33 things we love about Laos

Posted on 08. May, 2012 by in Laos

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1. Sunsets over the Mekong Rivermekong sunset

2. Beer Lao
This is our favorite beer in South East Asia, but maybe that is due in part to the relatively low price tag ($1.25 for a liter).beer lao at mekong river3. The alms giving ceremonies
We mentioned the most famous one in Luang Prabang, but no matter where you are in Laos, if you rise with the sun, you can watch as dozens of Buddhist monks, draped in their bright orange robes and carrying their pots, make their way around town collecting food from the faithful.luang prabang monks alms giving4. Outdoor cooking
Much of Lao life still takes place outside, including family meals. Sticky rice steams on wicker baskets set over big pots of boiling water, as the family grills meat and eats right outside together around the fire.outdoor cooking in laos5. Fresh fruit shakes

Sold on the street for 5,000 kip (roughly 60 cents), these are perfectly fresh and delicious any time of day.

luang prabang night market fruit shakes6. The story behind the mysterious Plain of Jars
The jury is out as to which of the theories is 100 per cent correct, but these Stone Age artifacts cover the plateau outside of Phonsavan in Northern Laos, and are considered as significant and mysterious as Stonehenge or the Maoi statues of the Easter Islands.plain of jars laos7. Lao Breakfast Cake
This thick sticky rice patty covered in an omelet and served with a side of spicy garlic-chili was enough to get me up and at ‘em early each morning – definitely our favorite Lao breakfast!

lao breakfast8. The scenes of rural village life
Whether glimpsed from a bus window or out hiking or biking through the countryside, it is hard not to fall for the idyllic, peaceful look of what today appears to be a simple rural life in Laos.luang nam tha village house9. Outdoor aerobics in Vientiane
For all the rural life in Laos, the people of Vientiane live a much more modern lifestyle. Along with the international cuisine and longer working hours comes the need to hit the gym – and the river. Along the Mekong River just after sunset each night over 100 people join an instructor, dance music blaring, to get their hearts pumping together, in their outdoor aerobics class.

outdoor aerobics in vientiane10. Pov Pob
Essentially a form of traditional speed dating, we watched this flirtatious ball tossing game when we spent time with the Hmong people during their new year festivities in Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars.hmong girls pov pob11. Muang Ngoi Neua
Well, we loved this sleepy off-the-grid river town in northern Laos, but you probably shouldn’t bother going there

12. Fresh papaya salads at the night market in Luang Nam Tha
At least half the stands at this Lao night market make papaya salads, and, as this is a fairly local experience, they are hot as fire! Poor Dani couldn’t even make conversation with a couple we made friends with as we ate, her mouth was burning!papaya salad lady luang nam tha13. Goats and pigs on long-tail boats
Far be it for us to say how to transport livestock! We loved how these passenger boats just threw the goats up on top out of everyone’s way, and let the fat pigs lay in the only bit of shade outside the cabin.goats and pigs on long tail boat in laos14. Indian restaurants
All across northern Laos there seems to be a chain of distant relatives running Indian restaurants in each of the main tourist pit-stops along the way, and we would find out about the next Indian restaurant in the next town by a tattered, grubby sign on the wall of the brother’s cousin’s father-in-law’s restaurant in the town before.

15. The many ancient temples in Luang Prabang
The cultural gem of Laos, this French colonial city has so many beautiful temples you’ll accidentally discover one on your way to another.luang prabang temple16. The views over the Nam Ou River and the mountains in Nong Khiew
There is just something so addictive above staring out at this view each day…

nong khiew & river17. The golden mountain stupa in Luang Nam Tha
Although we weren’t too fussed about the town itself, the bike ride up the mountain to the new golden stupa was quite an experience. We had the place entirely to ourselves, aside from a dear sweet local woman who gave us a blessing in exchange for our donation.luang nam tha golden stupa laos18. Sticky rice
We love everything about sticky rice – the texture, the smell, the way it is actually steamed in wicker baskets which are set just above the actual pot of boiling water. Perhaps the most fun thing about sticky rice is the way you ball it up in your fingers and eat it with your hands. In Laos you can play with your food – at least a little bit!

