5 Reasons To Discover Laos

Reasons why Laos should not be overlooked

1)      Off the beaten track

Want to really get off the beaten tourist trail and have some real good travel cred to brag about? Consider going to Laos. And No, tubing in Vang Vieng does not count towards getting off the beaten track. In Laos, it is incredibly easy to find yourself in places where there are no other tourists as far as the eye can see. Places where you will be stared at as an oddity, and where the local life does not cater to Western expectations. Of course, there are the tourist meccas in Laos, like Vang Vieng, but even then, it is still not that difficult to get lost in what will seem like another world, read about motorcycle tours here.

2)      Plain of Jars

History and archeology buffs will have their minds blown at the plain of jars. This is definitely off the beaten path, and most tourists do not make it out there. But those who do, will be greeted by a tiny little village with one main tourist attraction. The plains of jars have been confusing archeologists for decades.

Scattered across the landscape are thousands of megalithic stone jars. Some are small, while others are more than 6 feet high. To visit the jars you will need to go on a guided tour as unfortunately, the area is still heavily affected by land mines.

plain of jars laos
A younger version of Jade at the Plain of Jars

3)      Luang Prabang

Many backpackers arrive in Laung Prabang by slow boat, and rave about the calm and beauty they experience as the multitude of temples first come into sight. I arrived by bus…overpacked motion sickness inducing bus…. so I didn’t have the same first impression. But despite that, I grew to love this little city. In fact, the thought of leaving (and perhaps a little bit of the thought of having to take another bus again…) induced me to stay an extra week more than planned!

The town is fairly small, but it is well set up to deal with the influx of tourists, without being overly “douchey” like Vang Vieng can be. There are plenty of restaurants with English on the menu, and a colourful night market springs up on the main tourist street every evening. My backpack definitely became bulkier after spending too much time at these night markets.

There are also plenty of opportunity to day trip outside of Luang Prabang. Popular options include day hikes and waterfall tours, but if you want to go a little further afield, you can also have a trip to the Plain of Jars arranged for you.

Temple in Luang Prabang – CC by Bruno

4)      The Loop

If just being in Laos is not ‘off the beaten path’ enough for you, then the loop might be right up your alley. The loop is a 2 – 4 day motorcycle trip which starts and ends in the central Laos town of Ta Khek. There are no formal guides for the loop, just a lopsided stack of scrap books in the Ta Khek Travellers Lodge where other travellers have written their experiences and hand drawn maps of the route they took.

The only way to find out current conditions for the loop, are to refer to the more recent entries in these scrap books. As I flipped the pages of these albums, I really felt like I was about to go on a real adventure into uncharted territory.

The loop will take you past three very different landscapes : well kept highway, twisting mountain roads, and (at the time) a horrendous mess of potholes and dust. (read more about my adventure on the Loop at the Planet D)

A photo taken from the back of a motorbike on The Loop

5)      Food

Laos food blows my mind. Less spicy than their western neighbour of Thailand, but more flavourful their easten neighbour of Vietnam, Laos food is confortably in the middle. The star of the show definitely has to be laap. Laap, which comes in several different varieties. Laap is a type of meat salad which can be made out of anything, but is commonly found as chicken, beef, or fish. The meat can be either cooked or raw, and is served minced with an abundance of fresh herbs and spices. Chicken laap quickly became one of my favourite things to eat in Laos, and is one thing that I have never tired of. Laap can also commonly be found in Thai restaurants in the Western world, and I definitely recommend giving it a try.

Have you travelled to Laos? What was your favourite part?

46 thoughts on “5 Reasons To Discover Laos

  1. This is what I missed on my recent trip last month and this is also one of the reasons I am coming back and will definitely explore Laos! Luang Prabang is a hit. My Swiss friend is currently in LP and he told me it was a great outdoor and historical site. will definitely love it there.

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    1. The plain of jars is rather hard to get too… it’s pretty far from everything else. but if you are into that kind of thing, then the place is just too magical to resist.

