Welcome to Laos - the Mysterious Land of a Million Elephants!

After concluding our miniseries on Hanoi, I will now be sharing with you about a rather mysterious nation which has been overshadowed by its neighbours in terms of numerous aspects such as tourism, urban development and economic growth. I had the opportunity to embark on the well-travelled backpacker circuit along the northern region of Laos in January – traversing the territories from Vientiane to Luang Prabang via the quaint village of Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng | My favourite place in Laos with spectacular natural scenery!


Despite being within close geographical proximity, the thought of visiting this country has never crossed the minds of many Singaporeans who would rather visit other more established cities like Bangkok and Hanoi. By sharing about my little trip to the Land of a Million Elephants, I hope to inspire more like-minded travellers to give this exotic destination a chance and explore Laos while it still retains its authentic feel. Its amicable residents are also one of the reasons why so many tourists have crowned this country as their favourite in the entire of Southeast Asia. 

My route travelling through northern Laos

Peeking into the Past… 

Previously a prosperous kingdom known far and wide as Lan Xang, Laos had fallen victim to the imperial prowess of regional nations (Burma, Vietnam and Siam) in their quest of territorial expansion. After failed defences against aggressors, the land became a Siamese vassal state and thereafter a French colony, resulting in much of its local culture and traditions being undermined with continual raids conducted on Laotian monuments and temples.

Vientiane | Even though temples have been destroyed and had to be reconstructed, the Buddhist practices are well preserved and still prominent in the locals' livelihood today.

However, the largest scale of destruction was dealt during the Secret War. Already torn apart by civil war between the Laotian royalists backing the monarchy and the pro-communist Pathet Lao militants, the nation was further implicated by its neighbour to the east. Although the United States supported the Kingdom of Laos in this proxy war, they bombed the territory extensively in an attempt to cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail which reinforced North Vietnam with supplies. From 1964 to 1973, a total of more than 2 million tonnes of explosives were dropped in Laos during 580,000 missions, which translates into a plane full of bombs every 8 minutes for a torturous span of 9 years. In the end, the pro-communist Pathet Lao forces managed to gain control of the nation to establish one of the last socialist governments we still see today. Sadly, Laos has consequently become the most heavily bombed nation per capita in the history of warfare.

Luang PrabangDevastated by the war, Laos has picked itself up and locals are championing the cause to bring new meaning to the bombs and help themselves escape poverty. 

Currency 

Although some stalls in Laos do accept US dollars and Thai baht, the country has its own currency – the Laotian kip (LAK). However, it is nearly impossible to exchange LAK anywhere else in the world except Laos. While numerous money changers may accept a wide variety of foreign currencies, I recommend checking them out first online to find out what works best for you. The general consensus is that the more times you exchange your currency, the more monetary value you lose. However, it does not seem to hold water here in Laos. For instance, during my trip to Laos, exchanging SGD for USD before changing to LAK got me 10% more kip than directly changing the SGD to LAK. 

Check out the unique Lao numerical system where they have different symbols for their numbers!
(LAK 100,000 = USD 12, so it's not that hard to be a millionaire here!)

Laos seems to be breaking all stereotypes and unspoken facts because the exchange rates provided in the airport are equivalent to those found in the city centre. No matter which airport you are entering the country from, there will be opportunities to exchange your currency to LAK. You may wish to take reference from exchange rates published online by the Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao (BCEL) at this site here


Language 

This nation prides itself in utilising its own linguistic rendition – the Lao language. Although the written script differs slightly from Thai, these two languages are mutually intelligible, making it very easy for Laotians and Thais to communicate. This also explains why Thai television channels are able to be broadcasted widely across Laos to offer locals an alternative form of entertainment. (I even heard the Thai national anthem being played over the television when I was having dinner!) As the language does not employ the usage of the Latin alphabet but rather is written in a foreign script, it may seem daunting to comprehend what is being communicated. Nevertheless, street names are always indicated in French which definitely makes distinguishing different streets (rue), avenues and boulevards much simpler for us travellers.

