Laos might not be top of your list when planning a trip to South-East Asia, but skipping it in favour of some of its better known neighbours would be a big mistake. I didn’t know much about Laos before I arrived – apart from its reputation as a place for backpackers to go tubing, more on that later – but I quickly grew very fond of the place and the people. One thing is for sure, there is a lot more to Laos than tubing!
My favourite thing by far is the landscape with its endless mountains and lush green jungle. It’s hard to put into words how beautiful this country is. I travelled from place to place by bus and I loved looking out the window on the long journeys and just taking in the incredible views.
Laos definitely feels smaller and less touristy than other countries in South-East Asia. This might have something to do with it being landlocked and maybe most travellers prefer to go to places with beaches. There is a lot to see and do here whether that’s kayaking down the Nam Song river, visiting peaceful temples, swimming under a crystal-clear waterfall or browsing local markets.
One thing that surprised me about Laos was learning about its history in relation to the Vietnam War. Laos is the most bombed country in history, relative to its size. To this day, people are maimed or even killed by unexploded bombs left scattered over the countryside. It’s so sad that people are directly affected by a war that ended decades ago.
For better or worse, Laos has become famous for tubing, where people float down the river on an inflatable tube and stop at bars along the way. Obviously, drinking alcohol and then jumping in a river is potentially very dangerous and lots of backpackers have died while tubing. The Laos Government banned it in 2012, but since then it has continued in a (slightly) more controlled way.
If you’re looking for the best South-East Asia has to offer, without all the noise and over-development seen elsewhere, then you’ll find a lot to love about Laos. It’s a peaceful, beautiful and charming gem.
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