Beautiful, Laid-Back Laos

Laos is a little-known country but it played a big role in the Vietnam War. Laos has the unenviable title as the most bombed country by the US in the World (don’t know about now with the Iraq War and all). According to my Laos book- more bombs were dropped on Laos than in all of World War II- it’s the equivalent of one bomb every eight seconds for nine years!  (The North Vietnamese used Laos to create the legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail and the US was trying to find it.) But, in true Laos style, they turned lemons into lemonade by taking the shells of the bombs to create canoes.

Laos is unlike any other country in SE Asia and is definitely a highlight. It’s calm, laid-back, and the people super friendly. And best of all you are not looked at like a walking ATM. You’re not followed around the store when all you want to do is browse. You’re not hounded in the markets. And beggars? What beggars?? All in all, it’s a great way to end my journey. And unbelievably, I’m only going to spend about $200 in the nine days I’m spending in the country- including tourist attractions, food, and spending the extra Kip in Luang Prabang’s Night Market. The worst part is the wad of money the ATM’s dispense. We were told to get enough money in the capital, Vientiane, to last for the rest of Laos because ATM’s are iffy in the rest of the country. So, imagine my surprise to get $1 million Kip in 20,000 notes- that’s like a 1/2 inch stack of money!

The three major tourist towns are Vientiane, Vang Vieng, and Luang Prabang. There’s not much to the capital city, so I’ll skip writing about that. Vang Vieng is one of those legendary backpacker towns and in order to earn your badge for Vang Vieng you have to do two things – tube down the Nam Song river and lounging around all night watch episodes of ‘Friends’. Check and check. Luckily, it was easy for us to decide what to do. It rained the first day so we vegged out and watched TV all day. And the second day was sunny and gorgeous so we all went tubing which involves also being roped into riverside “bars”. Vang Vieng is way more Western than Laotian but it’s just the fix needed for people who need a little bit of home.

Luang Prabang is a place to just sit back and watch the world go by. There are the waterfalls and caves to explore- which I did get swim in the nice, freezing waterfall water. But, the marquee event in Luang Prabang is the Night Market which is unlike anything else. No pressure, no hassle, and good prices that are not inflated (well not too much) for tourists. In fact, it’s the quietest market I’ve even been to. Pure bliss to shop in peace. I realized yesterday that I have way more Kip than I need so I went on a little shopping spree and luckily since I’m nearing the end of my trip I won’t have to lug the loot around for long. I’m still blown away by $200 for nine days including my shopping spree (but not including hotel because that’s part of the tour cost).

Tomorrow we will be starting our two-day boat journey to northern Thailand. Until next time…


3 Responses to “Beautiful, Laid-Back Laos”

  1. 1 Mom October 2, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Does sound like a nice way to end your trip. Can’t wait till you get home. I’ve missed you so much. Love ya, Mommy

  2. 2 mandy October 3, 2008 at 12:41 am

    ummm, shopping spree? don’t forget me!! jewelry, yuuummmm! hahaha, i’m so glad you will be back in time for halloween! whatcha gonna be cuz you are coming with me to a party in mt. vernon. so excited! maybe you can find a costume there before you get home! like a dress and hat or something, i dunno. btw, why are your blogs so short? geez, i want more of a tour than this! kidding. love ya! see you soon!

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Stacy is in West Virginia and totally amazed by the power of Math. (Nerd, I know!)


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