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Laos: Southeast Asia's Forgotten Country

Updated: Feb 21

Photo By: Sonia Azad

Laos has captured my curiosity for years. Like a magnet, it drew me in -- closer and closer, without specific reason. Finally, I had a chance to visit and am delighted to share my experiences and offer some advice for anyone thinking of venturing to Southeast Asia's forgotten country.

1. Vientiane is the Capital city. Use it as a stopover rather than a destination. Buddha Park, which is about 25 minutes outside the city, is the coolest stop if you have time. For a full list of the 6 most interesting places to see in Vientiane in a short amount of time, see the Vientiane blog.

2. Take the Fast Train between cities! The train is clean, efficient, modern and cheap! A lot of backpackers and travelers who either want to save money or take the scenic route debate whether they should take a bus or train. I heard so many horror stories from other travelers about buses breaking down, a lack of circulating air, delays, not to mention bumpy roads. For Americans and those wanting to float effortlessly from town to town, my experiences on the trains were fantastic! Pro Tip: Have your hotel book it for you, otherwise you might miss your chance as trains can fill up quickly. You pay a few dollars more for their help, but I found it easier to have the locals coordinate and negotiate my way onto trains on my behalf.

3. Vang Vieng is worth the stop! I wouldn't have been able to point out this town on a map before arriving. I wasn’t even planning to stop here until other travelers who I met in Vietnam told me how wonderful it was. This is a place for nature-lovers, adventure-seekers, hippies, backpackers and for those who don't mind getting a bit dirty and off-grid. Think of it as old-school Tulum or Sayulita before their rise in popularity. Known for its underground party scene, Vang Vieng does attract a lot of young hostel-hopping, drug-induced crowds. But, there is so much more... To read about my peaceful yoga classes, zen time by a lovely pool, a challenging hike with rewarding views, and comfortable stay, check out my full Vang Vieng blog.

4. Luang Prabang is an absolute gem! Stay for at least 4 nights. This may sound like a long time, but trust me-- you can easily land here for a week! My experiences combined: relaxation, adventure, spiritual sightseeing and excursions to villages outside of the main town. 

5. Volunteer at Big Brother Mouse in Luang Prabang. English speakers are welcomed! You can send financial donations and give away English language books-- especially books for children. Still, there is nothing like the contribution of time. While it may seem odd for some to volunteer on a 'vacation,' -- you'll come away feeling a closer connection to the people of Laos-- and their unique challenges. I returned to America with a new level of compassion for others and gratitude for the blessings in my life. To read more about the organization, see my Luang Prabang blog.

Questions? Comment below and I'll be happy to answer in more detail! 

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