Laos in Three Weeks

by AmyBroad

After just recovering from a few days with mild food poisoning and the craziness of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, I’ve realised it’s about bloody time that I update you on our travels! We are nearly at our last destination in Cambodia and I haven’t even filled you in on Laos! We hadn’t really researched much into the country as before we left we focused mainly on Thailand, and then once we had started travelling we didn’t really think to look into the next country, just the very next destination. Luckily the travellers we shared our treehouse with at the Gibbon Experience had either just been through Laos or had just entered it so we could bounce off travel ideas with them. After returning back to the border town in Laos from the trip, we booked to take the slow boat down the Mekong River which would eventually take us to Luang Prabang. The next day we woke up and headed down to the pier and met our friends from the Gibbon Experience that would be taking the same boat. We weren’t expecting much in the way of comfort, but there were two rows of not that comfortable car seats that weren’t screwed to the ground. So somehow by the end of the first day on the boat we ended up with not much leg room at all and some numb bums! The boat stopped after that first day in Pakbeng, a small town where as soon as the boat rode up to the pier there was a mob of locals with laminated signs to advertise their guesthouses. We always pre-book our accommodation before we go to a new town as I can’t be dealing with lugging around a massive back pack in the heat after a long day of travel trying to find somewhere to stay. But this time we didn’t as everyone on the boat would be in the same situation and it worked out great, we had our cheapest night yet and the room wasn’t too bad. The next day we headed back onto the boat, took in the beautiful views around us and made it to Luang Prabang!


We had initially booked three nights in Luang Prabang, but extended it to four as we were enjoying the French feel of the city and as we hadn’t had many destinations planned for Laos thought we might as well! We ventured out one day and explored a waterfall, had a quick dip but the water was so cold! I enjoyed wandering round the night market in the evenings, and they had a good selection of food. I think one night I just had a massive chocolate crepe for dinner!


We had booked to travel by minibus to Vang Vieng, but as the bus was driving around picking people up from their hostels it was obvious that it was overbooked. We found in Laos that it didn’t really matter if all the seats are taken, they just squeeze you in wherever possible, even for a 5 hour journey! Eventually all our bags got rearranged and shoved in so we could all fit, and embarked on the terribly fast and potholey journey! We had heard that Vang Vieng was the party town, and we didn’t realise that we had booked probably the party hostel of the town. But it didn’t bother us too much and the music was always turned off at 11pm, I sound so old! I suffered my first injury whilst travelling here, we were just walking down the road after breakfast. I had my phone in one hand and a drink in the other, I was trying to walk around a hole in the pavement and slipped in my flip flops and hit the floor with a massive whack onto my elbow and leg, my drink spilt everywhere! I was proud of myself for not crying, that was until I had to wash off the dirt in the shower and it stung like crazy! Not fun at the time, but at least I could pick the scabs once they’d healed. Vang Vieng has been by far the most beautiful place on our travels, the town is surrounded by these mountains that look like they’ve come out of Jurassic Park.


Our next destination was Vientiane, the capital of Laos. We had decided to go even though we had heard that people miss it out as there isn’t much to do, and they were right! I am glad we went anyway as the night market was really good and the river was pretty. But unfortunately Jack got food poisoning, so we had a day spent in our room. We weren’t really sure where to go next as we wanted to cross over to Cambodia by land, but the places we had been so far were all nearer Northern Laos and we had to go South. So we booked to go to 4000 Islands in Southern Laos by sleeper bus. I actually didn’t at all mind the bus journey, it was about the size of a single bed that two people had to sleep in, but luckily Jack and I could just snuggle up. Not sure how great it would be if you were that close to a stranger for twelve hours! We arrived in a town called Pakse and all of us going to 4000 Islands thought there would be another bus of some sort to pick us up for the next three hour leg of the journey that would take us to the boat to the island. After waiting for about an hour having no idea what was going on, a tiny tuk tuk arrived. I think about eleven of us were then told to squeeze in, with all of our luggage, we were being taken to the bus station. We thought great, we will get the bus from there! Of course not, we were just taken to a bigger tuk tuk that was already full of locals and told to get in. I wouldn’t have minded if the journey was short but it was three hours! We squeezed in and were waiting for the tuk tuk to leave, and more locals kept turning up to get on the bus as well. The driver just kept loading more and more people on, we couldn’t move our legs an inch, there was 34 of us in the end! It was definitely an experience, especially when the tuk tuk stopped at a town and loads of locals came running up to sell us snacks. The locals were buying all sorts of things, even insects, to eat as snacks!


We finally made it to Don Det, one of the 4000 Islands and managed to find some lovely gravy and mash on our first night! The next day Jack managed to persuade me to rent bicycles again! But there weren’t any cars on the island so it was easy enough, even though we had a hard time trying to get someone to want to lower the seat for me. We visited yet another stunning waterfall, too dangerous to swim this time! While there weren’t many activities to do, it was more of a relaxing island where people spent their days chilling in hammocks and then watching the sunset. We only spent just under three weeks in Laos, but I think it was more than enough for us, there wasn’t any place that really stood out as somewhere we loved. Although Vang Vieng had the beautiful scenery we didn’t really enjoy the town itself. We are currently in Cambodia on a beautiful island enjoying relaxing beach days, we felt like we were so in need of it!


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Lesley 28th November 2018 - 9:59 am

The experiences on the local transport sound horrendous, after really wanting to visit Laos, I probably will give this a miss now, Cambodia looks amazing x

Sybil 8th March 2019 - 3:43 am

Hi there! Such a nice short article, thanks!