Top 8 Fascinating Things to Do in Laos
by Hello Vietnam Travel May 29, 2018
It is not overstatement to say that the 21th century witnesses the landlocked country of Laos has been merging from the shadow in the whole fields, especially tourism. If in the pass, visitors did not overestimate this country with untouched sceneries waiting to be explored when comparing to its neighboring ones namely Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand; now, this disregard is no longer! Obviously, even though Laos is not lucky enough to possess the historical splendor of Angkor Wat, a well-preserved ancient Hoi An showing off a traditional Asian trading port, or a multilingual sightseeing of Bangkok Chinatown, Laotians still calmly remind by themselves: ‘baw pen nyang’ – no worries!
What Laos does have, in addition to a pensive antique world being full of distinctive charms as well as effortless senses for peace and cool, is perfectly harmonic values combined in the middle of them all.
That’s why we have no reason for refusing wonderful lands of Laos with a long things-to-do list to get exploring sooner or later!
1. Witness the Alms Giving Ceremony
For a journey being full with memorable moments, get up no later than 5:00 am and join in the Alms Giving Ceremony proudly regarded as one of the most respectful customs in the South East Asia country called Laos. Noticeably, get ready to prepare some rice boxes, fruits or common snacks before seeing monks in saffron robes processing in long silent lines starting from the main street near Wat Xieng Thong. As usual, what the monks get from loyal believers is not only for their all day but also for the poor sitting quietly along the road that they walk by. Regardless of who you are or which religion you whole heartedly believe, this ceremony still possess its own potential power to lure your soul to something peaceful and spiritual.
Note: There exists certain unspoken rules on the field of etiquette that require you to keep an eye on while taking part in or shooting photos of the procession. For instance, you must wear properly clothing items (shoulders, torso, and legs should be sheltered), or not interrupt this customary process by keeping far away from monks.
2. Trekking Through Jungles
Thinking of trekking through the jungle, you may link it to a necessity of a machete and fighting of dangerous tigers. Fortunately, Laos gives you numerous chances to go on a multi-day trek through the forest instead of requiring you to cut your own trail or face vicious beasts. With no hesitation, you are able to bravely conquer mighty dense jungles with the experience of trekking. Regardless of how large the cities are, spectacular jungles here seem to swallow urban areas up, which non-stop lure tourists coming from modernized countries. Besides, stepping foot inside the jungles also opens your sight to a stunning number of incredible, picturesque waterfalls along the road.
Note: Although trekking into jungles can bring you multi-color sensations of adventure, make sure that you have already prepared for your excursion. While there are clearly defined and frequented trails, you still ought to keep a map with you with the purpose of defining where you are and how to get back to the main city. Obviously, owning right equipment, right maps, and right attitudes can make the world different.
3. Explore Unique Temples
Resembling many other countries in Asia, Laos has no shortage of spectacular temples for visitors over the whole world to make awesome explorations. So how about planning to escape from the crowds to spiritual temples for hiding away in really peaceful atmosphere? Even you only come to Laos once in a lifetime, do not forget dropping by a well-known scared place called the Golden City Temple (Wat Xieng Thong), which shows off the most mighty beauty of the Buddhist architecture right in the old quarter of Luang Prabang. If your time permits, let's make a full-day outing in Champasak, take a downstream boat trip to Mekong River as well as hike up to the hill peak with the aim of contemplating the wonderful Wat Phu and panoramic views of surrounding landscapes.
4. Uncover the Mysteries of Caves
Undoubtedly, spelunking has become the never-ending inspiration for those who are keen on being far away from the terrible summer heat and discovering something weird right in dark stone caves.
Having untouched nature, the Phu Hin Bun National park is a perfect representative for turquoise rivers and dense forests, where contains huge caves and the limestone cliffs that rise almost vertically for several hundred meters high into the sky of Central Laos. Besides, you also ought not to skip Pak Ou caves packed with a vast array of Buddha statues with over 4,000 sculptures and set at the point where the Mekong and the Nam Ou River join together. Other ideal choices for you are stunning caves in Nong Khiaw, which possesses their own laidback beauty that offers interesting activities to take part in.
Note: You need to take all reasonable precautions to protect yourself before totally delight in with both feet. Particularly, let someone know where you intended to go, then focus on the ahead trail, bring enough water and snacks in order to stay hydrated and energized throughout the exploration.
