Backpacking Guide Laos



Laos is the least visited country in comparison to Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. Backpackers who visited this beautiful country would describe Laos as a country that is back in time, that has very slow internet, with  nice and relaxed  locals and an astonishing wild nature. A lot of backpackers like to rent motorbikes here and travel around the small less visited places besides the popular tourist hotspots. The most popular route is to enter Laos via Slowboat, hang some days in Luang Prabang, go south to Vang Vieng that was once the tubing paradise and go further south to Vientiane. Some even skip the capital because it has less to offer than other places. Other backpackers go back to Thailand from there and some go to the south to Pakse with an end on the 4000 Islands. 

I cant really say if I preferred Laos, Cambodia or Thailand because a lot is depending on the people you travel with. But I really loves this country and its chill atmosphere.  Loas will always have a special place in my heart. 

General Information

Wifi and mobile data
Most places like Restaurants or hostels do have wifi, but it barely works. It takes ages to load a page or to upload something. Sometimes the connection is so bad you cant even log in. But you can buy cheap sim cards at some grocery stores. The mobile data worked pretty good unless you are in the middle of nowhere. But even in one of the caves in Vang Vieng I was able to send weird spider pictures to my friends haha. 

Food and drinks 
Food and drinks are bit more expensive than it is in Thailand. But still really cheap. When I think about Lao Food have Smoothies, Sandwiches or food buffets in mind. 
In Luang Prabang there was a night market in a small street in town. There were so many food buffets where you payed two dollars and you could fill up your plate with so many different delicious dishes. In Vang Vieng we had our favorite restaurants where they played "Friends" on tv all day long and where we ordered Sandwiches. 

Transportation
During my time in Laos I had unfortunately a sad experience concerning transportation. I sat in a tuktuk with the people I traveled with and a local who was on his way to the hospital. His friend sat in a bus to Vang Vieng, that collided with a minubus. The passenger from the bus where a little bit injured, while all eight minibus passengers died. 
We had booked our minibus to Vang Vieng the day after. 
The infrastructure and roads are not the best. The roads are small and curvy with a lot of bumps and holes. The busdrivers drive so fast, its kind of scary. They overpass other vehicles in turns and drive with an insane speed. There happen a lot of accidents, but most of the people never know, because people don't tell. I saw the crashed bus on my way to Vang Vieng and it was so sad to see. Transportation in Laos and in general in Asia is kind of a dangerous business. I would say, better take bigger buses. They are safer than small minibuses. 
I don't want you to be scared to travel around Laos. But you need to be aware that a busride in Laos might be a bit more dangerous than one in Germany or the States. There are not those high security standards and definitely no police that stops minibus drivers from speeding. Transportation in general takes longer, you need to be aware that sometimes you need 16 instead of eight hours. That buses might break in the middle of nowhere and that they stop every two hours somewhere so that you buy food at small restaurants. 

Safety
I never felt really unsafe in Laos. Nothing got stolen, I didn't really felt like people where trying to rob or harass me. But again here is a bad story, that shows again, that especially women should not walk around alone. During my time in Luang Prabang one of the girls I met got chasen by a motorbike gang. It was not the first time I heard about that story. I know it kind of feels like I am writing one negative story after the other, but you need to know, that those kind of things happen as well. Its not all easypeasybackpacking awesome. There is a reason why you should take care of your stuff and not walk around alone during the middle of the night. 
Anyways that girl got chasen by a motorbike gang. We don't know what they wanted from her, but she managed to get into a hospital to hide, she said a nurse pushed her into a room to hide until the guys left the hospital. She spend the night there, in a shared room where another women gave birth. Holy crap, that was the creepiest story I ever heard!
Please don't skip Laos because of my horror stories. Laos is amazing and beautiful and I liked most of it. Just again, don't be the girl, walking around alone in the night. 

Health 
Most big cities have hospitals, especially where there are a lot of tourists. 
Don Det, one of the "4000 Islands" was the only place where it would be kind of fatal to get sick. That was the only place, I really thought, if something happens here, you need at least 10 hours to get to a hospital. But really, you don't need to be afraid to die of Malaria or Rabies or whatever. Try to enjoy your time there, be careful what you eat and that you drink enough, and use mosquito spray. You will be fine.


