Roundup Laos: Loops, Landscapes and Laziness

Laos_Roundup-1774Laos has been the country of impressive nature and monumental landscapes. The sea of clouds on Phongsaly, the karst mountains in the North and Center of Laos as well as the mighty Mekong accompanying my journey from North to South.   To top it off, Laos treated me with majestic waterfalls and gigantic caves. There is not a whole lot more you can demand from a country in terms of nature encounters. That being said, it was striking how less wildlife there actually was. We walked in the jungle and sometimes didn’t even hear a bird, not mentioning seeing one. Apparently the Lao people a long tradition of hunting and have a taste for almost all wildlife. Besides that there is a lot to explore and it is so difficult to venture off the beaten path. The means of choice for this is definitely the motorbike. The scenic loops and day trips can make for some wonderful memories. However, if you stay on the main route that almost everybody is doing, Laos is almost as touristy as Thailand. I didn’t expect this to that extent I have to admit.

Laos offers a good dose of waterfalls. This one we visited during the Bolaven Plateau Loop.

Laos offers a good dose of waterfalls. This one we visited during the Bolaven Plateau Loop.

Surrounded by karst. Happened more than once in Laos.

Surrounded by karst. Happened more than once in Laos.


If designing a Laos itinerary, one has to bear in mind the large distances and the rather modest means of transportation. You will definitely have a few complete transportation days which can reduce the actual time you can spend in the country. A little planning ahead considering the route can’t hurt in this case. Talking about modesty, bus rides in Laos can be also very exhausting and tiring, especially when taking the local buses. They can make for a great adventure but will definitely take a physically toll.

9 hour bus ride on a bumpy road in an antique and overlaoded Hyundai bus.

9 hour bus ride on a bumpy road in an antique and overlaoded Hyundai bus.

Laos also made me think about tourism in general. Especially my stay in Muang Ngoi showed me, what effects it can have and how different these effect are being perceived by different groups of people. Muang Ngoi was still a fairly sleepy and laid back place when we visited it. By the time we were there, a road was just in the process of getting finished, spurring the locals’ hopes of getting more business and improve their lives. Totally understandable. On the contrary for us it seems a bit sad because developments like this will most probably dramatically change a place like Muang Ngoi and the surrounding villages. It’s difficult to take a clear stand here and I just hope, that the locals learned from places like Vang Vieng and will try to establish a more sustainable type of tourism. My advice: Go see it as soon as possible.

Sleepy Muang Ngoi on the banks of the Nam Ou River.

Sleepy Muang Ngoi on the banks of the Nam Ou River.

Coming from a political science background, I have to talk politics a little bit. Laos is the first Socialist country I traveled so far. The dimension of the political system became obvious while travelling the far North of Laos. You could really sense a different atmosphere and mentality up there which, in my humble opinion, was sometimes unpleasant. Talking to some locals about it just added to this. But it was good because it is so easy to forget about it while travelling this beautiful country. Especially in the South, you would never think that the country is still led by an oppressive government. I know that some people don’t even want to reflect on issues like that but for me it is important to become of aware of the political situation and the history of the countries I am travelling. That is just very subjective and it would be great to hear your opinion about this matter.

The beginning of an eyeopening stay in the far North of Laos.

The beginning of an eyeopening stay in the far North of Laos.

Last but not least a word about the people, which make travelling a new country so special. We had some really nice and memorable encounters. A good example was our stay in Ban Konglor during the Thakhek Loop. On the other hand, we also had more than a few moments when we didn’t feel so welcome and sometimes it was just very hard to interact with people. A lot of times they seemed distanced. Coming from Thailand and after my first days in Cambodia, this impression just got more manifested. These also are just my personal experiences. I would love to hear what yours where like and what you think of that.

To sum things up, travelling Laos was a great adventure: I met great people, saw some amazing places and shared some truly memorable experiences. I can definately recommend going there but make sure to take your time or, if time is an issue, to focus on a few areas of choice.

