Luang Prabang, Wat Wisunalat in Laos.
Pictures Guide to Laos
Buddhist Laos – officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic – is not an easy, well-trod destination and still has a pioneering feel about it for the traveller willing to abandon some of the niceties of modern life – such as air conditioning, efficient domestic airlines and smooth highways, though in the latter case and some other respects things are rapidly improving.
Tourist visas are now available at border crossings, which is especially useful for backpackers in Thailand and Vietnam, while potential destinations have proliferated. More.
In exchange for a little bit of rough, travellers in Laos will find they can really communicate with local people, see sights that are not choked with tourist buses and get around at prices that are incredibly low by Asian standards.
Catch it while you can.
• It’s a very low cost destination. Cheaper than neighbouring Thailand, you can easily get by on a small budget.
• The people are very, very pleasant. They don’t hassle tourists and – so far – have not fallen slave to the dollar, making Laos a relaxing country to travel and take pictures in.
• The food is a tasty fusion of Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese with a quirky French colonial influence, seen mostly in excellent bakeries and coffee shops.
• Wildlife is abundant due to lack of development and human interference, with plenty of colourful and varied monkeys, deer, mid-size cats, flying squirrels, bats, snakes, birds and even wild elephants. North Laos’ Nam Ha NPA is probably the best spot for wildlife watching at present.
• The accommodation situation in the main tourist areas is very good, excellent value for money.
• The airlines are pretty safe despite reports to the contrary, though timetables are often not adhered to.
• The country, on the whole, is very unspoilt, reminiscent of Thailand around 30 years ago. However there is increasingly a backpacker trail that enters Laos from its north-west border with Thailand and goes through Luang Prabang, heading south via Vang Vieng and on to Vientiane.
Travellers abandoning this main route find things quickly become even less touristy but at the same time places are less geared up to supply normal western needs.
• Traditional Lao massages are amazing value and the best quality you will find anywhere.