Vientiane | Road signs are written in both Lao and French, making it easy to recognise street names.

Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, which both receive large influxes of tourists, almost always have menus clearly indicated in English. Ironically, it was the capital Vientiane that I found slightly more difficult to communicate in English in, but it was definitely a breeze in comparison to Hanoi. What came as a huge surprise to me was the huge influence that tourism has had on Laos – there were numerous signs in Chinese and Korean propping out of stores to attract these large tourist populations to visit their shops. Therefore, contrary to my preconceptions, it was really simple to communicate with the locals in Laos using good old English or French if you please.

Luang Prabang | Roadside stall menu written in English and French on a piece of rag!

If all else fails, you can always depend on sign language which I used to try to find ‘S’-sized tees. Most vendors are able to count in basic English, but you can fall back on the calculator to ensure that both of you are speaking on the same wavelength. A word of caution: when the stall owners say ‘2’, be sure to ascertain whether they mean that the item costs 2,000 LAK (USD 0.30) or 2 US dollars to avoid any unpleasant outcomes, as I witnessed some misunderstandings arising from this when I was at the night market. 

Costs 

The common misconception when travelling to Laos is that it will be extremely cheap. Sorry to break that bubble, but no – the cost of living in Laos is comparatively higher than regional countries like Thailand and Vietnam. Being less developed and landlocked, the nation has to import a large amount of commodities to sustain its citizens’ livelihood. All these add up to higher prices of goods and services offered around the country in the Southeast Asian region. 

Nevertheless, as compared to other popular travel destinations and big cities around the world, Laos is extremely affordable. If you are on a budget, you will still be able to travel around the country rather easily, as local fare is inexpensive and can be found everywhere. For instance, you can get a bowl of udon-like khao piak for a mere 10,000 LAK (USD 1.20) and a bottle of Beerlao will set you back only 5,000 LAK (USD 0.60), so there is absolutely no need to worry. Despite the fact that Laos is costlier than its neighbours, everything was still much cheaper than back home in Singapore, so I had no qualms pampering myself with café lattes and fancy restaurant meals.

Vientiane | A small bowl of khao piak along the road can go as low as LAK 5,000 (USD 0.60)!

Climate 

Much of Laos has a tropical monsoon climate very much like Vietnam. As I prefer sunny, dry periods to explore places when I am travelling, I would recommend for like-minded tourists to avoid the rainy season lasting from May to October, as the precipitation is significantly higher than the dry season. Coming from a country where it is summer all year round, I relished the opportunity to enjoy the cooler period of the dry season which stretches from November to February, where average temperatures are projected to hover around 20°C. I managed to enjoy some cooler days towards the end of my vacation, but the start felt just as hot as back home!

Climate of Laos throughout the entire year

What was interesting to me was that there were huge fluctuations in temperature throughout the entire day when I was there – 16°C in the morning could gradually transform into a sweltering 33°C in the afternoon before abruptly dropping back down to the low 20s in the evening. Therefore, I would recommend bringing a jacket or layering your clothes regardless of the weather forecasts, as the climate can change rather drastically within a matter of hours. 

Now that you have a better understanding of Laos, we are able to start trekking northwards by firstly exploring its sleepy capital Vientiane – where you are able to check out what’s happening in Thailand across the Mekong River! Get ready as we cover the key sights and attractions in Vientiane here.


Are you inspired to visit Laos after reading this post? If so, please feel free to check out the wide range of accommodation options which have been made available by Booking.com in the link below. You will have the opportunity to choose from stunning vacation homes and luxury resorts to apartments and amazing B&Bs where you will be hosted by local families - to make your holiday the most amazing one you've ever had! Booking.com has made it easy to book accommodations in all the cities I visited in Laos - Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, so do head over for great deals!

Booking.com

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means that I will earn a commission if you click through and make a booking at no extra cost for you. Thank you for your support!