Boarder Crossing from north Thailand to Laos & the Slowboat trip


A very common way to enter Laos is via the Slowboat. Most backpacker end up in Pai or Chiang Mai and take a all organized trip to Luang Prabang. I cannot really remember how much it cost, but it was not cheap. Otherwise you could organize everything by yourself, but that includes the bus to Chiang Khong, somehow the boarder crossing to Laos and the drive to the place where the slowboats leave. 
Besides the slowboat you could take the speedboat. This one just take one day instead of two, is more dangerous and a bit more expensive. I was happy to take the slowboat, because the scenery is amazing and the trip itself is kind of an adventure. 

So I decided to take the whole Slowboat trip that supposed to be two and a half day, starting in Pai. I traveled with Max and Alex that I met in Pai. 
We booked the trip in the citycenter of Pai and started at 6 pm. 
Minibuses picked us up. The drive was hell for me. I got motion sick and the busdriver was not able to stop for me even after well throwing up. I was super angry because I felt like shit, but he did not really care. So take motion sickness pills and some plastic bags with you. There are so many turns and most of the drivers are speeding. We arrived in Chiang Khong around midnight. The drivers drop you of at different guest houses where you get picked up the following day. 
We slept over at a British hostel (I think it was called the Pub Hostel). It was included in the price, so you don't need to pay additional things. 
The following day we got picked up by a shared Tuktuk that drove us to the Guest house from where everyone got picked up for the boarder. We got some free breakfast including toast and scrambled eggs.
They tell you to change money there (for a bad rate) because you wont have the possibility to do this later. Thats a lie. You can still pay with Bath right after the boarder and afterwards you will find some ATMs to get money. 
They dropped us of at the boarder to Laos. We stood in a line with hundred other people that want to cross the boarder. Because of the high season all the boats departed later than planned. So when it says the boat leaves at 11:45 it will wait for most of the people. They wont let the people waiting for their visas somewhere in nowhere. 
After standing in line you give the passport with the money (depending on your nationality between 25 and 40 dollars). You also need a pass photo. Afterwards you stay in another line, waiting for the people to hold up your passports so that you can pick it up. After around an hour you can get some money at the ATM there and pass the boarder to Laos. 
You will get into a bus and they will bring you to the place where the boats are leaving. There will be a street where you can buy last minute some food and drinks before the slowboat trip starts. 
As soon as you are on the slowboat, try to get seats in front, because the engine in the back is extreme loud. We were the last people entering the boat and the only free places where in the back where the bags where located and some locals where sitting around. It was so hot and loud, it was hard to stand it for eight hours. But we had some Tiger whiskey with us and fun people to spend time with. So enjoy the landscape and the trip. 
 In the evening you will be dropped of at a weird little village called Pac Beng. This city definitely survives because of the tourists. As soon as you get there people will try to sell you their geust houses. Tell them you already have one and walk up the street. Most of the people will get you to guest houses that are totally overpriced and far out of village. Best thing is to walk and ask at the guest houses located at the main street. The city is kind of weird. There are just tourists, that stop in between both boat rides and some locals that try to rip them off their money. 
We got us a good accommodation and after eating some dinner we went to a bar (I think the only bar in town) called something with "happy". Its popular, most of the backpackers will hang out there during the rest of the evening. You get not to bad cocktails, can smoke some Schisha and relax at a fireplace. Its really fun. 
The next day we went back to the boats and started the second trip. The second trip is a little  bit shorter than the first one. We arrived at four in the afternoon in Luang Prabang. 
Some years ago the boats stopped directly at Luang Prabang, but they changed it. Now they get you off some miles before Luang Prabang so that you have to pay a Tuktuk to get you in town. Its a total rip of. There is no other way to get to town. 


