Laos is a weird one for me. On the one side there’s this awe inspiring untouched beauty surrounding you, and on the other hand it seems everyone is trying to rip you off or sell you drugs.
That’s a broad statement and it’s unfair of me to say that. The locals are actually really nice and to watch them interact is humbling. It’s the few that have come out of themselves to be pushy and annoying that give the rest a bad name as most of the time, they’re the ones you’ll experience the most because they go out of their way to get something out of you.
This mainly takes place on the street though (or by government officials) — the small business owners, like guesthouse, cafés, street food vendors — all beautifully helpful with no other motives that to hope you have a good time in their country.
We ended up staying in Luang Prabang for 8 days before choosing the 1 hour flight to Hanoi I’m Vietnam. The other transport option was the 24-30 hour bus journey but after the slow boat I think we learned our lesson.
Walking about was nice and my favourite part was (as usual) the food. The street buffets were filling and the various bakeries were a well missed treat. Lao coffee is also very very nice.
Actually, my most favourite part was visiting Elephant Village Sanctuary where Charlotte and I had a day of Mahout training where we learned to ride and bathe the elephants.
The worst part (aside from being seen as a walking dollar sign) was that the internet in Laos is just abysmal. I don’t usually mind as exploring is far more enlightening — but unfortunately Charlotte was a bit poorly for a few days and it would have been nice to watch some shows or something while she got better. Also it made blogging a bit trickier as far as uploading photos was concerned.
We decided not to see any more of Laos for a few reasons but the main two were because we had a finite number of days (limited malaria tablets) and Vietnam was just too appealing so we decided to spend more time there than in a place that we were still undecided if we liked or not.
Would I recommend Laos? Definitely. It’s one of, if not the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. As it’s still widely undeveloped you get a sense of what life was like before technology and industry (protip: it’s all about family and food). The only downside is you have to be a bit more aware of how much you should be spending and to just ignore the fast talking tricksters. It was the only place where I’ve seen a local get visibly aggressive at being politely declined.
Another thing to note is that it’s a good place to get a Visa for Vietnam. There’s the Vietnamese Consulate which if you turn up (2pm seemed the quietest) you can just apply, pay and wait for it to be done with a choice of wait times ranging from the same day to 3 days depending how much you want to pay.
Buying plane tickets from the local tour shops is really easy and they charge the same as the website direct so save the hassle and pop in if you’re planning to fly out of Luang Prabang. The airport is small and quiet, the planes are powered by propellers, you get a snack included an it only takes about an hour to get to Hanoi (Lao Airlines). It’s a nice experience.