Go for the food
Mimicking Vietnamese cuisine with French influences and unique spices, Lao food is some of the most diverse and tasty in Southeast Asia. For breakfast, you’ll want to start with a steaming bowl of Khao Soi, a rice noodle soup. Throw all the herbs in, and pull out the chili pepper before you get “spiced out”. Later in the day, seek out other unique eats such as buffalo larb (adventurous eaters should order it with bile cooked in), anything steamed in a banana leaf, or the unique and flavorful dried beef. Of course you’ll need a side of sticky rice to combine bites. Finally, wash it all down with a Beer Lao–in my opinion, the best rice beer in all of Southeast Asia (bold statement, I know).
Go for the scenery
Major attractions in small Lao towns are the hikes to “viewpoints.” Though grueling, the sweaty hikes were always worthwhile, leading to vistas over valleys and jutting limestone karsts in the distance. With impossibly green rice terraces and large mountains, the #notabadview hashtag has never been more appropriate.
Go to slow down.
Life in Laos runs at a slower pace, and I recommend following suit. I don’t think Laos has ever been a super hip travel destination. It’s a place that travelers fall in love with, but it has never become too popular. To that benefit, the country remains relatively quiet compared to neighboring Thailand and Vietnam. Moreover, the population of the country is one of the smallest in Southeast Asia, making even the capitol city non-chaotic! To really slow things down, take the slow boat on the Mekong River… it’s perfect for hammock hangs and diving deep into novels. Oh, and once again, the scenery along the river is stunning!
Go to sleep in treehouses (and to zipline to them)
While The Gibbon Experience doesn’t necessarily guarantee wildlife encounters, it does guarantee sleeping in a treehouse. There are different tours suited to different travelers, but I like to think the “Waterfall Tour” we joined was the best. It’s the most active option with hours of hiking every day, riding every zipline, and the opportunity to sleep in different treehouses. The intimate treehouse experience is even complete with an open-air shower over the jungle below—just don’t drop your toothbrush.
Go for an adventure of your own.
With more time, I would have jumped on another outdoorsy adventure. Climbing, rafting and cycling are all popular options around Laos. Next time, I’d love to slow down even more, choose a route, and bike between towns.
Have you been to Laos? I’d love to hear from you and your experiences.
All photos by Emily Sierra Photography