Comments

  1. Amazing photos, love the recommendation on the food. Trying local cuisine is the best part of traveling.

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    1. Thank you! My sentiments exactly, I absolutely adore trying local fare and exotic cuisines when travelling overseas as it reflects a lot on the locals' livelihood and cultures. I will be having a few posts dedicated to the unique cuisine which the Laotians are proud of - including their national dish of larb and a Luang Prabang specialty, or lam. Stay tuned to check out on those mouth-watering delicacies! :)

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  2. Very informative post! I have visited Laos more than ten years ago, when it was less touristy than today, I guess. I vividly remember the Plain of Jars, one of the most impressive places I have seen during my whole travels.

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    1. Hey Natascha! If you were in Laos 10 years ago, I guess Vang Vieng must have been a much crazier backpacker haven with lots of alcohol and drugs! Glad that it's cleared up nowadays and travellers can sit back and enjoy the natural landscapes instead!

      The Plain of Jars is really fascinating. What makes it even more amazing is that we are still unable to ascertain the reason for the jars being there in the open space for sure. The journey out to Xieng Khouang was too long, so I didn't manage to head out. I hope to be able to return and check it out soon. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  3. Very detailed and amazingly written post. Bookmared it for my Laos visit. 😊

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    1. Thanks Hiral! Glad to hear that my post was able to allow you to understand this hidden gem of Southeast Asia better and possibly inspire you to visit Laos really soon.

      I'll be posting more tips on food and transport, itineraries and ideas for day trips, so you may wish to stay tuned to find out more to plan for a vacation to Laos. Safe travels!

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  4. I really thought that it's cheap in Laos, thanks for the heads up. At least we know what to expect when we visit the country. :-)

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    1. Hey Joy, while Laos may not be as cheap as its neighbours in the Southeast Asian region like Vietnam, prices are still much cheaper than in other parts of the world.

      Travellers will still be able to survive on a shoestring budget in Laos and see what the country has to offer by sightseeing and trying local fare. No worries about that!

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  5. Thanks for this great overview and introduction of Laos; really liked the layout of this post and the topics. We didn't visit it yet, but hopefully we'll visit this gem on our next vacation. So this post is perfect for us :)

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    1. Glad to hear that you enjoyed this post! It's fantastic that you're planning to visit this underrated travel destination in Southeast Asia. I'm sure you'll enjoy it tremendously!

      I'll be including tips on food and transport, itineraries and day trip ideas for the different cities I visited in Laos - Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang - here in my series. Feel free to check them out and I hope they will be able to help you in your planning!

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  6. This was so interesting to read. We are currently in New Zealand and then heading to south east Asia. Lous is on our list of places to visit after my mum went there a couple of years back and said how amazing it was, but other than that I didn't know much about it until reading your post. I had no idea it was so heavily impacted by the Vietnam war especially. Looking forward to reading more about your travels there. We are also heading to Singapore so any tips really appreciated. :) Hayley - http://www.nosightseeing.com

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    1. Hey Hayley, sounds like you're embarking on a journey of a lifetime travelling around and experiencing local cultures!

      Laos is an authentic travel destination, one which has been spared the fluff of commercialisation and urbanisation. It's a very unique experience which I had never felt travelling to other places before - that was great. I'll be including itineraries, day trips ideas and tips on food and transport in this series for the various places I visited during my trip. Do check them out and I'm sure they will help you in planning and having a sneak peek into this lesser-known nation. Happy travelling!

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  7. Laos is indeed an intriguing country, if only for the reason that it gets overshadowed by neighbors. However it seems to have its own charm and is a unique destinnation in its own right. I have read about Luang Prabang and would some day love to visit there and witness the Arms giving ceremony which is iconic and synonymous with the place. Veng Veng appears to be really enchanting and inviting.

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    1. Hey there! It's great to hear that you've heard of the unique culture and practices in Laos such as alms giving. Very few people have even heard of this Southeast Asian country which seems neglected in the likes of Thailand, Vietnam and even Cambodia.

