Laos...I actually have a friend from Laos back in the U.S. I never knew about the country until I met him...embarrassing for a travel fanatic such as myself. Then again, that was loooong ago (not an excuse, I know). Oh, oh, oh! Traveling with Wanderlust is now on Instagram, as of last night! Follow traveling_with_wanderlust for blog updates, new posts and beautiful pictures of the world!
Laos is an Asian country that is surrounded by Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia and Thailand (where I was supposed to be this week, insert crying face here). The official name is "Muang Lao" or "Pathet Lao", which translates to "Lao Country". The capital is Vientiane with the national language being Lao and a population of about 6,288,037 people...that's alotta people!
The currency is called 'Lao kips'. I was looking at prices and saw that entrance into several tourist destinations were 20,000 kips...my jaw dropped and I was like WHAT!? That sounds so much! Then I did a conversion to USD and 20,000 kips was about $2.87. Okay, that's nothing, just all those zeros set me off there for a moment. Imagine how much money you would have a tourist in one week there...hopefully there aren't any muggings or purse snatching.
Luang Prabang was the capital before Vientiane, it's a small city that is one of Laos' main tourist attractions. The journey between the capital and Luang Prabang reveals some hidden gems of it's own: the Kong Lor caves, rivers in pure nature and isolation and elephants in Shangri Lao. Once in Luang Prabang, some of the popular tourist spots are: Alms ceremony (the monks of the city collect alms of rice at 6:00 AM from kneeling villagers and tourists); Haw Kham (a royal palace turned museum); Phou SI (city's main hill with spectacular views); Mekong sunset walks; Vat Xieng Toung (the oldest monastery) and the Vipassana golden temple (all inclusive with a park!) Also, cooking classes for recipes to make Laos cuisine once you are back home are popular and the Night Market is a must go for tourists looking for a little something to remind them of their trip to Luang Prabang, Laos.
Outside Luang Prabang, the Tad Sae Waterfalls, Pak Ou Caves, Tad Thong Waterfalls and Nature Trails, Bear Rescue Centre and Kuang Si Falls are popular with tourists. If you spend the day outside the city, one can spend the evening at Laos Red Cross Massage, at one of the several libraries or you can continue to explore the city, not on foot but by a rented motorbike! To rest your head, accommodation is surprisingly cheap...now it's not your average four or five star place but some do offer free WiFi, free home-cooked meals and livable conditions for anywhere between $2-$20 USD per night. Booking my flight now!
Back to Vientiane...some of the most hyped tourist spots are: the Lao National Museum; Patuxai (the Victory Gate); COPE Visitor Center; The Art of Silk; Kaysone Phomvihane Museum; Lao People's Army History Museum and the Memorial of past president Souphanouvong. Popular temples and stupas include: Wat Si Saket; Hophakaew Museum; Black Stupa; Pha That Luang; Wat Si Muang; Wats Onteu; Inpeng; Mixay and Haisok.
Buddha Park is also one of the most famous destinations in Vientiane with incredible Buddha and Hindu statues. Now, if you aren't into the whole going places to see things type of vacation, some must to-do's in Vientiane include: a once a month Monk Chat, the Green Discovery Laos, kayaking, zip-lining, nature park explorations, picnics on the Nam Ngum Lake, Lao massages (YES, please!), kickboxing- Laos style, meditation (yes, as well!), tours on bikes and enjoying yourself at one of the two spas: Adina Spa or Champa Spa.
Calling all foodies out there, the food there is well known for it's taste (delicious!) and how relatively cheap it is. The average meal can run anywhere from 7,000 kip to 60,000+ kips. Accommodation is the same, for cheap, just somewhere to rest your head type of places, you can expect to pay around 25,000 kips a night and for some what more luxurious places, anywhere from 60,000 to 400,000+ kips. When you are enjoying your meal, whether it be at the place you are staying or one of the many restaurants, be aware of the water you are drinking there though, there is water called "water without fishes": meaning the fishes have literally been removed, but nothing else...
Now on to safety, it's always in the back of our minds, a midst all the excitement for seeing a new place and taking it all in. Vientiane is relatively safe, however tourists should keep an eye out for pimps (usually in taxi cabs), the gyms (if you have children, there is no watch staff there by the pools), swimming (picking up parasites can happen), dogs (some have rabies in this area), mosquito-borne diseases (no malaria but dengue is a threat in the rainy seasons especially) and again, the water is not the cleanest around (unless you buy a water bottle, of course).
There you have it! Laos- Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Are any of you wanderlusters headed there next? I sure wish I was...anything for a vacation...and to an Asia country, a continent I have yet to explore but will very soon!
For tomorrow's post, we will be exploring Argentina in South America! Travel on wanderlusters!