Laos or Lao as it’s actually pronounced, before the French added the “S”, is an incredibly beautiful mountainous country. It isn’t talked about as much as it’s other neighbors but that should change because it’s absolutely incredible.
VIENTIANE – Land border crossing
I arrived in Laos after a short stopover from Bangkok via a land border crossing.
I must mention if you ever have to take a bus in Thailand the only company you should be taking is NAKHONCHAI AIR BUS COMPANY. Simply put the nicest buses I’ve ever been on. It was like I was sitting first class in an airplane.
I was dropped off at the Thai border town of Nong Khai. From there I took a tuk tuk to the border had to get stamped out, jump into another 20Baht van to cross the border to Laos, get my VISA fro $30, and finally take an overpriced 300Baht van to Vientiane (I later learned I should’ve paid no more than 100Baht).
After arriving in Vientiane or as the Lao people call it “Wang Chien” I checked into my hostel and was on the hunt for some famous French bread. Unfortunately I didn’t realize it was late on a Sunday afternoon and most shops were closed. However, I was later successful in acquiring some amazing stuff from a local Boulangerie.
Vientiane is actually quite a small city for being the capital of Laos, although most of the cities are quite small in Laos. You can and shouldn’t spend more than 2 days there max. It’s pretty boring and there’s not much to see. I went to see their most iconic temple and national symbol, Wat That Luang.
The photos online look incredible and you think it will be this utterly massive temple like that of Angkor Wat or something…don’t be fooled. It’s actually quite small in comparison and needs a new coat of gold paint.
Although Vientiane doesn’t have that much to do, it does have a local breaking scene and I was lucky enough to meet up with some local bboys who showed me around and I got down with. They also showed me the night market by the Mekong that is incredibly long.
Also the sunsets from the banks of the Mekong River are an absolute MUST! Grab a drink and chill by the riverside just sit and watch. The locals all come out and young kids will bring guitars and sing. It’s great.
After my short stay in Vientiane I decided to head up north to Luang Prabang. It was also the first time for me taking a sleeping bus. Oh the infamous sleeping buses of Laos. So you get a TINY twin sized bed to SHARE with another fully grown human being. Not to mention if you’re on the top not lower you’re likely to feel like falling out as the bus goes round corners. Expect to sleep about 30 minutes for a 12-hour ride.
I arrived in Luang Prabang bus station around 5:00AM and was surrounded by Tuk-Tuk drivers offering to take me and a group into town for 30,000Kip. I kept saying 10,000Kip and being shunned off. So I said fuck it I have strong legs I’ll walk. As soon as I left the bus station a driver whips around the corner and I say 10,000Kip and he says sure. BAM! Suck that you other blood sucking Tuk-Tuk drivers.
One thing that really annoys me is the price they charge for foreigners vs locals. It’s a ridiculous difference and it doesn’t only apply to Laos but all over Southeast Asia. They think they have to cheat the foreigners out of their money, unless you’re cool with them. It’s fucked up.
So lots of other online lists of “things to do” say that you have to see the Alms giving in the morning. Luckily for me it was already time for that when I got into town, and I must say…not worth waking up early for. *sarcasm voice* Wow incredible you get to see people giving food to monks at 5:30 in the morning and that’s it. You see photos online of these monks being handed Alms…what you don’t see is the hoards of tourists everywhere snapping away photos like crazy and shoving cameras right up in the faces of these monks. Like get the fuck outta here with your camera shoving nonsense you inconsiderate monkey.
Luang Prabang is known as the cultural capital. It has the most temples in Laos. I went to, “the most visited temple in Laos” thinking it would be a sight to see. Dam I hate to say I keep getting let down…but I was let down. Wat Xieng Thong is the most visited and most expensive temple to visit. It was 20,000Kip entry and I was left thinking ummm wtf is this?
Where I think Laos makes up for it’s lack of temples is it’s incredible nature. Probably the best nature I’ve seen yet. Waterfalls and mountains galore.
The Kuang Si waterfall is this absolutely stunning turquoise beauty. The turquoise color comes from the water running over limestone and the minerals reflecting blue light. I spent 50,000K in total, 30,000Kip for a shared Tuk-Tuk round trip plus 20,000Kip for the entry. Included in the ticket is entry to the Bear Rescue Centre.
Oddly it was the coldest it was in Laos in 100 years so Luang Prabang was pretty cold.
On one of the days I decided to rent a motorbike with a group of friends I made at the Noknoy guesthouse, an amazing guesthouse by the way. It was honestly an incredible drive. The mountain views we saw were awesome! Also we crashed a wedding. Loads of drunk Lao people were dancing, eating, and drinking some more.
The nightmarket there is large as well. I’m not a shopper so that didn’t interest me too much. Where my heart was, was in the food night market. Oh the grilled pork belly…sooooo good. I ate too much. Absolutely too much, but the later toilet calls were totally worth the gorging.
When I went to Siem Reap I thought I saw a lot of Koreans…until I came to Laos. There were so dam many in Luang Prabang and even more in Vang Vien. I later learned that they all started coming after a Korean TV show aired about Laos and the Koreans started coming in droves.
Vang Vien is famous for a being a backpacker’s party haven, filled with drunken drugged up idiots and the like. However, if you want to avoid all that you can. It’s easy to have a chill evening there as long as you aren’t influenced by other. I saw my fair share of drugs circulating around there and so many vanilla faced Koreans trying weed and shrooms for the first time.
I stayed at the Easy Go Backpackers, which had a beautiful deck that looked out to an incredible view of the mountains in the distance. I didn’t go tubing or watch the endless reruns of Friends like people do at the bars, instead I walked around the city and chilled by the river.
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Read out the Southern Laos and the Motorcycle Loop next!