Travel in Laos - Experiences
Travel in LAOS - Experiences
Hello there my friends I will be here to share with you some of my travel experiences across Laos and also give you some tips of things you may be aware before going there. So let’s start.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE –
Laos as currency is more expensive than Thailand, Malasya, Vietnam and Cambodia from the Asian countries. I don’t know why and how comes but is like that.
The exchange rates are - 1 euro – 8726 KIP / 1 $ - 8244 KIP / 1 VND – 0.36 KIP
As I had already money left from my Vietnam trip I had to exchange them mostly and honestly I felt paying 2 or 3 times more anything I was about to buy (including water). Crazy but true.
Visa you can get on arrival policy (now they open more points) and is easier to get.
Well I got in Laos trough the border control in XAYDEN, next to Cambodia in south east, directly trough a natural reserve by hitch hiking. Well most of the country except 1 time I just hitch hiked even the transport was the cheapest thing in here still Hitch hiking may be more interesting and faster sometimes consider their “professional” bus service.
They are no trains yet in Laos but I heard few years ago they want to build under the chinese investment. Still don’t know in which phase is the process.
HITCH HIKING in Laos wasn’t that easy as other places but wasn’t hard neither. Mostly took me very long to get shorter distances but it was ok, people very friendly and mostly motorcycles stopped for me, so the maximum distance I was getting a ride was between 3 km and 10km maximum. Cars a bit harder to catch and especially expensive or big cars. Still in my head a big contrast between the poverty I saw and the big expensive cars are rolling on the road…it doesn’t make sense but better, the roads were very clear compare to Vietnam so enough place to walk for me.
Always I used the same ticket I did in Vietnam that helped me out a lot. More about experience Hitch hiking will write another post here.
First few nights I had experience local families (one of them I meet their son in Vietnam – Kon Tum) and they host me in Laos first night. Very modest but extremely friendly family offer me dinner and a lot of beers (if I could drink) while the communication was very hard due to the English level. But I felt good I felt they offer me everything they had and I was happy to meet them. They practically had no jobs, but living only from home farming, I was shocked and couldn’t understand where they get the money from when I asked them, but it wasn’t clear, and in fact seemed they no need money since they have all they need at home. So Family Atsaphantong thank you very much.
They live near Sekong city in south of Laos. After a nice modest breakfast with omlette and veggies with meat that mother cooked and the famous steamed sticky rice, which I eat for first time in my life, I depart for my next destination, somewhere north. On the way I experiences for 60 km a local bus which I don’t want to try it again because I felt frustrated, not because of no comfort, but instead to go to destination the bus was stopping every single km like a personal car. So If I decide or have a weird desire and I say to the driver, “I want to get some fruits from this little shop and see the ducks crossing the street” they will stop the bus and you do what you want. Beside that is very slow and only a single carriage way (well for now is enough for how many cars) but incredible SLOW, very slowwwww, so I continued hitch hiking north passed Pakse and I hit by mistake by a family who comes from US to visit the friends and unfortunate case bring their dad’s ash back home. So they are living now in US and came here as they said “back to the roots”. It was evening and they offer me a place to sleep and join them for dinner. And it was great, to see another kind of local family how they live. We had fresh fish from the market super delicioussss when barbecue the fish was jumping over like it was burning for him (poor fish L ) but after when cooked was so delicious. That night I discovered more talking with one of the ladies (Sharon her name) about their life and how their parents escape to Thailand back in 1970s by swimming across the river Mekong at mid night. They want a change and they did it. Well to swim over this river guys is not a easy thing when you see how big is it and the speed and volume of water. I just can’t imagine the hard moments they had but they paid in the end. Find such histories on my way make my travel much more meaningful than other touristic spots, really and talking about touristic spots I did tried some once arrived in Vientiane (the capital) where a couch surfer mr King hosted me for few nights.
