Laos is a beautiful country that is full of natural beauty and plenty of things to do. It is also home to the most beautiful waterfall (in my opinion) in the world, which I talk about below. Although not one of the most popular places for backpackers to visit, it is worth a visit because it is so different from its neighbouring countries.
What I did there
I flew from Hanoi, Vietnam to the capital city of Laos, Vietnam. I stayed in Khaw Hoom Hostel which has good wifi, capsule beds and a clean, colourful dining area.
Hot air balloon
A few fellow backpackers and I went on a hot air balloon ride over the mountains to watch the sunset. This was the first balloon ride I have done so didn’t know what to expect. We all hopped into the back of a pickup truck which took us down the dusty roads to the launch point. We walked through the long grass towards the colourful balloons. Getting in the basket was interesting as it was very high off the ground, so I had to ask for a ‘leg up’ from a small local man. Once all in, we set off. It was exhilarating. We had enough room to walk around within the basket, so we were able to get pictures from all sides. Watching the hot sun disappear behind the blue mountains was a beautiful sight to see and a great way to end a day exploring. The ride lasted 1 hour and cost £9.
Underwater caving in Vang Vieng
One of Laos’s biggest tourist attractions is tubing down the river to underground caves. After getting into the rings and floating down the river for 30 minutes, we came through the entrance of the caves. To get inside the cave, we all had to dunk our heads underwater, which is very hard when you are sat in a giant rubber ring. The caves were pitch black. All we had to guide us through the cave was a thin piece of string that everyone was holding onto, and the sound of peoples voices ahead. I am not afraid of the dark but being in these caves was a little eerie. As we got deeper into the caves, we could see gold glittery walls and engravings in the rocks that had supposedly been there for hundreds of years. This is a lot of fun when you are with a big group of people, and the more people you have, the bigger the discount. I believe we paid £7 each. The whole activity took about 3 hours. We spent an hour in the caves, but getting to and from the caves was a whole lot of fun as well.
Kuang Si Waterfalls
These waterfalls are famous all over the world, so of course, we had to go and see them. To get to the falls, we walked through a town which was filled with market stalls and restaurants selling cold fruit slushes. At the top of the town was a gate that was the beginning of the walk to the falls. After walking for a few minutes you came to another entrance which leads to the falls, but as you go through you are greeted by a bear sanctuary. In this sanctuary, the people care for native bears, otherwise known as Moon Bears. I stayed and observed these beautiful animals for a while before making my way to the falls. It took us about 10 minutes to get to the water, but when I finally got my first glimpse, I was blown away. The water is such a crystal clear blue, and it has a lot of different levels that the water runs off, which makes it really unique. We went to the falls in the morning which I strongly recommend because, by lunchtime, hundreds of people had arrived. The water was cold but a welcome escape from the heat. It is also covered by the trees. We stayed and played in the running water for 6 hours, and it still wasn’t enough time.
Cruise along the Mekong to a homestay
We booked a cruise on a ‘houseboat’ along the Mekong River that would take us back to Thailand. The ride back takes 2 full days, so in between, we planned to stay in a village overnight to break the journey. The ‘houseboat’ had a little kitchen and lots of seating and benches that we could have a very uncomfortable snooze on. Most of the time spent on the boat was playing card games and taking pictures out of the windows of the lovely scenery.
We stopped off at the village at 4pm, and all clambered out, up the muddy bank and into the village, which was very basic. We were shown where we would be staying, which was in a large concrete building at the bottom of the town. Inside 12 beds had been made up on the floor. They had hung mosquito nets up to protect us, and we all had a thin blanket to lie on and another slightly thicker sheet to cover ourselves. Four of us went for a walk around the small village. The houses were all on stilts and made out of wooden planks. Animals were roaming around freely, and small children were wearing beige ‘pillowcase’ dresses were running around playing tag. My friend had brought a colouring book and pens on her travels and took a moment to show it to the kids. About 10 kids crowded around this book and started colouring in. I have never seen a child’s face light up as much as those children’s did. She left the book and the colouring pencils with the children, and couldn’t believe that such a simple thing that she had taken for granted could be loved so much. It started to rain after dinner, so we all made our way onto the porch or to our concrete room to shelter from the rain. One of the guys could play the guitar, so we all spent the whole evening sat around the campfire singing various songs. It was a magical night, and it was amazing to see how the other half live, so to speak.
We left the village the next morning and spent another day on the houseboat until we reached Thailand.
Things to know
Around 7,000,000 people reside in Laos.
Lao Kip – £1 is about 11,000, Kip
A lot of the meals are based around sticky rice as it is an inexpensive ingredient. I love sticky rice so don’t be shy, try it.
Laos is home to some of the best coffee in South East Asia
67 per cent of the country is Buddhist
Laos translates to ‘Land of a Million Elephants’
Hopefully, this has given you some ideas of what to do in Laos, and if you are still undecided about whether to visit this beautiful country or not, do so!