Category Archives: Laos

Vientiane to Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, and the Prettiest Place I’ve Ever Peed

I spent my first week with family in Vientiane. My second week was where I said my good-byes and began the real backpacking trip. Fortunately, I had a cousin from Luang Prabang that would show me how the locals do new year in Luang Prabang. With her as my guide, we trailed on from Vientiane, to Vang Vieng, and finally Luang Prabang.

While I’ve heard horror stories about the road conditions between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, I just couldn’t justify buying plane ticket. A $15 bus ticket beats a $100 plane ticket in my book, plus we could stop in Vang Vieng along the way. At 6 in the morning, my cousin and I set off!

It was an uncomfortable 3 hours from Vientiane to Vang Vieng. The bus we rode was technically a minivan meant for 9, which we somehow managed to cram 15 people in. It was stuffy and uncomfortable, but the road was fine and there was air conditioning (thank god). Bathroom breaks are a plenty on the road, but sometimes you have to consider whether or not it’s worth battling the praying mantis guarding to the toilet. In my case, it was. Hey, when you gotta go you gotta go.

To go or not to go
To go or not to go

I was aware that Vang Vieng was known for being a backpackers party town, but this was not the experience that I was searching for on my trip. I wanted to see the land, and in the short hours we had in the town, I was able to grow a deep appreciation for the beauty of Vang Vieng.

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Tubing in Tham Saang, elephant caves.
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The natural beauty on Vang Vieng
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Swimming in the Blue Lagoon at Vang Vieng.

The road from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang had to have been one of the highlights of my trip. While it was a 6 hour drive, the views was beautiful (and there was much more room to get comfortable in our mini van). The scenery was lush and green and the road wound beautifully between the trees and hills. Somewhere between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, I lost my breath at the sight of the rolling green hills on our bathroom break. I wish I could remember the name of this rest stop, I highly recommend stopping by for a quick go.

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The view from the toilet, somewhere between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang
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Rolling hills and lush green mountains.

To anyone traveling between cities in Laos, I highly recommend taking the road. There’s just so much more you can see on when traveling on the ground than by air.

4 days in Vientiane

I began my travels through Laos in the capital Vientiane. I stayed with a cousin who had been living there for about almost 3 years years. She confirmed that life here is pretty relaxed. People beat the heat by staying indoors during the peak of the day, and because it gets so hot, most chores, errends, outdoor tasks are done early in the morning or evening. I found it too hot to sleep past 6 during my stay here, so I was up early as well listening to the sounds of pots and pans clanking away for breakfast.

After morning chores were done, I spent the afternoon living the capital city life. This meant running errends and touring the sights. My cousin took me by motorbike to the morning market, thalat sao. Here you can find fresh meats, veggies, candies, packaged toys, shoes, get your hair done, nails did, all that and beyond. Most of the locals shopping is done with vendors who set up shop. Its a wild experience. If you can, try and get here by motorbike, its crazy, there are virtually no road rules, but an experience nonetheless.

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When not running errends, we ate. We ate and we drank. Beer of choice all over Laos of course is Beer Lao. Something about the heat and atmosphere just make this beer so much more delicious. A Beer Lao in the US is just not the same as a Beer Lao in Laos.

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Vientiane was a great place to start and an easy way to make my transition into Laos. While there is still much development to be made, if you hang by the Mekong River front, you’ll see shops, guest houses, and stores that cater more to the foreigner/backpacker crowd. Its interesting to see the transition. A cup of coffee from the coffee chain Joma (which caters more to foreigners and ex-pats) is more than what a local could make in a day. Still, an interesting sight to see.

Ah, onw nore thing, the bugs. My first couple of days here meant I was fresh meat for mosquito’s and fire ants. I made the mistake of forgetting to buy heavy duty bug spray and was immediately bitten all over my face and back 😦 lesson for all you traveling out there, don’t forget to put bug spray on your face before bed.

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“Be Careful”

One thing I’d like to make clear about Laos before I begin; Laos is not as poor, under-developed, or crime-ridden as we imagine. When I announced that I would be taking this trip, the first thing out of peoples mouths were “be careful”. I don’t have people telling me to be careful when I travel for work or leave the house, but I can understand why they’d say this. The unknown can be scary. Fear of the unknown is the oldest form of fear, but as history has shown us, exploration of the unknown leads to amazing discoveries.

That being said, the way of life here is different. There is still much development that needs to be done to the land, but it’s the people who really make this land gold. You’re welcome everywhere you go with a smile. During the new year, people pull you into their parties with a glass of Beer Lao. People were happy that I was a visitor, and were even more than happy to help me understand the language and culture. Family and happiness first, that’s the way of life. Doesn’t sound too scary to me.