Things to do in capital Vientiane you have plenty – FIRST is to spend more money possible. SECOND to find out, discover they are more western restaurants and nice coffee shops than other places in Asia. I heard it was a French colony at some point, is possible since the national bank is written in French at first . THIRD – have a massage and if you a guy find a girl J) haha not a easy thing right. Well I tell you what I did beside having fun with my host and do home parties. During these parties also the Police caught us on the motorbike without helmet but only with 50.000Kip they let us go easily, no receipt not anything. This is a big sign of corruption in the country. But better let’s start with FOOD to make our day sweeter. So what you can try if you are here in Vientiane?!? I have 3 things to mention (2 locals and 1 foreign shop which I love it even a bit expensive) it brought me back in time to the taste I was used.
For western experience I tried several but far away the best was JoMA bakery/café where they do very delicious dishes, sandwiches and soups, yuuumyyyyy a bit like delicatese food in middle of such place. I tried some Hummus with veggies, few kinds of baguete and a delicious pumpkin soup which I did a repeat.
For local dishes there is somewhere central this place called “Nem Nueng Viengsavanh” where they served a mixed kitchen between viet-lao and you must try this dish “NEN NUENG”, Very very delicious. Price around 20.000kip – Here I met this lady (Veomany Khamphay) who works in government and I asked her some questions about the country and development and seems quiet helpful she said, but still very traditional. I ve seen her quiet open to talk about different subjects but when I asked “what about if you would say something to people around the world to come visit Laos, what would you say?!?” and she said that Laos has nice landscapes and nice culture, but didn’t give me anything like a landmark what especially or what makes Laos especially, and to me personally didn’t seemed that exited to attract somehow tourists, just probably to busy with her job. Maybe they need in government someone with more passion for these things if they want to develop beside that most of the capital is under foreign investments.
At last and the best I think in Vientiane from my local try was “LAO KITCHEN” (not cheap) but some of the most amazing “LAAB” dish I ever tried. Well didn’t tried to many just once before but this is something totally new and so worth. They have also vegetarian version with mushrooms and also with meat. The menu is complete and well organized. Remember don’t take to spicy because it will burn you. J so try some LAAB there you wont regret.
MASSAGE tried in the centre for 90.000Kip for 1.5 hours in Dragon massage lab. Well they are famous for the food massage and is the cheapest in the city and they are quiet good, but don’t take traditional massage because isn’t that great from my point of view. If you want a food massage YES is ok. You will pay around 20.000 less than any other place in town.
PARTY - I had the chance to go in few places and one of them was a Gay club (CC Bar) in center, very fun at night you can put your own music you can be the DJ on Youtube…is very funny and also very dangerous for me J it felt a bit in fact when I start to move a little bit already enough sights on me. Anyway without to many details guys, I had a great night even in such environment. But I will rather prefer the previous bar/club/restaurant called MarktWO much better quality and fun with live music. There is the place where also you may attract some transgender offer their services for around 100 till 200$ u can negociate the price.
Well in total with my days in Laos (10 in total) I spent 811.000 KIP which means 99 $ so around 9$/day but honestly last 4/5 days I really exaggerate and bought souvenirs and spent the money in expensive food, icecreams and foreigner drinks. I would say maybe 90$ from my trip I spent in Vientiane and the rest 9$ across the country in 4 days around when I paid the bus once (2-3 $) and some water on the road.
That was all. I am sure if you want can do it better but no need, I think I did a complete experience mixed between the deep local culture and the modern world, the cosmopolitan area. One thing I want to participate next time, next to the night market in Vientiane there is a Zumba class every evening where you can join. Is perfect to keep fit and have some fun. Is the modern version of “aunties square dance” in China.
As conclusion I would say
- very friendly people (but not at the border control)
- not developed which gives you the taste of authenticity more and more.
- Hitch hiking
- French bread (oh my god I love it J )
- Beautiful girls (not that shy as Vietnam)
- Cheap bus transport
- Can sleep in peoples house
- To expensive everything for what they offer (service)
- No train
- Roads quality very bad/slow
- No English
- TO EXPENSIVE (again)