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Trekking Days And Local Ways – My Week In Laos


February 25th, 2015Culture, Travel, Food, Asia
By Jodie Le Marrec

A cascading waterfall

Image courtesy of Jodie Le Marrec

If you are planning a trip to South East Asia, Laos has to be on your list of places to visit. This landlocked country is growing in popularity with young travellers and it’s an excellent addition to the traditional backpacker’s trail of visiting Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Bursting with luscious forests, magnificent turquoise waterfalls and towering limestone mountains, this captivating nation will fill your days with adventure.

Here are some of the highlights from my visit.

3 Day Adventure Trek

After arriving in the sleepy capital of Vientiane I decided to embark on an adventure up into the mountainous villages around Luang Prabang. Together with a few other travellers, I signed up with a local tour operator. We opted for a multi-activity option, including cycling for 40km, trekking for two days and river kayaking.

I met up with the rest of my group and we set off on our 3 day adventure. We collected our bikes and began the 40km journey to the Nam Khan River. Our cycle took us past rice paddies which stretched for miles and we often saw monkeys swinging from the thick green trees lining the road. Occasionally, smiling children would run up to the road side and greet us as we passed.

After cycling up rocky roads in the hills and through rural villages we reached the river where we all jumped in a long boat to paddle across. This is where we started our trek to the village of the Hmong tribe where we would be staying for the evening. Our two guides led us through forests and fragrant fields of flowers. We were bumbling along the path, taking in the spectacular surroundings when suddenly we stumbled upon our final destination.

The Village of the Hmong Tribe

A bridge across the water with a mountain in the background

Image courtesy of Jodie Le Marrec

The Hmong people are an ethnic group that live across the mountainous regions of Laos as well as China, Vietnam and Thailand. Our accommodation consisted of a traditional wooden hut on stilts with a thatched roof and our bed was a hand woven matt on the floor of the hut.

We spent the evening sitting around the fire with local families who had made soup and vegetables which they served with sticky rice. We drank tea and taught each other our favourite games until the sun went down and it was time to go to bed.

The following morning I woke up to the sounds of the chickens clucking and the pigs softly snorting. We took a stroll through the village and observed intimate scenes of families huddled around the fire, cooking their breakfast before they headed to the nearby fields to tend to their herds or prepare the paddies for rice.

7 Hour Trek to the Khamu Village

Laos boy walking down road with backpack

Image courtesy of Flickr, Kuruman

Once we had filled ourselves with eggs, bread and jam, we pulled our walking boots on and started the 7 hour trek to the Khamu village. The last section of the trek was the most challenging. We walked up steep hills and dense woodlands but it was all worthwhile because we got to see the untouched landscape and panoramic views that stretched for miles and miles. Our reward for trekking 7 hours was a cooling kayak down the river back to Luang Prabang.

Along the way we saw elephants from a nearby sanctuary grazing along the riverbank and we waved to the local families going about their daily lives. We spent that night in a rural village outside of Luang Prabang before concluding our trek the next day.

Seeing Laos off the beaten track was great and I would highly recommend for other travellers to do the same. It’s a beautiful contrast to the towns mobbed with tourists and provides you with the opportunity to learn about another way of life.

Vang Vieng

Travellers flock to the party town of Vang Vieng where days are spent tubing down the river on tractor tires and drinking at the riverside. Although this town is famous for partying and its countless bars playing reruns of Friends episodes, this sleepy place has so much more to offer.

Vang Vieng was definitely one of the highlights of my time in Laos, I was only planning to spend a few days there but I ended up staying a week. The town is made up of two sides. One is the ‘party side’ which is in the centre of town and across the river is the ‘quiet side’. I opted for the ‘quiet side’ as I was keen to rest my muscles after my days spent cycling and trekking.

I walked along the riverside until I came across The Maylyn Guesthouse which was the perfect place to rest. It consisted of a few wooden bungalows overlooking the fields and mountains.

I spent a lot of time there exploring the gardens and hanging out in the communal area with some other travellers and their 3 adorable puppies. I also enjoyed mid-afternoon naps in the hammock on my balcony where I would fall asleep to the sound of birds and the trickle of a nearby stream.

However, Vang Vieng is not all relaxing and rivers. There are plenty of other activities to get involved in and places to explore. These are some of the activities I enjoyed during my week there:

Cave visits

There are several caves dotted around town which can be fun to explore. Geologically speaking, Laos is predominantly a nation made up of jagged limestone mountains that dominate the landscape. You can reach these caves via numerous villages and dusty tracks. The Water and Elephant Caves host a magnificent Buddha, while the Lusi Cave boasts a ‘dinosaur fossil”. You will be left in awe of how the stone has developed into different shapes and structures over the years.

Hot Air Ballooning

Hot air balloon floating over Vang Vieng

Image courtesy of Flickr, Rob Young

Floating across the sky as the sun sets and rising above the mountains into the clouds in a hot air balloon has to be on your list of things to do when you’re in Laos. Standing in a wicker basket watching the sun dip behind the landscape is a stunning experience and I would highly recommend this to anyone visiting the region.

Swimming at the Blue Lagoon

People swimming in Blue Lagoon

Image courtesy of Flickr, Rolling Okie

The glistening, turquoise Blue Lagoon is a great place to take a picnic for the day. You can spend your time there swimming, jumping from the rope swings, playing volleyball or relaxing with a book. The Tham Phu Kham Cave is nearby so you can also visit this while you are there. Keep in mind though, that someone has tried to create a fake Blue Lagoon so remember to keep heading around the bends when travelling there as the real one is 6km from the centre of town.

Trip to the Organic Farm

The Organic Farm is bubbling over with mulberry madness! From delicious fresh mulberry pancakes to mulberry juice and smoothies, it’s all berry delicious! It’s a great place to have breakfast or lunch. I personally enjoyed the cheese with salad and homemade bread as I hadn’t had any real cheese during my months of travelling.

My time in Laos was definitely a memorable one and I would highly recommend this beautiful, serene country to anyone who is considering travelling around South East Asia. From the warm, friendly locals to the breath taking scenery Laos will surely steal your heart the way it has stolen mine.

Have you been to Laos before? Share your experience with us in the comments box below.

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