I feel like Laos is one of the less well-known countries in South East Asia, often overlooked in favour of its neighbours, such as Thailand and Vietnam, but I was glad that I made time to visit in while I was in that area. It’s a country with a fascinating history, having been colonised by the French for a long time, and is now an openly Communist country. It was also caught in the cross-fire during the Vietnam War, so there are still huge areas with unexploded ordnances around the country. It’s a largely Buddhist country, and its language (Lao) bears some similarities to Thai, so you could definitely see comparisons between Laos and Thailand. Unfortunately, during my week there, we started with a cruise along the Mekong River, but then there were terrible storms and flooding, meaning that we had to stay longer in Luang Prabang and skip Vang Vieng, going straight to Vientiane instead. This was disappointing, and my trip only covered a small portion of the whole of Laos, but it was still a good introduction to the country.
The water might be muddy brown, but the shores of the Mekong have some beautiful scenery, and there’s many interesting places to explore, from sleepy villages to caves of hidden treasures.
The streets of Luang Prabang are full of things to see, including dozens of temples and monasteries, as well as cute cafes and market places, and all sorts of unique local produce.
There’s more to see around Luang Prabang too – the iconic Kuang Si waterfall is still impressive, albeit less picturesque, after the rainfall, and the views from atop Mount Phousi are always spectacular.
As the nation’s capital, Vientiane is important for many reasons, and it feels a bit more cosmopolitan than the more rural areas I’d already seen, with busy streets crammed full of tuk tuks, and lots of notable monuments and buildings.
The Buddha Park is an iconic location, key to any visit to Laos, and you could spend hours poring over all the intricacies of the dozens of sculptures there.