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Top 5 Reasons to Book your Flight to Laos

luang prabang river
After writing my Top 5 things to do in Luang Prabang, you’d think I’d be done; but then one of my readers asked me what my Top 5 things to do in Laos were.  For a country you don’t often hear about, you can never have too many lists.

The truth is, when I got there, I really wasn’t sure what there was to do and even now, after having had the most wonderful time, I’m still uncertain. So for this post, I’m going to grab a little help from other travelers. You won’t be bowled over by a checklist of  itinerary activities to do there; that’s not the point. Laos is largely rural; it has marvelous beauty, nice treks and subtle charm.  Simply put, traveling Laos is to get lost and take your time soaking in the experience of it.

Top 5 things to do in Laos

 

1. Boating on the Mekong

To say a boat ride down the Mekong River is a “must”, is an understatement. Your eyes will be popping and all your brain wants to register is, “My God, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life!”  The karst landscape, dotted with mini islet formations jutting out of the river, is vast, intimidating, delicate and stunningly picturesque, all at once. It’s like transforming Vietnam’s Halong Bay into a Laotian riverside signature. You’ll feel like you’re in a painting. The view is exquisite even if an hour later your ass is hurting from the stern, unforgiving wooden bench seats!

laos karsts
Karsts along the Mekong River

2. Trekking & the Gibbon Experience

Laos is 80% rural, so why not see it?  Take a trekking trip up in northern Laos. Spend a few days, trudging up hills, over streams and through forests, to learn about the daily life of a Lao village. Notable trekking spots in Northern Laos: Muang SingLuang Nam Tha. I did one from Muong Ngoi.

If you’re coming from Northern Thailand through Huay Xai, try the Gibbon Experience. What is it? Just think of treks in the jungle and ziplining through the trees like Tarzan. Stay in a a canopy treehouse, get unlimited freedom to explore the Bokeo Nature Reserve and maybe even spot some cute gibbons. I’ve not tried it yet, but I’ve heard nice things about it. Check out Wandermom (here) and Scott & Kenna’s Excellent Adventure (here) for the good and the bad of the experience.

trekking in Laos
trekking in Laos

3. Tubing

If cheap buckets of beer, bikinis and rope swings are your thing, then read further. Amidst the magical karst gems of cliffs and caverns, Vang Vieng is better known by twenty-something travelers as the party-happy watering hole for tubing. What is tubing? Inner tubes carrying alchoholic-laced tourists, drift down the Song River in the formation of a pub crawl. Free shots, beer pongs, dancing and much more fun awaits you!

 

4. Experience an herbal sauna

It may not look like much more than a wooden shack, but if you’ve been trodding on your feet the entire day, this will be a sweaty heaven. Wrapped only in a sarong, provided by the premises, enter the sauna’s boarded darkness and feel around for a seat. Feel the perspiration roll while you’re swathed in ascending vapors, from a concocted herbal brew boiling underneath. Inhale deeply and let your body unwind and open to your senses (Read about Bohemian Traveler‘s Vientiane sauna action here). Leave the sauna in 10-15 minute intervals to cool down and sip on some herbal tea before returning for more. Done? Rinse yourself off by dipping a cup between cold and boiling water, for a warm mix. Then breathe out, ahhhh

Cost can range but is still low. I found one in Muong Ngoi for $2.

laos sauna
inside the sauna


5. Get a Lao Massage

Are Thai and Lao massages the same? It may feel so. They both take a firm hand, utilize pressure points and meridians and pull on your body as if it were taffy! The Lao traditional massage torques your body as if you’re doing yoga postures; the masseuses stick hands, feet and knees, into your tight spots to give you a good pull. I actually liked it. It’s not as painful as it may sound, although you may feel toussled and a bit roughed up. It felt more rigorous than a Thai massage, but offers a good stretch, some bone cracking and blood circulation. A good workout of a massage!

Cost is cheap, ranging about $6/hour.

Getting a Laos massage
Getting a Lao massage

 

What are your top things to do in Laos?

 

Other helpful articles:

Getting around in Laos

Fear Factor Laos

Top 5 Things to do in Luang Prabang

What will you kip buy in Laos budget hotels and hostels?

48 hours: Winging it solo in Vientiane

13 Comments

  1. There’s always a next time, Christine

  2. mindoe says:

    Muang Ngoi was one of the most beautiful, untouched places we visited in Laos! Next time you make it back you will have to check out the Bolaven Plateau!

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      I’ll have to do that @Megan! Actually, you just pretty much said what I’ll be posting on FB for Muong Ngoi! Totally agreed.

  3. Robert Perry says:

    be going there this week

  4. Caroline Dennigan says:

    Tubing in Laos looks fun I have to say. Maybe after a few shots I will try it!
    I must be one of the few people who have never had a massage before. How much should you expect to pay in Laos?

    This is also a useful little site that I came accross for independent travellers.
    http://www.dontworryjusttravel.com/index.php/en/asiapacific/laos.html

    • @Caroline: Thanks for the link share. In Laos, the prices are near similar to Cambodia, Vietnam or Thailand. I’d say around $5 for an hour. Which beats paying $40+ in the U.S. Unbeatable!

  5. Great tips Christine! I missed the herbal sauna, which is a bit silly considering I am from Finland and I love saunas 🙂 Need to go back to Laos just for that I think. I’d probably add motorbiking around Laos to that list. The roads in south Laos are in pretty good condition (well, some of them anyway) and there is so much to see on the countryside!

    • @Jarmo: Wow, motorbiking is a fantastic idea for Laos seeing as Laos is so rural and country! Just seeing the landscape from the bus or the boat didn’t feel like enough to me; it seems so much richer. I’m sure your ride must’ve been amazing! But did you just try to find a hotel on the road? That couldn’t have been easy…

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