The only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, many visitors to Laos follow a well-trodden path on their way between Thailand and Vietnam. But with a fascinating culture and many relatively undiscovered gems, it’s possible to have an incredible off-the-beaten-track experience in Laos. Here are 10 of our insider tips.
1. When in Vientiane, head over to the Wat Ong Teu 16th century Buddhist temple. They run regular ‘monk chat’ sessions, where monks can practice their English with foreign visitors. In turn, visitors learn more about temple life.
2. Branch out when visiting Luang Prabang by going to the village of Nong Khiaw nearby. On the Nam Ou River and surrounded by jungle, it’s perfect for an insight into local life while enjoying magnificent vistas.
3. When visiting Pakse, eat as the Laotians do and head to the banks of the Mekong River to eat traditional cuisine in a tiny riverfront restaurant.
4. Hire a bicycle in Vientiane and see where you feel inspired to go. This is the perfect way to soak up the blend of French colonial architecture and modern-day Laotian life.
5. Take a boat trip from Luang Prabang to Muang Ngoi, a traditional Laotian village to try some local cuisine and paddle in the riverside beach.
6. Do a detour on the journey between Vientiane and Luang Prabang by stopping in the town of Phonsovan and seek out the Plain of Jars. This is an off-the-beaten-track field home to huge stone jars that date back at least 2,000 years.
7. Thailand’s combat sport of Muay Thai is globally popular, but some of the world’s Muay Thai champions hail from Vientiane. Many training areas are in outdoor courtyards – seek some out and watch the champions in action as you pass.
8. Markets are an important part of life in Laos, and Vientiane is full of many that lots of international visitors flock to. Have a more individual experience in Laos by visiting the Ban Anou night market. Few visitors find it, but it’s an evening market full of tasty street food stands.
9. Embark on a day trip from Pakse to visit Pakson and the Bolaven Plateau to go swimming by waterfalls and explore the local coffee plantations.
10. In the southernmost corner of Laos, the Mekong River widens dramatically and thousands of islands come into sight. Known as the ‘4,000 Islands’, many of them are inhabited and welcome visitors. So get out on a boat and say hello!
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