5. Take part in Lao Festivals
Possessing a variety of culture as well as religion, Laos is outstanding with numerous festivals which occur around the year. Interestingly, what makes Lao festivals vibrant is that they are all related to agricultural seasons or historical Buddhist vacations. As a result, never have the majority of these festivals stopped taking the pride in the Buddhist faith and demonstrating customary angles of Lao lifestyle. Specifically, do not skip the most large-scale celebration known as Lao New Year, which regularly transpires in mid-April and draws our attention to the walking street being full of people celebrating, drinking, dancing, and splashing water to others. Also, how can you disregard other famous festivals such as Elephant Festival, Boat racing festival, That Luang Festival (or Boun That Luang), Khao Phansa Festival (Beginning of Buddhist Lent), or Awk Phansa Festival (End of Buddhist Lent)?
Note: Before participating and observing valued traditions and religion practiced here, make sure you have enough comprehension of Lao cultural norms like suitable clothing items, footwear, etc. In addition, although government offices are closed during festival time, several shops still open to serve dear guests as their best. If the diverse culture is your favor and your Lao tour taken place right on celebration days, just prepare to join in and get joy!
6. Dine out on Traditional Lao Cuisine
When it comes to the culinary art of Laos, everyone tends to think of nice flavors releasing from mouth-watering cuisines like Kiao Niaw (sticky rice), Tam Mak Hoong (Green Papaya Salad), Larb (minced meat salad), Khao Piak Sen (Lao noodle soup), or Mok Pa (steamed fish). Actually, around-the-world gourmets are also drawn their attention to a wide range of distinctive cuisines once taking a trip to this gorgeous landlocked nation.
In a little more details, Kiao Niaw, as time goes by, still keeps its great honor to be the Laotians’ national dish, whose glutinous rice everyone is always very fond of thanks to higher level of sugar inside. As well, enjoying a fantastic vacation here without tasting the most symbolic cuisine of Laos called Larb, a minced meat salad well prepared with roasted and pulverized glutinous rice, chili and lime juice will make you regret a lot. Like an excellent introduction to Southeast Asian food, Tam Mak Hoong composes of five key flavors demonstrating typical culinary style of the natives namely salty, sweet, hot, sour, and savory that no one can deny this delicacy in the list of “World's 50 most delicious dishes” (CNN Go, 2011). All in all, fresh, spicy, bitter, and incredibly fun to eat, Laotian cuisines are really worth your sincere compliment.
7. Back in the Time with The Plain of Jars
Being regarded as a cannot-miss destination in the Southeast Asia, Laos recently has made its dear travelers surprised by historical values ranked even much higher than luxury or modern ones. Off all overestimated highlights belonging to the past, we cannot forget The Plain of Jars at Phonsavan dating back millennia.
Not only would this megalithic archaeological area be a striking site to take photos of at least 3000 jars made of sandstone, granite or limestone in diverse shapes and sizes, but also numerous mysterious lessons of Lao history intrinsically hiding countless questions with no well-defined answers. Right in this most impressive archaeological location, there are several clusters, across a wide, flat plain, and were believed to be used in burial ceremonies of ancient inhabitants, perhaps to leave gifts of food or clothes for the dead. With nothing like anywhere else in Laos as well as probably in the world, this complex of giant stone jars makes sure to open the prehistoric door and let you discover something totally different.
8. Experience Tubing in Vang Vieng
With a high-end backpacking travel style, you prefer to be crazy for tubing down the exotic Nam Song River in Vang Vieng, right? So, what are you waiting for? Let’s move on!
Being harmonic with the constant stream of tourists, you will make your own way to stop at all river bars, drink silly, somehow float downriver without drowning, and even rush to participate in blood-pumping water activities. In fact, many bars opened along the route are always willing to serve customers as their best, so do not miss sipping some Beerlao there. Let’s go on diving in adventurous senses by hiking around the nearby mountains and making an exploration of dark stone caves as well. What is more, indulging yourself in spectacular natural sceneries definitely opens your mind to get a closer view into wonderful corners of this giant planet.
Note: The dry season (November-March) when the river flows are slower, is considered as the best time for visitors to enjoy river tubing feelings.
Price: 55,000 Kip ($6.8) for renting a tube; 60,000 Kip ($7.4) for deposit.
In conclusion, not only does a peaceful country of Laos lure travelling lovers by its striking natural landscapes and artificial architectures lasting for thousands of years, but also reunite a superb mix of exciting things to do. Moreover, because most places in this charming land are still untouched, it is high time to discover and find for yourself a little paradise!
» Besides these fascinating experiences, you can join our Laos River Cruises to deeply explore the rustic life on the Mekong River and admire breathtaking landscape in Laos