Laos is a small landlocked country bordered by Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, and Burma. Last year I spent a couple of weeks in the northern city of Luang Prabang. This was my second visit to Laos.

Luang Prabang is a lovely French colonial town at the confluence of two rivers (one being the Mekong). It is the sleepiest, most relaxing Asian city I have encountered so far. And the surrounding villages are even sleepier.

River view in Muang Noi

River view in the village of Muang Noi

Here are 10 things I learned in Laos:

  1. You eat sticky rice with your fingers, not with a fork.
  2. A mini-van, bus, or boat will not depart until full.
  3. If a mini-van, bus, or boat is full, it will get fuller.
  4. If you ask for a watermelon juice, you may get a watermelon shake. And if you ask for a melon shake, you may get a mixed fruit shake. But they’re all good!
  5. “Kobjai” means “thank you” in the Lao language.
  6. Ant eggs, butterfly pupae, stink bugs, and wasp larvae are delicious snacks (if you’re Lao!)
  7. You should take motion sickness medication before embarking on any extended road travel.
  8. Life happens close to the ground. Tables and chairs are for tourists.
  9. Every occasion is good for a shot of Lao Lao (the local liquor).
  10. Pipes are not always necessary.

Muang Noi guesthouse

Weird plumbing in Muang Noi guesthouse

Have I made you curious about Laos?

Laos is not the easiest country to access or travel around. It would fit better as part of an extended trip to Southeast Asia, or perhaps as an addition when visiting Thailand, Cambodia, or Vietnam.

The culture, traditional dance, and language offer some similarities with their Thai counterpart. The people are polite and reserved, and speak very little English. The lifestyle is laid back, which also equates to slow service (at least by western standards). The interior of the country is mountainous and forested, meaning narrow and curvy roads.

Lao people practice Buddhism and you can see many beautiful wats (temples) especially in Luang Prabang. You can find nice food and comfortable accommodation in all the places visited by foreigners, including Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Vang Vieng.

 Who should visit Laos

Most easy-going travellers with a sense of adventure (and a sense of humour) will feel comfortable in Laos. Due to the language barrier, this country would be best suited to people who already have some experience travelling in Southeast Asia, or who have been to developing countries before.

Laos will appeal to travellers interested in Buddhism, ethnic tribes, and village life. It also offers forest hiking, waterfalls, cave exploration, and river travel for the more adventurous.

Best time to visit

November to February is the dry season, with cooler temperatures.

Still want more? Read my article Luang Prabang, laid-back and hassle-free to learn why I love this city so much (and to see lots of nice photos).

 

Have you been to Laos? And if not, what else would you like to know about travelling there?

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