How Laos Won My Heart in 2016
How Laos Won My Heart in 2016
In the year of 2016, Laos was my all-time favorite place visited. Without question, my heart was stolen by this wonderful little country sandwiched between China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The reasons are endless, but Laos won my affection and captured my love. It’s one of the places that we’re both dying to spend more time in, and hoping to make it back as soon as we possibly can. Located in Southeast Asia, it sometimes gets passed by for being landlocked, but it is definitely worth a visit! Laos only opened their doors to tourism recently, which made the culture and people some of the most genuine we’ve encountered.
I could spend hours just wandering the streets of Luang Prabang in Laos…and I did just that while I was there! Once the capital of the Laos kingdom, it fell under French control for the 19th and 20th centuries. Luang Prabang is the perfect mix of traditional Laos architecture and culture, mixed with French influence. The cobblestone streets and French colonial building facades lead into jungle monasteries and countless Wats. Hike up Mount Phou si to find two beautiful Wats overlooking the city.
Sabadee shoppers! If you want to shop until you drop, here is your place. Friendly local artisans gather here at this low-key marketplace to sell their items. Some are touristy souvenirs, but some are handcrafted beautiful pieces of art. Half the fun of the market is everyone calling out to you, but it has a much less commercialized feel to it than other night markets.
The perfect sandwich is hard to beat, and until Laos I had not had a good sandwich while traveling. And this wasn’t for lack of trying! Right in the main square of Luang Prabang each day, there are many different crepe, smoothie, and sandwich stands that pop up. If you are craving a sandwich while on the road, definitely try these out. The oreo-banana smoothie is a must try too!
Spend the whole day here if you can because you won’t be able to get enough. This was one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. The turquoise blue waters will steal your breath away, and the cascade at the top is amazing. Definitely bring a towel and swimsuit, as swimming is permitted. Check out this post for more details.
Not the easiest destination to get to, but one of the most peaceful. We made the 4-hour very bumpy bus ride to Nong Khiaw in hopes of limestone karsts and I would say we found them! Looking like the jaw of a giant stone animal, the karsts tower over the sleepy river below. They truly create a magnificent scene. We stayed on the river with the karsts jutting into the air around us. The sunset was magical. Hike up a karst at the entrance that originates off the main road. Don’t step off the path though as this was an area of heavy bombing throughout the Vietnam War.
Most likely due to the fact that Lao only recently opened its borders to tourism, the people here are some of the friendliest and most authentic that you will meet. Nong Khaiw especially had wonderful people that were full of smiles. Head over to the Karaoke restaurant (that may or may not have karaoke) for a meal from a great local man. He’s the one man show that does it all. As many places in Southeast Asia that we encountered, the restaurant is attached to his home and he cooks, takes your order, makes your drinks, and lounges watching TV all in the same place. Time moves slower in Laos, and we waited a decent amount for our food. It was delicious and traditional when it did come though, so it was all made worth it.
Hold onto your hats folks, because this is some strong stuff! This is a locally made rice whiskey that is generally made by different villages for a form of revenue. It’s dirt cheap, and you can mix it with almost anything. Lemonade is my favorite, as the heat in Laos means you’ll always be looking for something refreshing.