Laos is such a beautiful country with warm, friendly people all around. And cheap! I think my diet in Laos consisted of three things: baguette sandwiches, chocolate/peanut butter/banana pancakes and Beer Lao. Healthy, right?! We were only able to spend seven nights in Laos, so our time was limited to Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. I thoroughly enjoyed our time in the vastly different cities.
(The ‘VIP’ bus station & our ‘VIP’ bus from Vientiane to Vang Vieng)
Official name – Lao People’s Democratic Republic
National Animal – Elephant
Beer Lao is a symbol of national pride. In 1990, Beer Lao was remodeled in the style of Czech Pilsner. They also replace expensive imported barley with local rice, making the brand accessible to all sections of Lao society. Drinking directly from the bottle however, is considered impolite.
In Laos, the Mekong River is known as “Mae nam Khong”, meaning the mother of all rivers.
Sabaidee – Hello
Kop Jai – Thank you
Tam Chok – Cheers!
1. Luang Prabang – Luang Prabang is wonderful and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are waterfalls, monks, elephants, baguette sandwiches, local swimming pools, temples, all in a town with a French Colonial feel. Go visit Luang Prabang, rent a bike for $2 and explore the city. Bike over the old Communist era bridge. Cool off at the local pool and splash around with the Lao kids. Stop by Joma Bakery and have some of the most delicious cakes (I treated myself daily). Get lots and lots of baguettes at the night market. Volunteer. Rent a tuk tuk for the day and visit two waterfalls. Ride an elephant, but beware that the cheeky rascal may throw you in the water (many, many times). Hike to the top of Phu Si Hill to watch the sunset, but don’t get too ready beforehand. After climbing a couple hundred stairs, it’s safe to say, you’ll have gotten quite the workout, but the sunset view over the Mekong is worth it. Lastly, wake up to watch the Monks receive the morning alms.
(Vat Xieng Thong)
(Biking over the old Communist-era bridge)
(Mount Phu Si – Sunset over the Mekong)
(Numerous Joma Bakery treats)
(Tad Sae Waterfall Elephant ride & bathing)
(Kuang Si Falls, rope swing & fun with bears)
(with our Tuk Tuk driver for our day at the falls)
2. Vang Vieng Tubing – we went tubing prohibition style in Vang Vieng. Despite being mostly closed down, it was still a highlight. Even without the famed craziness of tubing, drinking a Beer Lao while floating down the Nam Song River in a tube still equals a heck of a lot of fun! Plus, you can treat yourself daily to a chocolate, peanut butter and banana pancake. And watch hours and hours of Friends. If those last two things don’t justify a stop in Vang Vieng, I’m not sure what does.
3. Big Brother Mouse – on our first morning in Luang Prabang we decided to go volunteer for a few hours at a local Lao organization, Big Brother Mouse. Big Brother Mouse is a Lao-based, Lao-owned project designed to publish and distribute books and promote literacy. It was such a wonderful and rewarding experience. I had so much fun reading, talking and practicing English with Nut (my Novice Monk) and Paul. They were the cutest! I’ll let it slide that Nut’s favorite musical artist was Justin Bieber. If you are in Luang Prabang, definitely spend a few hours (or more) in Big Brother Mouse. Volunteering is such a great feeling overall. Paul and I still email back and forth so we can work on his English. It makes my day when I get his emails!
4. Cooking Class – my Laos cooking class was a definite highlight. It included a trip to the morning market, cooking tons of delicious, delicious food and was capped off with a lovely lunch. Plus, Chef Somroj is so sweet and a great teacher!
5. Baguette Sandwiches – a delicious, fresh, French baguette with cheese, avocado, cucumber, tomato, lettuce and either chicken or egg (depending if it was lunch or breakfast), soooo tasty. All that for a $1-1.50. Pretty freaking spectacular! We went daily and sometimes twice daily.