Where I’ve been:
1 day Pakbeng
1 day Udomxai
4 days Phongsaly (including trekking)
1 day Muang Khua
3 days Muang Ngoi
1 day Ban Huay Bo
3 days Luang Prabang
2 days Vang Vieng
4 days Thakhek (including stops on the Thakhek loop)
3 days Paxe (including stops on the Bolaven Plateau Loop)
5 days Don Dhet

Transportation used:
Bus, Minivan, Songthaew, Tuk Tuk, Slowboat big, Slowboat small, Motorbike, Bicycle, Nightbus, Kayak, Fishing Boat

Like:
Nature, Rivers and Caves, Sticky Rice and Laap, the Mekong

Dislike:
Sometimes unfriendly people, Rough bus rides, Hordes of Chinese tourists

Average expenditure for accommodation:
37.200 Kip or 3,50 EUR (due to a lot of room sharing with travel mates)

Types of accommodation used:
Single Rooms, Double Rooms, Triple Rooms, Bamboo Shacks, Bungalows, Dorms, Nightbus

Highlights:
My stay in Muang Ngoi and doing the Thakhek Loop by motorbike with Chris and Dolf from Belgium

Lowlights:
Invasion of Laos by Chinese tourists, Losing my iPhone, Bus ride Vientiane to Thakhek

Photos shot and kept on file:
496

What’s next:
About 3 to 4 weeks in Cambodia

Below I put a selection of my favorite Laos pictures. I hope you enjoyed my reports and the pictures. I will try to keep the updates coming regularly. In the meantime feel free to message me or share your thoughts about your experiences traveling Laos or traveling in general. Thanks all for stopping by and the positive feedback. That really keeps me motivated.

Cheers, Philipp

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Categories: Laos, Roundups | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Roundup Laos: Loops, Landscapes and Laziness

  1. Beautiful Photos. Laos is one of my favorite countries. I really like the photo of the fisherman tossing out the net at sunset.

    • Hey Jeff,
      thanks a lot for your feedback. Laos has been great, that’s for sure. How long did you stay there and did you also go to the 4.000 islands then? It’s a very idyllic place and the pictures just transfers that atmosphere perfectly. Thanks again for your time and stopping by. Greetings from Phnom Penh, Philipp

  2. Hi Phil, Great roundup of Laos! I agree with Jeff (above) that you’re photos are beautiful. I can’t wait to see Laos for myself in just over a month! Hope you enjoy Cambodia and that Angkor Wat is better than you hope it will be. Take Care, Susan

    • It’s just a month for you, how great is that. Do you already have a plan about where you want to go and what you wanna see? Just take your time and relax. It would be great if you could leave your thoughts on the country here after your stay. I am excited to hear what you will have to say about it. Greetings, Philipp

      • I’ve created a rough plan for every country I’m planning on visiting and outlined it in my blog, but other than my crazy trek through Thailand everything is pretty flexible. I want to see so many things during my trip that it’d be hard to fit it all into a comment, but I’ll be sure to let you know what I think of Laos after my trip. Enjoy Cambodia, Susan

  3. victoriaaphotography

    Great trip and some really stunning images, especially of the locals & children.

    Thanks for sharing your adventure, especially as it was the type of trip which I could never experience (at my ripe old age & health condition).

    Will look forward to seeing more of your travels. It’s especially warming to see someone fulfilling their dreams (as I did in the 1970s). I encourage you to travel as much of the world while you can, you never know what the future holds.

    • Hi Victoria,

      that is actually why I am doing this right now, because you never what might happen. Things can change very quickly and I think it is good to do these things while you still can. So far I am enjoying it although there have been ups and downs which is probably normal. Moods change quickly while travelling. Thanks a lot for your feedback and your encouragement, I really appreciate that.

      Greetings from the beautiful city of Phnom Penh, Philipp.

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