      The alms giving ceremony can be witnessed everyday along the streets of Luang Prabang, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yes, the whole town is a protected site! It's absolutely charming watching the monks clad in saffron walking along the streets barefoot collecting alms from the locals. I'll be sharing more when I cover the topic of Luang Prabang - stay tuned!

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  8. This was a brilliant introduction to Laos - the geopolitical insight and historical backdrop for your modern encounter. Keep it up!

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    1. Thank you! I believe that it helps tourists to have some background knowledge about a travel destination before visiting it. This both allows the traveller to better appreciate cultural references and avoid certain faux pas when he/she is physically in the foreign land.

      It is heartening to see that Laos has moved out of political turmoil and its dark past of the Secret War to gradually progress in this day and age. Wishing this nation all the best!

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  9. Laos has long been on my wish list. So little is known about the country and not many travelers go there. I would try my luck at being a millionaire here, haha. Interesting to see French road signs there.

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    1. Hey Abhinav, great to hear that you're interested to visit Laos! So many people have neglected this little nation which is really sad, considering the rich culture and heritage it has to offer.

      Being a French colony previously, the language has had a profound impact on Laos. In fact, 35% of the nation's students are being instructed in Laos which is also the second largest Francophone community in Southeast Asia.

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  10. Love your informative introduction to Laos! Good to know about the cost as I thought it was really cheap traveling through the country. Great that you have included a variety of tips including that of buying at stalls. It would really be a problem if prices are not mutually agreed on.

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    1. Glad to hear that you were able to learn some tips from the post, Marvi. No worries about the cost, though - although things are slightly more expensive in Laos than its neighbours like Vietnam, daily necessities and sightseeing are still very affordable and it will not be an issue for travellers to explore the city and take in its sights and sounds on a shoestring budget.

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  11. Loved this post! I've become more interested in visiting Laos lately so I appreciated all of the information you provided within this post. The exchange rate and language info was particularly interesting to me. I would have never expected it to be easy to get around with English there. Also I am definitely surprised that it wasn't as cheap as expected but it makes a lot of sense.

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    1. Hey Constance, great to hear that you've developed a growing interest in visiting this Southeast Asian wildcard. So many tourists have just neglected it and flocked to Thailand and Vietnam, which is a pity.

      After visiting Hanoi, I was quite worried about my trip to Laos due to my prior experience of not being able to speak the language in Vietnam. What made it worse was that Laos used a script which was not Latin-based, so I was quite anxious. It was definitely a relief when I faced much fewer linguistic barriers and issues here in Laos than in Vietnam.

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  12. I've always wanted to go to Laos, but I never had the chance. But your post is so interesting and inspirin that it really wants to make me go right now!

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    1. Hey Verena, glad to know that my post was able to get that wanderlust roaring and make you interested to visit the mysterious land of Laos.

      It boasts of a great blend of culture and nature, topped up with an authentic travel experience. Hope you'll be able to visit Laos really soon, as I'm sure you will enjoy it very much!

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  13. I visited Laos in 2012, on a work engagement. However, the work was monitoring field market research, and I ended up travelling all across the country from Pakse in the south to Luang Prabang in the north. That was one of my favorite work engagements ever, and I fell head over heals in love with the country.

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    1. Hey Denny, I haven't been to the southern region of Laos but I have heard a great deal of good things about Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands).

      It must have been a fantastic experience being able to travel around during your work and explore the foreign land where you have been posted to. The road journey must have been rough as well, just like my minivan experience from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang, right? :)

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    2. The road journey was indeed rough and painful. I traveled by overnight bus, sharing a tiny sleeping space with another dude (an un-recommended experience) since apparently you need to book two sleeping berths if you need to have the spot for yourself :). But it has been some time since, and perhaps it has improved. You should certainly check out Si Phan Don. The locals have devised unique fishing traps and it is worth a see if you can get one of the local kids to do a demonstration of fishing using those traps if you get a chance.

