When I first decided to embark on a solo travel trip to South East Asia last year, choosing Laos as the place to go and explore was a very spontaneous decision, one that left a positive impact on me. Being one of the oldest countries in South East Asia, Laos is surprisingly not well known in comparison to its surrounding neighbour Thailand. What makes Laos so special, is that it has managed to hold on to its ancient culture so very vividly. One of the key highlights I found, was the amazing hospitality of the people. It is definitely a place I would highly recommend visiting at least once in a lifetime. Upon arriving in Laos, I did not have a plan on where I would go, because initially, I had decided on only staying in the capital Vientiane. Even the thought of that makes me laugh out loud now! There is so much more to see that staying in one city would have been ludicrous. My journey in Laos took me to three major cities, Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang.
Being the capital of Laos, Vientiane is a beauty to behold in terms of the cultural artefacts present there. The city is relatively bustling with locals and few tourists. Ways to getting around the city include taking a Tuk-Tuk, renting a scooter or a bicycle and booking a tour. There are possibly other options but these are the ones I am certain of. Before I arrived in Vientiane, I had booked a tour of the city from back in Australia. Looking back, that was not the best idea as I could have saved so much money because some of the places I visited were within walking distance of my hostel. and the other places, well I could easily have gone with other people I met during my trip. However, it was still a great experience. These are the top three places I would recommend visiting in Vientiane!
The Buddha Park is located about 25km on the outskirts of Vientiane. To get to the park, you can take a Tuk-Tuk, a public bus, rent a scooter or book a tour. I would not recommend using a bicycle as the road can get quite sandy and the air very dusty, plus it is a long distance. When you arrive at the park, you will need to purchase a ticket to be granted entry. Tickets are cheap so rest easy. The Buddha Park is so scenic, with more than 200 enormous and small statues, there is so much to see. The walkway entrance is so beautiful. There are usually monks present at the park. I learnt that you are not meant to touch the monks, imagine my surprise when I tried to take a selfie with some of the monks and accidentally touched them! They were very hospitable about the situation, which helped. To get a birds-eye view of the park as seen below, you will need to climb some stairs which are underground, in order to get to the top. If you do not like tight spaces, this might not for you, however, you might want to give it a try. The stairs are quite steep so watch your balance as you go up and down. It only takes a few minutes to arrive at the top. It is well worth it to get the view! The budda Park was among the highlights of visiting Vientiane.
Patuxai Victory Monument
Up next is Patuxai Victory Monument. To get here you can rent a Tuk-Tuk, rent a scooter or book a tour. Upon arriving, you will notice how large it is. There is a beautiful blue water fountain close to the entrance. There are live musicians bustling right under the inside of the monument. You can get a view of the city by getting to the top of the monument. This requires a small fee. As you walk towards the inside of the monument, you are met with a flight of stairs. As you climb in further, you will come across locals with shops, selling clothes, jewellery etc. so if you happen to have the urge to purchase something you are in luck. The inside is almost like a forgotten castle, it is a bit dark, it is so beautiful and large. It felt almost like something out of a film screen. The view from the top can be seen below. This was such a beautiful place to explore.
Wat Ho Phra Keo
This temple was a beauty to behold. The temple is located in the middle of the city. To get here, you can walk if you are staying somewhere close to the temple, other options include taking a Tuk-Tuk, renting a scooter and booking a tour. Something to note, you always take off your shoes before entering the temple. I was notified by my tour guide that the door through which you enter is not the same door through which you exit. The reason is what I can best describe as – “Out the old. In with the new”, a form of rebirth, so to speak. The architecture so stunning. The stroll through the inside and outside of the temple is very serene.
The second city I visited was Vang Vieng. I got to Vang Vieng by taking a public bus. You can purchase a ticket from your hostel/hotel or from a local ticket place. The bus ride lasted about 6-7 hours. Vang Vieng has been described as the party city of Laos, which is quite accurate. There are more tourists here than in Vientianne. There is quite a lot to do here, like hiking, zip lining etc. The mountains are beautiful. One of my favourite place I visited was Blue Lagoon 3.
Blue Lagoon 3
I would highly recommend visiting this Lagoon. Along the way, you pay for a few tickets in order to get it. This lagoon is more serene and filled with fewer tourists than lagoon 1. You can go for a hike when you arrive at the lagoon, and then head back and go for a swim afterwards. What I noticed the most about this lagoon was how picturesque this place was. If you are looking to chill out and just relax but still be able to challenge yourself e.g hiking, then I would recommend visiting Blue Lagoon 3.
This was the third city I visited during my time in Laos. To get to Luang Prabang, you can take a public bus. You can purchase a ticket from your hostel/hotel or from a local ticket place. The bus ride lasted about 7-8 hours. Luang Prabang is the most commercial city compared to Vientiane and Vang Vieng. I remember having lunch while overlooking the Mekong River, one of my favourite memories in the city. My experience here was very pleasant.
Kuang Si Falls
Kuang Si Falls is one of the greatest highlights of Laos, located inside the Bear Sanctuary which can be seen below. The Bear Sanctuary rescues and cares for endangered bears. When you arrive, you will need to purchase a ticket to get in, and a few other tickets as you walk further in. Kuang Si Falls has three tiers, the third being the very top of the waterfall, I only got to the second tier. Upon walking in further, you will notice how stunning the cascades are! This place is so captivating and relaxing, a must visit.
My time in Laos was so spontaneous and well worth the trip. Exploring the cities, cultural artefacts, landmarks, meeting the locals, was so great to experience. Thanks for reading!