19. Cycling through Laos
Daily bike rentals are cheap as chips in Laos ($1.25-$2.50) so not surprisingly we cycled through almost every city we visited (Luang Nam Tha, Nong Khiew, Luang Prabang and Vientiane). Although Laos is very hilly and mountainous terrain, with only semi-paved and majorly patchy roads, we met dozens of people who were cycling across the entire country, often starting in China or Thailand and working their way across South East Asia. Incredible!dani & jess cycling in laos20. The huge Lao baguettes for $1.25
A delicious left-over from the French colonial period, baguettes in Laos are stuffed full with veggies, (meat if you must) tofu and eggs – or peanut butter, nutella and/or condensed milk.laos baguette21. The morning market in Luang Prabang
We described the surprises we found in the morning market here.

22. Cheap herbal steam rooms ($1.25 – $1.90)
What a discovery we made – first in Nong Khiew, and again in Luang Prabang. A rustic experience but incredibly refreshing, these steam rooms use fresh herbs, straight from the forest, to open up your pores, get your circulation moving and, in the chilly evenings in the mountains, keeping you warm. You would pay ten or twenty times the price for this back at home, so we suggest taking advantage of this charming luxury while in Laos!

23. Floating down the Nam Ou River
Wild water buffalo, cows and pigs frolicking on the banks of the river, waving kids from  windows of wooden huts, and ancient fisherman poised for their next catch.
nam ou river laos24. Meeting kids in the villages around Nong Khiew
There is almost nothing as sweet as hearing kids actually squealing with joy as you ride into a village…except for when they run alongside you as you pedal in, practice their English with you while you’re there and then chase your bike with smiles and laughter and shout ‘Bye Bye Miss!’ as you pedal away.
meeting village kids in laos25. Monks on bicycles
This scene, which we see over and over again, inspires such a simple, peaceful feeling. We just love how it looks.

26. Lao tractors
Essentially engines hooked onto carts, these tractors are easily some of the most common modes of transportation on the road in Laos.laos tractors27. The sleepy market vendors and tuktuk drivers everywhere
Working at the market must be tough in Laos, since at least half of the vendors can be caught snoozing at one time or another. We’ve tried to wake up plenty to make a purchase, often to no avail….

laos sleeping market vendors and tuktuk drivers28. Laojitos
This local cocktail puts a spin on the Mojito, substituting the alcohol with Lao rice whiskey. It’s cheaper, and local, but count on a bigger headache the next day!
Laojito29. Laundry ladies in the rivers
laundry lady laos30. The beautiful scenery of Northern Laos
The way the mountains jut out of an otherwise flat landscape, some surprisingly high, while others look more like little bumps across the scene.
northern laos31. Beautiful Lao desserts
What they lack in flavor, they make up for in colorful design, and for $0.60, it’ll quench your sugar cravings.
sweet baguettes luang nam tha laos32. Every single dish on the menu of the Mekara Restaurant in Nong Khiew
This simple open-air restaurant is open for an early breakfast through to late (10pm) cocktails. Here we ate traditional Western food (including a full German breakfast), but more importantly sampled traditional Lao dishes, which were very kindly explained for the ‘Falang’ or foreigners who dine here.

33. Lao sinks that have no drains but just end on the floor
In South East Asia, it’s common to have the shower right above the toilet, so that all the water just runs onto the bathroom floor. But we love in Laos all the effort they go to to build the sink, attach a pipe to the drain, only to let it also just spill right out onto the floor. Why not save all the trouble and let us brush our teeth right over the floor? :) laos sink

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45 Responses to “33 things we love about Laos”

  1. OMG take me there NOW!!!!!!!!! It looks like the most amazing country.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Macau: Day 1

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    • jess

      10. May, 2012

      we really liked Laos, Andi, but it took us a bit of time to warm up to it. Laos is definitely a rural place and transport days are long. But in the end, we enjoyed Laos almost more than Thailand!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Barbara

    08. May, 2012

    It’s a toss up for me between the night markets and the outdoor cooking. We need a Food Network show all about outdoor cooking. LOL!

    These pictures are AMAZING! Thanks!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Adventurous Kate

    08. May, 2012

    I had totally forgotten about Laojitos! Had a good one on Don Det. They also had Happy Laojitos.

