After volunteering in Thailand, I decided to extend my time in South East Asia by visiting a few other Asian countries, one of them being Laos. There are a lot of great cities to visit in Laos and a lot of fun and worthwhile things to do. Here is a list of some of my favorite experiences while touring Laos.
Boating Down the Mekong River
This is actually how I arrived in Laos from Chiang Khong, Thailand. Not only will you enjoy beautiful scenery in the open air, the boat ride is so relaxing! I think I took about 20 naps as we slowly floated down the river. Such a peaceful and carefree experience, just like the country itself. You can easily book a boat trip yourself at the piers in Huay Xai and Pakbeng. Many guesthouses also offer packages which can be convenient but a bit more pricey.
Tubing in Vang Vieng
I’m just going to let you know now that while this photo shows you the area that you will be tubing in (as well as a guy demonstrating how you get down from the bars), it does not accurately depict the drunken crazy chaos that ensues (there weren’t too many photo choices in Flickr, and I did not want to risk my camera getting wet). Tubing is insanity…and so much fun. The river is littered with different bars and you float to each one. Once there, you climb up to the bar, chug some drinks, then either zip-line or just back down into the tube. Mud wrestling and drunken volleyball are also part of the fun. And don’t even think about getting your deposit back on the tube, it’s not going to happen, as you’ll be having way too much fun to keep track of the time.
Pak Ou Caves in Luang Prabang
The Pak Ou Caves are located in a mountain face overlooking the Mekong River (where it meets the Ou River). There are hundreds of Buddha statues in there, all different shapes, sizes, and positions. To visit yourself, you can either hire a guide or arrange for a local at the docks in Luang Prabang to take you. The entrance fee will be $1 for the caves and about $10 for the boat ride.
Hike Around the Kuang Si Waterfall
The Kuang Si Waterfall area is absolutely breathtaking. The waterfall itself is crystal clear and empties into a lake that looks like bath water. Millions of tiny fish swim around your legs and there is a rope swing tied to a tree for you to swing like Tarzan into the water. Hike around the entire area, as there are many scenic trails with other waterfalls, bridges, and lush forest to explore.
Take Part in Alms Giving
This is a great cultural experience that can really open your eyes to the way other people live. At dawn, locals gather near the temples to “give alms”, or give food to the monks to eat for the day. It is the only meal they get for the day, as they are not allowed to hoard food or cook for themselves. If you’re traveling and don’t have food to give, don’t worry, there will be plenty of locals selling bananas and rice balls that you can purchase and give to the monks.
Shop at the Night Market in Luang Prabang
This market is huge and features locally made handicrafts, textiles, jewelry, clothing, lanterns, quilts, housewares, statues, and more. Even if you don’t want to purchase anything, just strolling through the market at night when it’s all lit up is very enjoyable. Just make sure to bring your hotel’s business card with you to show to a tuk tuk or taxi driver, as you don’t want to be walking back to your hotel in the dark.
Get a Traditional Massage
Massages in Laos are very cheap, and while not as relaxing as what you’re probably used to, are definitely interesting and will work your muscles. Many times you will be given comfortable clothes to wear (think loose pants and a baggy men’s button down) and will lay down on a mat or bed. Often you will be sharing a room with others, but I was usually still separated by sheets. The experience reminded me a lot of a wrestling match, as the massage is quite interactive and involves a lot of bending your legs over your head and beating you up.
Do Some Learning at the Royal Palace Museum in Luang Prabang
The Royal Palace itself was built in the early 1900’s until the royal family was overthrown by communists in 1975. It was then converted into a museum, and today visitors can enjoy lotus ponds, art, Buddhas, the Crown Jewels of Laos, and the various rooms of the old palace as well as the well-preserved decor and furnishings.