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  2. This was good to read – we visited Laos on a visa run from Thailand, but weren’t really that enchanted by it. We mostly stayed around Vientiane, though, (which was super uninspiring), so next time we’ll head further afield.

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    1. I have to agree – Vientiane is not that exciting. It was my least favourite place in Laos. The plain of jars was probably my favorite. Go visit it next time you are in Laos. Im sure you will love it

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  3. I’ve traveled much of Laos, but the Loop sounds interesting. Should check that out.

    A few places of Laos are very much ON the beaten track, but I agree, without too much effort you can get off the beaten track and witness some real adventures.

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  4. Laos was easily my favorite country in SE Asia and the motorcycle loop was my favorite part, although it took us over a week. It was one disaster after another as I and my three friends took turns getting flat tires, breaking down, running out of gas, losing the keys and at one point having the brakes fall off. I plan on writing a blog post some day, but so much happened it would probably be more suited for a book. Either way, I second the recommendation to try the “loop” and for Laos in general.

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    1. Wow! That sounds like an epic journey! It sounds like the sort of journey that I would probably break into tears whilst in the present, but then would make a great party story after! I’m glad that we are no major break downs when I did the loop, although we did crash the bike into some mud.Luckly no one was injured

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  5. Ahhh… this post made me all dreamy… Back in January 2010 I arrived in Luang Prabang… but like so many others – by the slow boat 😀 And so it started. Beautiful sunsets up high in the mountains! And this might not sound very pro-authentic cuisine, but owing to the colonial French influence, I had the BEST pain-au-chocolat in Laos haha Left the ones from Paris far behind! 😀

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    1. haha I had some of the best crepes there as well! And the smoothies! YUM! I didn’t enter by slow boat though – would love to experience that some time. My favourite part of Laos was the Plain of Jars – its a magical place, where not many other tourists go.

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  6. Honestly, the slow boat is fun for the first day, if not the first 5 hours, what with the changing landscape. When the second day starts after a night spent in a tiny and overpriced village of Pakbeng, the romance begins to wear off 😀 And the respectable posterior doesn’t want to even hear about sitting on a small wooden bench for 2 days in a row! Having said that, I’m happy I did it (still have my sitting pillow as a souvenir!) but not sure if I’d do it again 😀

    I myself decided against the Plain of Jars as it would delay me reaching Cambodia on time, but will definitely come back at some point as I’ve never been to Vietnam and it’s definitely on my list. I’m sure you could do a little detour into Laos then 🙂

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    1. haha I know all about the sore bum! We did the three day motorbike trip in Southern Laos, and by the end of it I could hardly walk – the pillow was a life saver but still didn’t save me completely. Although the busses in Laos were no more comfortable – I get really motion sick so I would have to just knock myself out with anti nausea pills and sleep for the whole journey.

      Maybe a solution would be to take the bus for half the way, and then the boat for just one day. Might be a bit quicker.

      You should definitely visit the plain of jars when you go back – it was my high light

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  7. I only took a comfy nightbus in Laos, and shared a bunk with some French/Cambodian guy who DIDN’T spoon my, so I consider myself lucky. Anyhow, about that motorcycle journey… you must have acquired a real cowboy gait after all those days in the saddle haha

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    1. Comfy night bus? hmmmm sounds interesting – would love to see one some day! We did the sleeper busses in Vietnam, but I am quite tall, so I didn’t fit into the little bed and had the *worst* leg cramps after! The motor bike ride was definitely challenging – I think the seat for the driver was pretty comfy, but the passenger seat was pretty terrible… it was still a great great great experience though

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  8. Haha yeah well my height was just fine. I had 1 inch leg space once I stretched 😀 As for the motorbike ride, I’m sure it was a great experience. That’s how great stories are made that you’ll tell your little kiddies some day and they’ll just stare at you with big amazed eyes : )

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  9. food’s were so yummy though some of them ( FOR ME) was not what i wanted but i liked them, one more thing, i never recommend those who wanna get to luang prabang to get the bus, bus is so slow due to the bad conditions and quality of the mountain roads between vientiane to luang prabag. however back packer like me should have the second option.

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