    You got to see so much of the country…nice work!
    Adventurous Kate recently posted..Scenes from Lovely Umbria, Italy

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    • jess

      10. May, 2012

      Hey Kate – we’ve seen quite a bit of ‘happy’ options in South East Asia. Cambodia was all about Happy Pizza of course :) We did see a lot of Laos, and it was worth it, we really loved it in the end!

      Reply to this comment
  4. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    08. May, 2012

    Laos seems so peaceful and friendly! I’m sure there are bustling areas, but I like that it still has so much rural charm!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..A Tale of Two Backpacks

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  5. Adam

    09. May, 2012

    I loved this post and I loved Laos! Those sinks remind me of urinals (yes, urinals) I found in India which did the exact same thing.

    Thanks for reminding me of what an amazing country Laos is!

    Reply to this comment
    • jess

      10. May, 2012

      Aw, thanks Adam! The more we look back on places in South East Asia we have traveled, Laos stands out like a diamond in the rough, a place we really loved! We’re in India at the moment with Jaime (@babackpacker) so we’ll have to ask him if he’s seen these Urinals of which you speak :)

      Reply to this comment
  6. Denise

    09. May, 2012

    Laos seems really interesting…but it seems very backpackerish (no offence meant). do you think it’s possible to do Laos on a Mid-range budget, in reasonable comfort?
    Denise recently posted..Picture Perfect: Ode to the animals met along the way

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    • jess

      10. May, 2012

      Hi Denise. Oh, absolutely! Laos can be very backpackerish, you are right, but there are definitely great mid-range options, as long as you stay somewhat on the ‘path’. There are great hotel options, really stunning actually, in Luang Prabang and Vientiane and in the Plain of Jars area, Phonsavan, there are more mid-range than cheapies, for some strange reason. But these are more block buildings, old-school type hotels – but perfectly clean and nice. The only truly difficult thing in Laos for a mid-range budget is transport. There are two options – shuttles or public buses, and to be honest, public buses were actually fine! But the roads…the roads are rough and either way must be dealt with – tho painless 45-minute flights do run between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. There are much more fun options available with a higher budget, however, and you would definitely end up having a great time! Let us know if you need any specific advice!

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  7. Laos is amazing. Nice to see a piece that addresses Laos highlights other than tubing (although I did love tubing!) One to be added …. surviving the bus ride from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang. 15 hours of one way dirt roads, with buses flying around sharp corners BOTH ways! EEK! So worth it though.

    Reply to this comment
    • jess

      10. May, 2012

      Hi Britany! The tubing is a delicate topic, because it does bring some economic benefit but it’s also not exactly the best display of traveler behavior out there…but yeah, in the end, we really loved Laos! Glad to hear you did, too, despite the insane bus rides!!

      Reply to this comment
  8. Arti

    10. May, 2012

    Amazing place! Your post gives a nice sneak peak into the country, the pics and short description are beautiful.
    Have a nice day:)
    Arti recently posted..Boat Ride along the River Yamuna in Mathura

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  9. I think the goats on top of the boat take the cake!! We didn’t fall in love with Laos, but there *are* a ton of cool things about the country. Sadly we didn’t experience most of these!
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..Things That Cost Less Than a Dollar in Thailand

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    • Dani

      12. May, 2012

      I wonder how the goats felt traveling on the roof of a boat for hours!! :) Sad to hear you didn’t fall in love with Laos – we have to admit it took us about a week to really enjoy the country, but that was because we didn’t like any of the towns we visited in the beginning. Once we got to Nong Khiew, we started to really love Laos :)

      Reply to this comment
  10. Mary

    12. May, 2012

    Makes me want to go back! Laos is still our favorite spot so far!

    Reply to this comment
  11. Sam

    12. May, 2012

    What a lovely post! Laos is something quite special, indeed. I fondly remember the Indian restaurants, fruit shakes and goats on top of the boats. It also made me smile to see you mention the sinks sinks that end on the floor! I did find travelling around the country a little challenging (I was a relatively inexperienced traveller when I was there 3 years ago), mostly because of the extremely bumpy and windy roads. Not easy for someone who suffers from motion sickness like me. But thanks for writing this and making me look back fondly at all the wonderful things about this little country!