Luang Prabang 


Luang Prabang is a easy walkable city. Everything is close and Tuk Tuk rides are only necessary if you want to visit the Waterfalls. 
Besides the little incident with that motorbike gang Luang Prabang seemed to be a relaxing little city. I felt comfortable and mostly safe. I realized how different it was from Thailand after some days. Laos is just way more laid back and relaxed than the crowded Thailand. 
The fun thing about Laos anyways is that you meet most of the people from the Slowboat somewhere again in Laos. I always had people to hang out with, either in Vang Vieng or on the 4000 Islands, because those are definitely the most common backpacker hotspots. And most of the places have one or two popular bars and places to hang  out. So you will always meet the same people. I think especially Laos is super easy concerning Solo travel, because often you found a group of people you end up traveling whole Laos with. 

Hostelling 

I had a hostel booked called Luang Prabang Central Backpackers. But after meeting our little slowboatfamily I was part of a group of seven and none of them had anything booked. So after deposing my stuff in my room I decided to go with the other ones to search for another Hostel. 
The most popular one is the "Spicy Laos" or now called "Lemon Hostel". But they did not had free beds. 
So we found a hostel with seven free beds some streets away from the city center. It was a Chinese backpackers hostel with one big dorm room.
 Because I did not started my time in Laos alone but with some cool people I cant tell about the hosteling if you are totally on your own. But I think that Spicylaos would be it, because most of the people we met on our way ended up there and said it had a great social vibe. 


Luang Prabang Bucket List

https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/0a/51/b5/70/photo0jpg.jpg

Spend a afternoon or evening at the "Utopia Bar". The most popular Bar in Luang Prabang. You can play beach volleyball, chill inside or at the bar or sit on one of those nice seats (as you can see on the photo) and enjoy the view. 
Unfortunately it closes around eleven pm. 

But most of the backpackers end up at the Luang Prabang Bowling Center. Yes you read it right. Its the only place that is still open. You will find a bowling center full of backpackers that drink and smoke and play some bowling. It was such a fun time there. 

But of course before going to Utopia you should eat something. Try the food street, the night market in Luang Prabang. Its one long tiny street in the city center with a lot of buffets and other food option. The buffet cost around two dollars and you can fill up your plate with lots of yummi food!

The next morning after your night out at the Bowling center you should go for a fruit smoothie and some Sandwiches (Yes Sandwiched are big in Laos) at the main place.

Afterwards you could go for a walk and visit some of the palaces and temples. One of them is located on a little hill in the center (take a look at the map). You need to pay money to go up there and I need to say it is not as nice as I thought it would be. Well the view is nice...
Anyways there are some other nice Temples to see.

As a little snack in between you should definitely try some sticky rice with mango. I had the best one here in Luang Prabang.

The following day you should take a tuktuk ride to the famous waterfalls. The Kuang Si Waterfalls are the most popular ones. You could easily spend a day there. And if it gets to hot you can even swim in the blue water.
(Take care what time you go, during the afternoon it becomes a Chinese Fiesta haha)

Vang Vieng

A few years ago Vang Vieng was known for the fucked up tubing party experience. With thousands of backpackers coming in from everywhere. Getting wasted while lying in a tube on a river stopping every few meters to get drunk in one of the bars. 
Nowadays they shot down most of the bars. There are two bars still open and its still a party. 
There are a lot of backpackers doing the tubing thing and its still super fun. I cant tell how it was some years ago, but I quiet enjoyed it. 
What else is popular for Vang Vieng besides the tubing, definitely the nature around. The Amazing caves, the great mountains, bike rides... Vang Vieng is just a chill fun place to hang. 


Arrival and accommodation 

If you arrive with the Minibus you will be dropped of in the citycenter. First of all you will not have a clue where you need to go but the backpackers action is down at the river. You need to go to the main street at the river where you will find all the restaurants, bars and hostels. If you cross the river, take care not to take the bridge a bit southern of the city. They want you to pay for it. There is a little bridge directly at the place where all the action happens. Down at the river, at the main backpackers street. On the other side you will find a lot of places to rent cheap bungalows. If you travel alone I would recommend the hostels at the main backpackers street. 
(Easy Go Hostel and Real Backpackers Hostel are popular and good rated ones) 


A day in Vang Vieng 

Well Vang Vieng is a place where you could easily stay for days or even weeks. Its such a chill and nice place that you kind of never want to leave. If you have a nice little Bungalow with an awesome view you could probably not imagine anything greater than spending the rest of your life there. 