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  14. Thank you for this detailed guide to Laos! Very informative!

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  15. I loved your posts on Vietnam, as I don't know much about it. Never heard of Laos, but from your post, it looks like a must visit place. Land of millions elephants with natural scenery is so appealing and inviting.

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    1. Hey Yukti, Laos is really a magical travel destination with exceptional natural landscapes and rich culture and history. I have not had as authentic a travel experience anywhere else in the world as I had here in Laos - it was absolutely fabulous!

      I certainly hope that by having this series on my adventures in Laos, I will be able to let more like-minded travel enthusiasts like yourself know more about this lesser-known travel destination and possibly consider visiting Laos while you're in the region.

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  16. I've never been there before but at least, I have an idea of how things work there!
    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Joy, great to hear that the post was able to help you get a better understanding of what Laos is like. It has lots to offer - from amazing natural landscapes in the countryside to the rich cultural heritage, so I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did!

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  17. My friend is from Laos and I've always wanted to visit - and your post made me want to go even more so. The jewellery looks so beautiful and the food - yum! Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Hey Courtney, Laos is an absolutely amazing country. Sounds like you'll have a great time when you visit the country with great hospitality and an amazing homestay experience to better understand the local culture and traditions - and, of course, lots of fun catching up with your friend.

      The jewellery was fantastic, not only because they looked fabulous, but also reflected the genius of the villagers and locals who were able to leverage on what destroyed their homes and livelihoods make something which is so beautiful and advocated peace. Kudos to them!

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  18. wow..thats very informative post..thanks for all the info..exchange rate, language.. ia always considered laos to be very cheap but seems its not that cheap..have bookmarked this post

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    1. Hey Ritika, glad that you found the blog post useful and informative - hope it helps you in your planning when you visit Laos!

      No worries about the prices of daily necessities, food, accommodation and sightseeing, though. Although the costs may be higher here than neighbouring countries like Vietnam and Thailamd, it is still very affordable as compared to other parts of the world. Hope this clarifies!

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  19. Hi Nathan, thanks for sharing with us all the super useful information that one will need when traveling to Laos! Would love to explore there sometime soon! Great post!

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    1. Hey Claire, great to hear that you found the information I shared here useful.

      Laos is a severely underrated travel destination with vibrant cultures, rich history, breath-taking natural landscapes and friendly locals. It also offers that unique, authentic travel experience as it is not that commercialised and developed now, so I definitely recommend that like-minded travel enthusiasts visit Laos now while it still retains that special charm.

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  20. Looks like a very interesting place. Thailand and Vietnam are probably more touristic, but Laos definitely deserves a try. I love the way you have taken all factors into account while writing this post.

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    1. Thank you! I hoped that by sharing these facets which are uniquely Laos, tourists will be able to get a better understanding about this travel destination which is often neglected and not explored on the typical Southeast Asian backpacker circuit in the likes of a more touristy destination in Thailand and Vietnam.

      Glad that you found the information useful. Hope that you will be able to visit Laos really soon, as I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did!

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  21. Laos is my dream destination and I would love to explore it soon and see all the highlights there, Nathan. This is an exceptional travel guide which I hope to use. When would it be the best time of the year to explore Laos?

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    1. Hey Agness, I would recommend visiting Laos during the period from Nov to Feb, as it has minimal levels of rainfall and cooler temperatures. This is because I'm not into rainy days spoiling the mood to explore various attractions and come from a country which is summer all year round.

      If you would like to experience the sunny Southeast Asian weather (which I know many Western tourists love), you may wish to visit during the months of March and April where the country starts getting hotter. Hope this helps!

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  22. Your posts are really very informative. I love traveling as well.

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  23. Wow! The Secret War was horrifying!!! That hurt my heart to read that. What a great blog post! My son has visited Laos and he loved it there!

