Looking for a winter destination that’s sunny and warm? Laos is easy to arrange. Do it on your own with help from Lonely Planet, Tourism Laos or one of the many other websites. Prefer group travel? Check out Adventure Center (on the side bar who booked our “Spirit of Laos” tour), Intrepid Travel (bookable through Adventure Center), iExplore, GAP Adventures to name a few.
Laos has wonderful food (think french baquettes), gorgeous hotels ranging from extreme luxury (luxury is still comparatively “cheap”) to rock bottom, and friendly, helpful people. Mountainous Luang Namtha in the North shares its borders with Myanmar and China and is home to large numbers of minorities. There are a minimum of historical sights, the mighty Mekong River, parts of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, places to veg out, and is downright cheap to visit. Read through past posts on TWS detailing the entire “Spirit of Laos” Adventure Center trip, one of the best ever…
What to see and do?
- Luang Prabang, everyone’s favorite place in Laos. Luang Prabang was once a sleepy little town but not now. It is now Laos’ main tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Boutique hotels, backpacker places to stay and you can still have lunch for $1.50 U.S. That’s for two people including tax and tip. An easy walking city. Rent a bicycle, visit the Royal Palace Museum, riverboat over to the Pak Ou (Buddha) Caves, visit a few of the 32 famous Wats (Temples), wander up and down streets at leisure, and haggle over local goods at the vibrant and fun Night Market;
- Plain of Jars in Phonsovan/Xing Khouang. There are three main sites filled with huge jars of unknown origin scattered around. Each jar weighs as much as six tons and was fashioned from solid stones. Questions as to how they were carried, what purpose they served, etc., have never been answered;
- Take one of the comfortable “slow” boats down the Nam Ou River to Luang Prabang… View image… A chance to watch the people and constantly changing scenery;
- Day walking/trekking around Luang Namtha. Luang Namtha has a UNESCO controlled Biodiversity and Conservation area. Easy walking to and through three separate minority villages on the rice terraces. A chance to learn, mingle with the Hmong and Thai Daeng people, explore their lifestyle, taste moonshine, buy handwoven scarves…;
- Vientiane, capital of Laos, has the incredible Wat Sisaket with over 6,000 Buddha images, terrific restaurants and is another wonderful little city that was downright enjoyable;
- Muang Khong, the largest island in this area known as the “Four Thousand Islands”, almost on the Cambodian border. This is the area to completely relax and with clean rooms at an average price of $2.00 U.S./night, you may just stay forever. Explore some of the islands by rented bicycle and possibly see the Irawaddy dolphins; and
- Have a Lao Massage. Everyone in the group became a massage junkie when we discovered an average price was around $3.20 U.S. for an hour-long massage. It only took a few days before all were debating the merits of this place vs. another place, but the best was at the Red Cross in Vientiane and proceeds benefited the Red Cross. A major highlight in Laos.
- Need a Visa. Got ours at the Thailand/Laos crossing. From what I understand, you can obtain Visas on Arrival at any Laos entry point or get in advance at one of the Laos Embassies;
- No ATM’s. Bring cash for Visas, etc.;
- No major problems with food or water as long as you use common sense. Drink bottled water, don’t eat raw foods, “cook, peel or forget it…yadda…yadda” (I don’t always follow my own advice), However, the food in Laos was generally excellent; but watch out for…
- Many UXO’s (Unexploded Ordnance, primarily cluster bombs) still buried in the Ponsovan (Plain of Jars) area leftover from the Viet Nam war. If your guide says, “Stay on the path or trail,” Stay on the path! …
Now…wasn’t that easy?