    Reply to this comment
    • jess

      14. May, 2012

      It’s not perfect, and it’s definitely not easy all the time, but part of what made us love Laos was the authentic feel, the difficulty, etc. But I would never complain if China or South Korea or Japan wanted to pay for some new roads! :)

      Reply to this comment
  12. Sabrina

    14. May, 2012

    I’ll skip those desserts :) They look kind of toxic :) But those fruit shakes? Oh my god, that’s such a huge selection. I think I would need to try at least ten different ones :) How is one supposed to decide??
    Sabrina recently posted..Houston Layover: Fun Things To Do In Houston

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  13. Katelin

    15. May, 2012

    Beer Lao looks interesting. I will make it a point to have a bottle of it when I visit Lao next month.

    Reply to this comment
    • jess

      16. May, 2012

      It tastes good and is super cheap – cheaper than water most of the time! :) Have fun in Laos!

      Reply to this comment
  14. Amanda

    17. May, 2012

    It certainly seems like there’s a lot to love in Laos!
    Amanda recently posted..An Ode to San Francisco Street Art

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  15. Wanderplex

    21. May, 2012

    Ahh, this post really brought back a lot of wonderful memories for me. Laos is still one of my favorite places I’ve ever been, but I’d forgotten some of the smaller things like the amazing bakeries I ate at etc. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!
    Wanderplex recently posted..Lost your camera? Here are some steps you can take to get it back

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  16. Forest Retreat Laos

    22. May, 2012

    So glad you loved our Laojito’s girls! Karen and Dre, Forest Retreat Laos, Luang Namtha.
    Forest Retreat Laos recently posted..Lanten and Sida New Year Celebrations

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  17. Vicky

    23. May, 2012

    Great photos. Especially loved the sink draining right onto the floor. Can;t wait to go to Laos!
    Vicky recently posted..Monthly Budget Update – May

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    • Dani

      25. May, 2012

      Thanks, Vicky. The sinks cracked us up… one of these quirky things that made the country even more loveable :) Hope you’ll enjoy Laos as much as we did!!

      Reply to this comment
      • Vicky

        23. Mar, 2013

        Just reread this post again since we’;re going to Laos in a couple days and without realizing I had commented on this post in May was AGAIN particularly amused by the sinks draining — this time because we experienced this ALL the time in Myanmar! So strange!!!!
        Vicky recently posted..Why Burma Didn’t Meet Our Expectations

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        • Dani

          24. Mar, 2013

          Oh, they do that in Myanmar, too? Hilarious!! Laos was a special place though, I can’t wait to return and see more of the south, which we missed last time!

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  18. Dina

    24. May, 2012

    Pov Pob!! I really wanna see that ceremony, but it was not happening during our one month in Laos! When did you girls go there?

    Laos is one of our favourite countries, so close to our heart. The people are amazing. So kind and gentle.

    (Great shot of water bufallo on the roof of the boat, lol)
    Dina recently posted..Halong Bay Photostory

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    • Dani

      25. May, 2012

      Hmong New Year is always around late November / beginning of December. Highly recommend planning a visit around the New Year celebrations – it was something so unique to experience! Laos was one of our favorite countries as well, and we’ll return for sure!

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  19. vira

    19. Jun, 2012

    oh I loved Laos! it’s so much similar yet different to my own country Indonesia.. It’s raw, yet you find wifi everywhere! (well at least in the 3 touristy towns I visited..) The food is yummy, the people are nice,.. my friends and I had a really great time in Laos :)

    Reply to this comment
    • Jess

      24. Jun, 2012

      That’s great to hear. Laos is a really great country – we can’t wait to visit yours, though. Indonesia is high on our list!

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  20. Karisa

    17. Apr, 2014

    Ooo Beer Lao! I’d love a bottle of Beer Lao and a Nong Khiaw sunset! Laos is one of my favorite places!
    Karisa recently posted..New Years in New Orleans

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    • Dany

      23. Apr, 2014

      Karisa – happy to hear that you love Laos, too!! I miss Beer Lao.. have to go back soon :D

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  21. paddy

    24. Jul, 2014

    Laojitos! Ha fantastic :)
    paddy recently posted..Planning Your European City Break

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