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    1. Hey Iva, the Secret War was really devastating and destroyed the homes and livelihood of the locals tremendously. More than 20,000 people have been killed or maimed since the war has ended. Even today, there are about 50 casualties every year from these unexploded bombs.

      It is a depressing prospect and the figures are just mindblowing, but it's heartening to see that the country is moving away from its dark past and gradually making progress in various facets of society.

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  24. Thank you for putting so much historical detail! It was very interesting to read all the terrors that Laos has faced and how it is striving today. I have barely ventured to that part of the world (I mainly stick to Europe) but it is on my list to learn more and see with my own eyes newer cultures

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    1. Hey Hannah, I guess that's the objective of travel and why we love it so much - to explore new cultures and appreciate what each country and region has to offer! I am planning to have my maiden trip to Europe next year, so I am really excited to immerse myself in the Western culture and unique elements the continent has to offer.

      I hope that you will be able to visit the Southeast Asian region really soon, as there is just so much to explore here for extremely affordable prices. Of course, please do not miss out on this underrated country as I'm sure you'll enjoy it very much.

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  25. Wow so amazing to hear about the history of Laos and how sad what happened there. But I'm so happy to hear it is getting back on its feet and that tourism is going back there. Looks like a wonderful place. I would consider going there after reading this post.

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    1. Hi Kasia, it's great to hear that you have learnt more about Laos and are interested to visit this amazing travel destination, because it has so much to offer. I've heard of tourists who planned to visit for a couple of days and ended up staying there for a few months, so that should give you a gauge of just how amazing this country is.

      Indeed, it is great to see that Laos is slowly moving away from its bleak past tainted by the war to achieve gradual progress. Although the unexploded ordnance continues to cause casualties, the government is making efforts to eradicate this threat and make the land safer for the locals.

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  26. I would love to visit Laos sometime in the future. I really want to try the food and shop in the night markets.

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    1. Hey Meg, the locals love their food grilled and sell lots of such delicacies at their night markets, so if you're a huge fan of barbecues, you're in for a treat.

      Otherwise, there are massive Thai and Vietnamese influences on food, so you can find your favourite dishes like pad thai and pho in Laos as well - just with a local twist which I'm sure you'll enjoy. Hope you'll be able to visit soon!

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  27. Thank you for providing a great overview. Laos has been on my bucket list for a while :D

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    1. Hi Kelly, great to hear that you found my post useful to better understand what Laos has to offer. It essentially has a rich history, vibrant culture, beautiful landscapes and amicable locals - you certainly can't go wrong here. Since it's on your bucket list, I hope that you'll be able to visit Laos soon and take in the sights and sounds for yourself - I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself.

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  28. This piece was very well put together! Great overview! Happy to hear about the food but sad because the costs were not as low as I thought. Ha. Ha.

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    1. Thanks! No worries about the costs - even though the prices may be higher in Laos than in its neighbouring countries like Vietnam and Thailand, the costs are still very affordable and much cheaper than most parts of the world. Backpackers will still be able to explore and enjoy themselves on a shoestring budget. (I had a 4-course meal at a restaurant for S$20, speak about splurging!)

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  29. Laos has always been a country I thought I might like to visit, but now I'm really keen to check it out! I didn't realize just how multi-cultural it was.

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    1. Hey there, great to hear that you're interested to visit Laos after reading this post. I guess it's a country which we do not hear much about and thus are not very sure about what it has to offer.

      I had similar sentiments before travelling there. I was aware of where Laos was, but I didn't know what attractions there were to explore and what activities there were to try out. After seeing the breathtaking views at Vang Vieng and amazing architecture at Luang Prabang posted by travel bloggers, I had that moment of impulse where I began planning my itinerary for my grand tour of Laos. I'm glad I did it!

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  30. Such great details and information. I haven't been so this is a great resource. Thank you for writing!

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    1. Hey, you are most welcome! I hope that my post was able to give you a better understanding of how Laos is like - its history and what it has to offer today. I'm sure that you'll enjoy yourself as much as I did when you visit the country and take in the sights and sounds it has to offer for yourself!

