anyones bucket list surely???
Festival of Lights
Every October hundreds of people create different floats and let off Chinese lanterns across Vang Vieng. We just so happened to be there for it on October 5th 2017. The festival of lights, also known as ‘Boun Lai Heua Fai’ takes place once a year as it is hoped that the ‘nagas’ (water spirits) will bring good luck to the residents.
While there are some amazing temples, blue lagoons and caves in Vang Vieng, a lot of backpackers (including us) just found ourselves indulging at the cheap bars and letting loose for a few days (we were there over my birthday so kind of expected).
A really good day out in Vang Vieng is getting a scooter with some friends, checking out the blue lagoons and view points on your way back. Be careful though, as once again, the roads are f**ked.
We arrived in Vientiane when there was a festival going on, god knows what festival it was but there was shit everywhere, honestly, I’ve never seen so much litter on the floor.
Vientiane is home to some amazing temples if you aren’t already templed out on your South East Asia trip! There is a war memorial called Patuxai which is a big arch over some water which looks insane, we didn’t actually go as we ran out of time but if you have a spare few hours deffo go check that out. Also Pha That Luang is a huge gold, Buddhist stupa.
We went to an amazing park called Buddha Park which is about 25km from Vientiane, you can get a bus for a few quid and have an amazing day here. Its full of really old Buddhist sculptures. You take some amazing photos here for a few hours before getting the bus back to Vientiane.
Sam and some of his man friends took to the cinema one afternoon so me & the girls headed to a museum called ‘COPE’. I learned so much at this museum about the Vietnam war and the impact it is still having on Laos. When the US were dropping ‘cluster bombs’ on to Vietnam, thousands and thousands landed in Laos. Locals that do their gardening or work outside sometimes come across them or step on them and they explode, which leaves them an amputee most of the time. What COPE does is creates prosthetics for those that have been/still are being affected by the cluster bombs.
Like all of Asia, getting around in Laos is easy, but its not always the safest. Most of the roads in Laos are not smooth going, whether you’re getting busses, using mopeds, cars etc, expect a bumpy ride. As I mentioned above, some areas in Laos are not worth getting a moped, honestly if you do get a bike, just be careful. I think Vang Vieng was the best area we used mopeds in all of Laos.
We got the longest bus of our lives in Laos. A sleeper bus to Cambodia, which took 24 hours. It broke down after 2 hours, then we had to wait another 3 hours for a second bus in the middle of the night… less than ideal. Click here to find out more about THAT experience.
Is Laos worth going too?
Hell yeah! Its defiantly an experience like the rest of South East Asia! I personally wouldn’t go back to Luang Prabang purely because the only thing we really enjoyed there was Kung Si Waterfall. The slow boat getting there was not the best so automatically we were in a bad mood when we arrived which was not ideal.
The reason originally we wanted to go to Laos was to go do the Gibbon Experience, and when we got the slow boat over, we didn’t realise that we would literally drive pass it. So if your going to Laos, try to plan it right and think about what you want to do before your half way there.
Thanks for reading guys! I hoped this helped you out if your heading to Laos. Make sure to comment below and let me know what you think!