Laos, the Hidden Gem of Asia

In order for me to complete my ASEAN list, I still need to go to Laos, Myanmar, and Brunei. Since some of my friends wanted to do Laos, I decided to go with them. I didn’t know what to expect but I’m glad I went. Check out why!

NOTE: if you are ever visiting this place, please be a responsible and educated traveler. Respect the locals and their culture and please leave it as you found it, if not better. Thank you!

About Laos: The most heavily bombed country

Laos is a small landlocked country being ran by a socialist government and surrounded by Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. Like Cambodia, it shares a history of being colonized by different countries such as Japan, and France. According to some articles, during the Vietnam War, the “US dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions- equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history”. Until now not all the bombs have exploded or found.

Sunset in Nam Xay Viewpoint Viang Veng Laos Travel Anyway 3

3.5 Day Itinerary

I wanted to also go to Luang Prabang but time and availability of flights were a challenge so we decided to focus on Vientiane and Vang Vieng instead.

Vientiane (1 day)

Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos, like Phnom Penh, it is also situated along the bank of the Mekong River. Compared to Siem Reap, you won’t see a lot of tourists here but more young backpackers from Europe. The locals said they are also starting to attract Chinese and Koreans.

Pha That Luang

It is the golden temple known as the Great Stupa situated at the center of the city. Best to go during sunset to see the last few rays of the sun shine down on the golden Buddhist stupa.

Pha Tat Luang Golden Temple Laos Travel Anyway 2
Pha That Luang
Pha Tat Luang Golden Temple Laos Travel Anyway

Xieng Khuan Buddha Park

Literally means the city of deities. It has more than 300 buddha statues. If you take the audio tour, you learn about different stories, epic poems, myths of the three Hindu gods namely, Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. It is also a public park.

Night Market

It is located along the Mekong Riverfront. You can dine in this area and shop for clothes, souvenirs and handicrafts.

Patuxai Victory Monument

A war monument in the center of the city dedicated to those who fought for independence from France. It looks like the Arc de Triomphe of Paris. You can climb up and see a good view of the city.

Pha Tat Dam

We just found this Black Stupa while walking from the Patuxai Victory Monument to the Night Market.

That Dam Vientiane Laos Travel Anyway

Where to eat in Vientiane?

Pomodoro Pizza Restaurant- located near riverside

Taj Mahal Restaurant- a halal restaurant serving good Indian food

Bus from Vientiane to Vang Vieng

You can book in 12go or bookaway. We found SouthChai Travel service via bookaway. They can pick you up from your hotel. It’s around 4 to 5 hours from Vientiane to Vang Vieng including bus stops.

Vang Vieng (1.5 days)

Vang Vieng is located near the Nam Song River and is known for the karst hill landscape surrounding the town mimicking scenes from the movie, King Kong. Though it’s already considered a tourist area, compared to the other Southeast Asian towns this is still underdeveloped and less popular. There are no big restaurants, malls and only a few modern hotels and resorts. This gives it a more adventurous vibe and the government is implementing different tourism policies to preserve the culture of the place, pressuring tourists to abide by the rules and respect the locals’ way of life. This is what I loved about it and I hope it stays that way.

If you are looking for a place to stay in, find the hotel that is overlooking the mountain so you can have the view below. We booked Grand Lisha Hotel and it was good. And yes, you can also do hot air balloon ride as an activity.

Lisha Grand Hotel View Viang Veng Laos Travel Anyway 3
The view from our hotel swimming pool

Nam Xay Viewpoint during Sunset

One thing I noticed about the tourist spots in this area, is there’s not a lot of implemented guidelines on how to navigate through the area which is the case when the place is still underdeveloped and still doesn’t have formal tourism regulations. This viewpoint is really worth it but was also a difficult climb. It is not for old people or those who have heart or asthma complications. There is a trail for the most part, but there are also areas where you need to use your hands and feet to grab on trees, and rocks to progress. The hike is around 20-30 minutes depending on your pace. When you reach the top, you will have an overview of rice fields surrounded by hills. This was the highlight of my trip.

Sunset in Nam Xay Viewpoint Viang Veng Laos Travel Anyway 2
It is more beautiful if you see it for yourself

Nam Xay Viewpoint Viang Veng Laos Travel Anyway

Blue Lagoon

There are three lagoons, popular swimming area for visitors and famous for its cold turquoise water. Blue Lagoon 1 is the closest to the city and the most popular since it’s just around 30 minutes. It is also near the Phu Cam Cave. Since it’s the most popular, there’s more people swimming in this area. Blue Lagoon 2 is the most quiet and I liked it the best because there are less people and a bit farther from the city. Blue Lagoon 3 has the most activities (zip line, rented tubes, diving boards) and for me looked like a packed tourist site.

Blue Lagoon 1:

Blue Lagoon 2:

Phu Cam Cave

The main cave has the Thai bronze reclining Buddha. The locals said it’s 500 meters down so you can rent a head flashlight (and advisable that you do because at some point we needed light and used our phone but it was hard to go down while holding it). The signs were still a little bit confusing and there are no local guides inside so we didn’t go all the way down and also because of time constraints. Some articles said that this cave is considered sacred by the locals.

After this, we needed to go back to Vientiane to catch our flight back to Malaysia.

Overall, my highlight is the Nam Xay viewpoint and I also liked the view of our hotel. Vang Vieng is a nice destination to relax with a good view of untouched nature.

That’s it! You can follow me on IG @travelanyway for random trips and daily musings. Ciao!

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