10 Reasons Why Laos Should Be on Your Travel Bucket List

Whenever I tell anyone I spent two weeks in Laos during my trip through Southeast Asia, they usually say something along the lines of “that’s such a random country”; or “why did you do that?” They aren’t entirely wrong – Laos opened its borders to tourism only in the 1990s, so it’s still up and coming and still very much under communist governance. Those who do know of it have either stopped there between Thailand or Vietnam or Cambodia, or they are an American history buff and are interested in learning more about the Secret War and the unexploded ordnance that covers over half of the country. Having been there myself though, I can tell you that there is so much more to this beautiful country than that. Here are 10 reasons why you should add Laos to your travel bucket list

  1. Luang Prabang – This city has been deemed a UNESCO World Hertiage Site, and that’s for good reason. The night comes alive with bustling night markets and street food buffets, and the day offers beautiful views of the Mekong River and opportunities to practice yoga and take day trips to nearby waterfalls. Sounds like a millennial’s dream!
  2. The Cost – Laos was the cheapest country out of all of the Southeast Asian countries I visited. The night market buffet was $2 to fill a bowl, and most meals ranged from $2-3 USD. Accommodation ranged between $5-10 per person in a guest house and activities were on the lower price side. It was easy to get by on $20-30 per day here!
  3. Buddhism & Hinduism Sightseeing – Parts of Laos were once part of the Hindu Khmer empire, but it is mostly a Theravada Buddhist country now. There is a remarkable Hindu temple UNESCO World Heritage Site in Southern Laos called Wat Phou that is worth a visit, and worth the hike up Mount Phousi. There are also several stunning Buddhist temples and sites throughout the country, some of note are the Pak Ou Caves and the White Buddha.IMG_4108
  4. History – As mentioned before, USA waged a Secret War against Laos, covering the country in unexploded ordnance to stop the spread of communism from Vietnam to Laos. If you are an American history buff and take particular interest in the Red Scare and the Vietnam War, then a visit to Vientiane, the capital, is worth a trip.
  5. Nature – The landscapes in this country are absolutely phenomenal. I have never been in such an abundance of beautiful waterfalls and caves before in my life. Kong Lor caves are seven miles long and can be enjoyed by a guided boat ride. Tad Ngueng Waterfall and Kuang Si Falls are both breathtaking waterfalls that are absolutely worth a trip as well.IMG_4096
  6. Food & Drink – Laos may be totally surrounded by cuisine powerhouses, but being an influence that has shaped Thai food and containing elements of the French influence, it remains competitive in deliciousness. Make sure to try the sticky rice, the Lao noodle soup, green papaya salad, Lao curry, and of course the fruit shakes. Throw down some Beerlaos and glasses of rice wine and Lao whiskey (be careful).
  7. Coffee Plantations – The Bolevan Plateau in Southern Laos offers a cooler climate at high altitudes, perfect for growing coffee! Stay in Pakse and enjoy the beautiful nature in the area and take a motorbike, coffee waterfall tour here.
  8. Tubing – In Vang Vieng, you can rent a tube and ride along the river, stopping at all the waterfront bars! Swim to shore for as many as you like, get a bracelet for every bar you go to, and have a fun time dancing!
  9. The Mekong River – This river divides Thailand and Laos and runs all the way up to China. The river can be enjoyed by slow boat (with occasional water buffalo and elephant views!) or in the Thousand Islands region, where you can chill out with a happy shake on an island watching Irrawaddy dolphins!
  10. The People – I have experienced a lot of kindness in my travels, but nothing compares to the friendliness of the Laotians. Hearing a cheerful “SaBaiDee” from everyone who walks by makes it hard not to smile all the time. I recommend participating in a homestay with a Baci celebration, which is a “calling of the soul” celebration to wish you well.

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