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  31. I went to Laos 2 years ago. Definitely an underrated country. :)

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    1. Hey there! I guess you had a fabulous time exploring Laos - great to hear that. Where in the country did you visit and which was your favourite? Do let us know!

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  32. I loved Laos especially Phonsavan so misterious land

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    1. Hi there! I guess you visited Phonsavan to check out the Plain of Jars at Xieng Khouang which is really a mysterious enigma that nobody knows for sure the real purpose or meaning of the jars back in the olden days. It must have been a great experience for you to feel the mystical aura there.

      As it was too far away from Luang Prabang, I did not manage to make the trip there but hope to visit it in the near future. Care to share your experiences there?

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  33. Laos is so cheap, I had no idea! I've not yet been, but would like to. You give a great rundown of the history there too; very useful for someone like me who's never travelled there, yet!

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    1. Great to hear that you found the information provided in this post educational and useful. I primarily hoped to raise awareness of this little Southeast Asian nation through this article so that more travellers will know about this destination and potentially consider visiting it instead of neglecting it altogether.

      Laos has an amazing blend of French colonialism and local tradition, like Vietnam. However, the Buddhist influence forms the main pillar of its social construct. Its culture and heritage is very impressive, offering an authentic experience for travellers. I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did!

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  34. The culture seems so interesting! I would love to go!

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  35. I have always considered Laos as a must visit in South East Asia and it is very much on my bucket list. Thanks for the details of currency, local culture, climate and everything else that one needs to know when visiting here. I hope it's economy gets stronger by the day and the effects of the war will soon be zero.

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    1. Hi Neha, the whole world prays that Laos will be able to walk out of its dark past to emerge stronger and more prosperous.

      Sadly, more than 20,000 people have been killed or maimed by the unexploded ordnance (UXO) after the war, and there are approximately 50 casualties every year even today. The government is now making concerted efforts to eradicating this threat, which is comforting to hear.

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  36. Laos is definitely a place that I always wanted to visit! This had so much valuable information for a visitor, that I will book mark it for future travels. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Paula, great to hear that you found this post useful to have a better understanding of Laos.

      The country offered me an authentic travel experience which was unparalleled, unlike the overly commercialised travel industries in many other countries. Its rich culture and heritage, mostly shaped by Buddhist influences, is vibrant. Coupled with lovely locals, it is undoubtedly one of my favourite travel destinations so far.

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  37. That was such a great introduction to Laos, very interesting history! I was in Thailand recently but unfortunately didn't have enough time to make it to Laos, I really hope to make it there one day!

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    1. Hi Alberto, you most definitely should check out Laos as it is such an underrated travel destination in the Southeast Asian region. Besides rich culture and heritage, the country also has picturesque natural landscapes in more rural areas like Vang Vieng in the north and Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) in the south. Amicable locals notwithstanding, Laos has one of the most authentic travel experiences to offer visitors, unlike the prepackaged, overly commercialised tourist attractions in many other countries. Hope you'll be able to visit really soon - I'm sure that you will enjoy yourself tremendously here!

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  38. I am bookmarking this post rightaway as we have been thinking about visiting Laos this year. It is such a culturally rich and diverse country and we have been longing to experience the same. The best part is Laos is pretty cheap.

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    1. Hey Harsh, great to hear that you're interested to visit this underrated travel destination. You are absolutely right about Laos being rich in culture, as it has pretty much been at the crossroads of numerous influences throughout the entire span of its history. Being influenced by its regional neighbours such as Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar and also being subjected to French colonial rule for almost 60 years, the country has managed to infuse these diverse elements to create a cultural identity that is unique to Laos.

      While it may not be as cheap as other countries in Southeast Asia such as Vietnam, Laos is very affordable so you will be able to do all your sightseeing, savour local fare and try new experiences all on a shoestring budget. Safe travels and enjoy your visit to this charming country this year!

