Laos PDR is a beautiful and welcoming country. The way of life is relaxed and our visit was very enjoyable. Everything in the country appears to work in a very informal way which takes a bit of time to get used to but things always seem to work out in the end. We read somewhere that the PDR in Laos PDR stands for “please don’t rush.” And the only things that do rush in the country are the minibuses and they are the only things that you wish would take their time!
We started in the north with a very enjoyable trip to explore the Nam Ha Jungle. After the exhausting jungle experience it was time to relax a little in Nong Khiaw and enjoy the magnificent karst scenery.
The roads are notoriously bad in the north of Laos so we had previously decided that the next leg of the journey was to take the boat south to Luang Prabang. After arriving in Nong Khiaw we found out that there is no longer a public service due to dams being constructed along the river. There were 3 different options left: the bus, an expensive private boat or kayaking. We opted to kayak to Luang Prabang. This was an exciting 3 day adventure down the beautiful Nam Ou river. It is sad to think that in a few months the first dam will be completed and such a wonderful trip will no longer be possible.
The next stop was Luang Prabang. Despite the towns beautiful scenery, the magnificent Kuang Si Cascades and the wide range of excellent restaurants; it was not pleasant due to Helen coming down with food poisoning. This meant my time was split between looking after Helen for 5 days over Christmas watching movies in the room and a little bit of exploring by myself.
The town is situated at the confluence of two rivers and has a hill in the centre, Mount Phu Si (pronounced pussy). The hill has many temples on it and provides an excellent view of the surrounding countryside. This is extremely popular at sunset; so popular that I would recommend going at another time. It was packed with lots of pushy tourists jostling for prime position for their sunset photo and doey eyed tourists naively releasing birds from small cages they had bought. This seemed cruel to us because clearly these poor birds were going to captured again the next day to be put back into their tiny cages for the next lot of unthinking tourists.
The town centre appears to be devoted to tourism and contains many nice places to eat and relax. I would highly recommend Utopia which provides excellent food and great views over the river.
For us Laos is one of our favourite countries on our trip so far. The scenery is outstanding, especially in the north, and the people are friendly and welcoming. It was a really relaxed place to visit and somewhere we could have easily spent more time in.