If you want a taste of authentic Southeast Asia, Laos is an exciting, off-the-beaten-path destination just waiting to be explored. The start of many traveler’s journey to Laos begins on a boat, cruising down the Mekong and docking in Luang Prabang. Laos is at the top of my list for favourite destinations. Here’s why:
1. Unforgettable food
Though many of the restaurants in Luang Prabang offer a huge range of decently priced options from Western to Thai, French to Laotian, there is one little alley near the night market that can’t be beaten for price. For 10,000 kip ($1.30) you can choose from a plethora of vegetarian dishes to load up your plate with as much noodles, veggies and fried spring rolls as possible.
2. Buddhism lifestyle
Buddhism has been the primary religion in Laos for thousands of years and a series of magnificent Wats (the Lao word for temple) have been constructed as a testament to this. Buddhism is all about giving. People will gather early in the morning in order to give to the monks, even if they hardly have anything of their own. This generous act of giving is playing into the strong beliefs of karma seen throughout Southeast Asia. By giving, it is believed you will lead a more fortunate and blessed life.
I really enjoyed the spirituality that encompasses Southeast Asia, especially in Laos. There is even an 11 pm curfew that is strictly enforced to keep noise levels down. It is such a different and refreshing thing to experience and witness daily, compared to North America. Buddhism has always fascinated me. Traveling in Buddhism practicing countries was therefore amazing for me.
3. Lovely people
Now enjoying a period of relative prosperity, Laotians warmly welcome visitors and are happy to share their culture and traditions with you. Walking along the streets and everywhere I turned were friendly locals smiling at me, warmly gesturing to their stall of clothing or food. “Sabaidee!“
4. Untouched wilderness
Journeying through the mountains from town to town, tall and jagged cliffs lined the outskirts of the villages in the backdrop. Through the warm haze the mountains appeared an inky navy blue. The wild and rugged scenery of Laos is simply gorgeous and inspiring. The riverside town of Vang Vieng is frequently noted as an ideal place to explore rural Laos and tube tamely down the river.
5. Ethical elephant experiences
Laos is one of the best places in Southeast Asia to visit elephants. It is absolutely worth paying a bit more for an ethical company, and I witnessed Elephant Village to be just that. I am very happy to report that I witnessed nothing but genuine care for the elephants from the handlers. The elephants also really looked to be in healthy condition – appearing to have no cuts or scrapes, which I was so relieved to discover since I have read countless horrifying blog posts about visiting unethical elephant rescue centres. At Elephant Village the elephants are treated with care and the funds go back into the local community as well as towards the continued care for the elephants.
6. Spiritual caves
The Pak Ou Caves, located just north of Luang Prabang, are perhaps the most famous in the country and one of the top sights of Laos. Carved out of limestone, the caves are adorned with hundreds of Buddha sculptures in various poses and sizes. Much of the cave is visible from the Mekong River and can be accessed through a series of carved limestone steps. Wandering through these caves felt very spiritual as the incense smoke encircled me from head to toe.
7. Mekong river sunsets
In addition to the Mighty Mekong, the Nam Song River is a smaller waterway that cuts through the countryside. Whether the Mekong or Nam Song, the stunning sunset views always left me speechless with the sun gently sinking like a deflating balloon between the green, lush mountains.
I hope my reasons to love Laos make you interested in this beautiful, humble and unassuming country. Can you see yourself ever paying a visit?