So how does a normal day looks like? 
You wake up around ten in the morning and decide to walk to the main backpackers street. Than you cant decide which of the restaurants you want to eat in. Most of them have the same menu and you will probably choose a Papaya Salad with a Iced Chocolate drink or a Sandwich. Afterwards you maybe watch a episodes of friends, because all  of the restaurants show friends on the tv with lao subtitle. 
After your breakfast you may go for a bike ride around the village and decide to stop by at one of the caves. 
The caves might be hard to find, because there are a bit hidden. You should ask around. One of the caves can be reached by crossing the wooden bridge and keep following the signs. 
After some exploring the nature you come back and chill at the river. When the night hits you go to the warm up bar for some Billiard or Beer pong. Maybe you go get yourself a (fun) balloon ;). 
After the warming up you end up in the all famous Sakura Bar. There you will get wasted and pass out somewhere. 
The following day you decide to go try out the tubing. You go to the rental place, get a tube (they say you need to take your passport for the number but it worked fine by just making one up). You get in a Tuktuk with other people and drive to the entering place for the tubing. Try not to take to many things with you. If you need to  take your phone or your wallet you should by one of those waterproof bags to store your stuff. 
After tubing for some time you'll end up at one of the first bars, play some volleyball, drink some buckets and have a good time. Afterwards you keep on tubing until you end up at the second bar. Here is more action. People start to get wasted. You dance to old 90s Music and make some friends from all over the world. It reminds you of a spring break party in the middle of the jungle. 
You keep tubing until the evening. Just be careful because if you arrive after eight they wont give you back your deposit. 

So after getting drunk while tubing you decide to keep partying and end up in the Warm Up bar again... 

Vang Vieng is definitely still  the backpackers mecca. Nowadays tubing is not the main reason to come here. Its more about the outdoors, the activities and the relaxing lifestyle. 


4000 Islands - Don Det


Before leaving for the 4000 Islands I tried to get informed about the place to go. There are three Islands, Don Det, Don Khong and Don Khon. What is the right Islands, where are the backpackers, where the Chinese tourists. It looks so confusing but I found out that the backpackers all go for Don Det. I took a bus company from Vang Vieg directly to Don Det without staying in Vientiane. It took me at least 24 hours, three buses, two minibuses and one boat to arrive there. 
The Island is very small, some years ago there wasn't even any electricity. 
Don Det was the most relaxed place you could imagine. Not to many backpackers, and the ones you meet are more into relaxing. There is no ATM on the Island, one or two little markets to by food, some restaurants and bungalows and hostels. 
 There is really not much to do here. 
I stayed at the Easy Go Backapackers on the other side of the Islands. It was a 20 minutes walk and its kind of hard to find, if you have no idea where to find what. But after some time you know the little streets and places to go. A lot of backpackers rent some bikes to ride around or take some tubes to chill in the water. You really do not do much the whole day. I need to say for me as a solotraveler ( i continued without the Vang Vieng group) it was a bit to quiet. I felt like people enjoyed the loneliness and the chilling but I needed some action after three days of doing nothing. I met some people but it was not like they had the need to do something. It was hard to animate people to actually do anything. 
If you want to do something you can take a bike and ride to Don Khon. There are beautiful waterfalls to see, but as always they demand money. 
I need to say, that I don't really know what else I can write, because there is not much going on on Don Det, besides, chilling, smoking and tubing or biking. The Island is so small and there are really not many backpackers after Vang Vieng, that its more like a little backpackers break before heading to chaotic Cambodia. 

I really liked Don Det, but it was not my favorite place to go. Its nice to stay there for a few calm days, but for me it was to calm, to lonely. Maybe it was just a time, where I anyways wasn't in the best mood so that I could not enjoy it totally, but after Thailand I realized that Laos is very, very remote and laid back with a social and chill atmosphere. Don Det was a nice end to a good, relaxed time, but it was time for me to keep on going. 

Share this:

, , ,

CONVERSATION

0 Kommentare:

Post a Comment