Laos was a crazy few weeks – we explored some amazing ethnic villages up in Luang Nam Tha – held on for dear life during over 30 hours of crazy bus trips up and down the steep mountains in northern Laos. BUT worst of all was the fact that we lost over 400 gig and 2 months worth of film. This was really hard to deal with, so we didn’t film for about a week while in Laos, but once we arrived down south in Pakse – we started filming again, and this episode is about our adventures down in Southern Laos – hope you enjoy! 🙂
Laos As We Travel Video Adventure
Laos Explained Amazing Place to Visit
Many of the children in Laos were shy but very curious about tourists. And we couldn’t get our eyes off them either, they are just so cute!
We spent about a month in Laos, traveling from the northern most part of the country in Luang Nam Tha all the way down to the 4000 islands in the south. Just like the roads in Laos, our trip was an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs, but even though we have had a lot of unfortunate situations, Laos as a country was an amazing place to visit. Here is what we think sums up Laos and what we will remember the most:
The Loas People…
… are genuine. The kids are the cutest we have ever seen and the adults are very friendly. The small conversations or smiles exchanged are the most precious things we will take away with us from this place. The children were so curious, you couldn’t walk ten meters without someone saying hello, child or adult, especially in the smaller more remote villages. Even though we stayed in shabby guesthouses we left loving the place because of its owners. It’s not the land of smiles, but the people are SO real, they don’t put up an act for tourists at all but were genuine.
… are not meant to fit tall people. After every bus ride it felt like we had shrunken a foot by just trying to squeeze our legs into the tiny gaps between the seats, and the beds in the night buses were half our length! Of course we can understand this as there are no Lao people our height, but it was always a mission trying to survive those bumpy crazy bus rides. The view from the bus window is strikingly beautiful and you’ll pass tribe villages along the way, but remember to drop your jaw behind a closed window! For some reason the bus drivers seemed to prefer having all the windows open (even in air con vans), so bring a scarf to cover your mouth with because the roads are very dusty and you can get really sick from getting too much dust in your lungs (Sofia did…).
… is something that we have mixed experiences about, but mainly it was all very good. We had the best Indian curries ever in this country, and unlike Thailand – the Indian food here is really cheap, but the Lao food didn’t impress us too much, perhaps because we are vegetarian. However, the French-inspired cuisine was really good. It was a nice combination between French and Lao style food; the baguettes and burgers were filled with typical Lao vegetables and Lao style omelette’s (you have to try the pumpkin burgers!). In Vientiane, the capital city, there are a lot of western bakeries selling some of the best pastries and cakes we tried while in South East Asia, for a great price as well.
… Lao coffee was the best coffee We have ever had, anywhere. Even without the condensed milk (how will we be able to live without it?) it was still sweet enough for a non-coffee drinker like us to finish in minutes. The best coffee was found in the southern Laos, close to the coffee plantations. Oh, and if you’re looking for the best banana fruit shake in SEA you will find it in the restaurant next to the Reggae bar on Don Det, it’s simply the best!
…is a struggle to find. To be brief and blunt, we’d go as far as saying that there is no such thing as comfort here. This is something you have to expect and accept when in Laos. Laos is not Malaysia or Thailand, Laos is Laos and the roads are full of crater like holes, the Wi-Fi is still non existent and the tourism is still pretty new.
This is part of the charm of Laos …
… is spectacular: Never ending steep hills, winding dark red dirt roads, flowing rivers and rice fields. The absolute best scenery we found was in the northern regions around Luang Namtha. Vang Vieng had some incredible nature, with the steep limestone cliffs dipping its feet in the flowing river. The 4000 islands was also a lushoious place, one of those where you just lie in a hammock taking the views in for hours on end, watching the Mekond water change color throughout the day.
… is for us quite fascinating. In Laos, the concept of “same same” is more obvious than anywhere else. Reclined seat and air con, or plastic chair in the aisle and open windows? Cold water hose 50 meters away from the room or hot shower in attached bathroom? “Same same!”, they say. We loved it in a way, it shows how things don’t have to be complicated. A seat is a seat, the point is that you get there, right? 😉
This boy in a tribe village in Laos was collecting rocks in his t-shirt. Photo was taken in a rural village in Laos where I was amazed to find five year old children smoking huge tobacco pipes, and half finished coffins under every house. Apparently, when the people in the village turn 50, they all start carving their own coffins to prepare for when they die…
Things I’ve Learnt About Lao People While in Laos
This sweet girl was helping her mother selling snacks at the morning market.
I found the Lao people to be the most fascinating part of traveling through Laos. I was happily surprised to see how rich their culture was and how so many people were still living according to their old traditions. Laos is NOT known as the land of smiles, but the people here are still so special, and very genuine in their own way. Below are 5 things that sum up my experience with the Lao people – and just to make sure, these are not facts but my own perception and experience from spending 3 weeks there.
Men Are Very Homely
Something I found very refreshing was how much time the men spent at home and with their children. It was a very common sight to see men of all ages carrying around babies on their backs and in their arms, feeding them, hushing them to sleep and just general baby sitting – without the mother in sight. They really took time with their kids and gave them attention, playing with them. They also seemed very interested in other people’s kids, always toddling with the babies when sharing a songtheaw (bus á la tuk tuk style) ride.
The Kids Are The Most Adorable I’ve Ever Met
These little people are just the sweetest! Their doll faces and curious eyes are simply irresistible. I’ve never met so many kids in a country who shyly whisper or loudly yell ‘hello’ to you from the street, river, moped or home. They were so curious, and those who were brave enough – smiled, laughed and said hello to you over and over again until you were out of sight. You cannot help but to smile and say hello back …
The Bus Drivers Have a Death Wish
When I mentioned the things I’ve learnt about Thai people someone asked why I didn’t mention the driving. The Thai people are known for their careless driving, and the streets there were chaos, but at least the bus drivers had some common sense. In Laos – they didn’t. 70 people in a 50 seat bus does not make sense, especially when you’re not using your breaks on the steep, windy mountain roads… Chickens and roosters on the road? Who cares, they had it coming! Feathers were constantly sweeping past our windows … travel around Laos really isn’t for the faint-hearted!
They Want To Avoid Any And All Confrontation
This lady sitting in her bamboo hut in Laos waved to us to come closer. The way they wave in Laos is the complete opposite from in Europe, so at first we thought she was waving for us to go away, which was confusing because she had the biggest smile in her face. It turned out that all she wanted was to give us one of her bananas…
The people are very gentle and kind in Laos, similar to the Thai people – but different. It’s not the most obvious friendliness and they don’t take you in with open arms, they are more stand-offish. However, if you gain a little bit of trust, you will see that they’re actually very friendly people. They are also, like the Thai people, afraid of confrontations. Sometimes it’s really refreshing, other times it’s really frustrating, especially when you just want to get a straight answer to a question. Their way of dealing with it is usually to laugh it off as a joke – which makes for a pretty funny and confusing situation. You might not get a straight answer, but you always leave with a confused smile on your face.
Women And Men Work Together
This is something that I find very rare around the world. Usually women and men have their own places in which they work; but in Laos the roles are very mixed. The men and women work together. It’s not uncommon to see men standing in stalls cooking street food and banana pancakes, and women working the street as road workers. Both women and men work on tea and coffee plantations, and they both take care of the family. It seemed as though they did what they were best at, if the man cooked better food, he was the chef, and vice versa.
(photo credit: loic.schule – Stas Kulesh
The locals in Don Det were early birds, and already before sunrise the fires were burning by every household. This kid was on his way to help mum with the fire. Gotta love the t-shirt 😉