Nearly a decade ago Laos was one of the most under-rated countries in Southeast Asia.Its reputation as a jewel along the banana pancake trail was legendary. On my first backpacking trip around Southeast Asia, I heard of travellers raving about their experiences travelling in Laos. Although it wasn't on my itinerary at the time, I knew I had to firmly pencil it in. It instantly became one of my favourite destinations in all of Southeast Asia. These days, Laos no longer is a best kept secret; it's firmly entrenched as one of the top destinations in Southeast Asia and rightfully so. The following are some of the top cities/attractions worth visiting in Laos:
Luang Prabang is a place you don't come to 'just' visit. Seldom have I met a traveller who did not extend his/her stay in this charming northern cultural hub. With stunning well-preserved Colonial French architecture interspersed between Buddhist Temples, taking the time to stroll around the city limits or hop on a bicycle is an absolute must. Waking up at the crack of dawn may not be an ideal situation for most travellers; however, those who do set their alarm clock before 6 AM will be rewarded by partaking in an Alms-giving ceremony along Sakkaline Road. Robed monks wielding baskets collect alms of rice from kneeling villagers and/or tourists. Out of respect, it is advised one dress appropriately by covering up shoulders and knees. For the best views in town take the time to hike up Mount Phou Si. With Panoramic views you'll want to alternate between taking it in and firing off exposures with your camera.
4000 Thousand Islands (Si Phan Don)
If you're looking to get off the grid head to Southern Laos (a less explored part of the country) and set up shop in Si Phan Don for an extended period of time. A gorgeous collection of islands in tandem with a serpentine section of the Mekong awaits. Walking, biking and swimming are top attractions with opportunities to interact with locals and farm animals. Explore waterfalls and spot dolphins by day while taking it easy at night in an affordable guest house that is cheap even by South East Asia standards.
Vientiane holds the distinction of being the quietest capital city I've ever visited. When you consider neighbouring behemoths such as Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Hanoi and Saigon, it's quite remarkable. Vientiane is such a quaint charmer of a city that it feels more like a town. Some of the top attractions and landmarks includePatuxai (Victory Gate),Lao National Museum and Wat Si Saket. When you've finished exploring the city on foot take the time to just relax along the Mekong riverside with a Beerlao in your hand.
My top tip for travel in Laos is to take it slow and to see it all. Many travellers stick to the familiar Vientiane - Vang Vieng - Luang Prabang route of the north; however, intrepid and informed gallivanters head south for stunning temples, breathtaking scenery and an ever slower pace of life.
About the author:
Samuel Jeffery is the wizard behind the curtain pulling the strings of Nomadic Samuel cultural travel blog. He's also the lesser half of Backpacking Travel Blog which he runs with his girlfriend Audrey Bergner of That Backpacker. You can connect with Samuel on his YouTube travel channel and on Google+.