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  39. I love trying local food in a new country, it's the best way for knowing more about the places you are exploring. The shots are awesome, too :)

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    1. Thanks Daniele! Savouring local fare is undoubtedly one of the best ways for travellers to immerse in the local culture and learn more about the practices and livelihood of the locals. Besides being an affordable food option, trying these out at local eateries offers a fantastic way to live and eat alongside locals and allows visitors to have an authentic travel experience.

      Laotian cuisine has been influenced heavily by its regional neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam, as seen from delicacies such as pad thai and pho being readily available in the country. Additionally, the French have definitely left their legacy of baguettes (called khao jee pate in Laos) here, just as they did in Vietnam. I certainly enjoyed trying all of the dishes and they tasted fantastic. I'll be introducing them in greater detail in a subsequent post, so do stay tuned!

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  40. "A plane full of bombs every 8 minutes for a torturous span of 9 years." That is a horrific statistic. How this country still has any of its landmarks left is remarkable. And you're right about Laos being overshadowed by Thailand or Vietnam. Its not a place I think about visiting. Looks like you're having a great time though!

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    1. Hi Amy, I absolutely had no idea that the Secret War had terrorised Laos and caused such massive destruction throughout the entire country. What makes it even more depressing is that 30% of the ordnance which was dropped in Laos failed to explode and remained in the country even after the war ended, resulting in a constant threat to the locals who tread upon the land. In fact, Laos is plagued with more than 80 deaths and 120 casualties yearly due to these bombs even during this day and age. If you're in the area, I would highly recommend visiting the COPE Visitors' Centre which sheds more light on this heart-wrenching matter.

      You should most definitely check out Laos as it is such an underrated travel destination in the Southeast Asian region. Besides rich culture and heritage, the country also has picturesque natural landscapes in more rural areas like Vang Vieng in the north and Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) in the south. Amicable locals notwithstanding, Laos has one of the most authentic travel experiences to offer visitors, unlike the prepackaged, overly commercialised tourist attractions in many other countries.

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  41. haha I would hardly consider Vang Vieng a quaint village. This post made me miss Laos a lot. A lot of awesome adventures there

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  42. Very thorough, great information and pictures. I love the layout of your blog, it is very easy to read. We had a great time in Veng Vieng, minus the overplayed Friends episodes.. Do they still do that?

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  43. Wow Laos is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing all the insights of Laos.

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  44. Looks beautiful. Need to go there.

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  45. I'm really intrigued to visit Laos after reading this. It really is a land of mystery, and one I want to see one day soon. And you're right, it's definitely overshadowed by its neighbours in SE Asia!

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  46. Nice post! I've been to any Asian countries, but from other backpack's stories, Laos always feels kinda overlooked compared to counties like Thailand or Indonesia. I really want to visit SE Asia and Laos is definitely on the list!

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  47. Oooh really want to go to Laos! This is next on my list. Some handy tips. I've been to Cambodia but Laos and Vietnam are next on my travel agenda... Really well written post!!

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  48. I love that you included the history of Laos along with your detailed and helpful tips for getting around! Good to know about confirming pricing to prevent disputes... thank you for sharing. Cheers!

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  49. Laos seems like a place to add to the bucket list!

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  50. This is a really nice overview. Laos certainly had an unfortunate fate, being bombed to bits despite not actually being in the war themselves. I've wanted to visit for the longest time, and thought I might have waited too long and it's all boozy backpackers by now. But maybe it cleaned up again?

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  51. Wow! what a great way to discover new culture and places. As an Asian my dream is to visit all Asia and Laos is one of my favorite, I do have a list of places to visit there already and thanks to you I'll ass some of here.

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  52. Informative blog on Laos, I haven't had an international trip yet, after reading this post Laos is now in my bucket list.

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  53. An excellent write-up on Laos! I just spent two weeks in the country and it was one of the highlights of our travels. Often overlooked by people travelling the south-east Asia route. I'll be recommending this article to others as it gives a great introduction.

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