Last Updated on January 31, 2023
1. Sunsets over the Mekong River
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).
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Fresh fruit shakes
Sold on the street for 5,000 kip (roughly 60 cents), these are perfectly fresh and delicious any time of day.
6. 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.
7. 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!
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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. You can watch a short video of Pov Pob here.
11. 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!
13. 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.
14. 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.
16. 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…
17. 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.
18. 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!
20. 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.
21. The morning market in Luang Prabang
We described all 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!
24. 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.
25. 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.
27. 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….
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!
29. Laundry ladies in the rivers
30. 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.
31. 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.
32. 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? 🙂