Laos, rich in many ways

31 Mar

South East Asia’s poorest nation economically is perhaps its richest in charm. Sprinkled with mountains and topped with endearing villages of wooden houses, Laos’ landscape is as stunning as it is difficult to travel across.

A small town en route from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang.

Dirt roads that wind around and around hilltops cause endless bus trips but panoramic vistas of jungles and riverbanks make hours in transit worth every minute of patience. The country reportedly earns around half its annual revenue through tourism, though, so while transport can be grueling, the country makes up in ample travel services including professional tour operators and competitive guest houses which are flexible to the needs of spontaneous backpackers.

You don’t need to plan an escape to Laos. Just apply for a visa upon arrival (at the time of publishing) and then succumb to the treats the nation offers as you move about, remaining open to the idea of lingering in townships which earn a special place in your heart.

Highlights

1. The Gibbon Experience is an ecotourism adventure for thrill seekers. Developed to raise funds for the protection of threatened Gibbon monkeys in Bokeo Nature Reserve in northern Laos, The Gibbon Experience offers an exciting combination of tree houses, trekking and zip-lines over 150 metres high!

Luang Prabang is one of the most beautiful places in Laos.

2. Teeming with temples, monks, and surrounded by rice paddies and Hmong villages, Luang Prabang is nirvana for travellers seeking natural beauty and local encounters. Go trekking to small villages, swimming at waterfalls, learn to become an elephant mahout or hire a motorbike and explore the wonders of the many mountains around.

3. There’s one destination in Laos which individuals either rate top priority or avoid like the plague. Vang Vieng is the home of “tubing”. Rent a rubber ring from the centre of town and float along the local river, stopping for cheap drinks at riverside bars. Beware of rope swings and people drinking “mushy” shakes.

Considered the most important sight in Laos: Wat Pha That Luang at Vientiane.

4. Vientiane has long been branded “one of the most boring capital cities in the world” but it offers the weary traveller a peaceful break with quiet streets and quaint restaurants. A modern boulevard is currently being constructed along the Mekong River and is set to be a beautiful and entertaining strip.

By Marissa Toohey

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