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Why I didn’t love Laos

Why are you being a hater?

I never said I hated it; all I am saying is that it didn’t impress me!

I still think you are being a hater. 

Just in time to finish our conversation the waiter came out of the kitchen to bring our Panini’s. Adam and I are in Cambodia now; we arrived a few days ago. In Laos we visited five different place over 19 days. This is long enough to create an impression, don’t you think?

I recognize that whether you like a destination or not can depend on many factors that vary from person to person. For me it’s hard not to compare it with Thailand or Cambodia. Regardless, and although my purpose is to motivate you to travel, I have to be honest with you and with myself.

But not everything was bad.

I will start with the things I liked about Laos:

-Seeing and learning about monks. Monks in Southeast Asia are like fish in the water, there are many, but Luang Prabang is the Great Barrier Reef.  Some monks were very young, maybe 10 years old, so this made me curious. Every man has to be a monk for at least one week in their life. Many do it because this grants them an education and a better way of life. People respect them and they are seen as the wisest among all. Becoming a monk is an honor for Laotians.

Mekong Cruise. We spent two days along the river enjoying the views and stopping at villages along the banks. Experiencing the Mekong this way was great.

-Beer, coffee and croissants. The last two were adopted from their previous monarchy – the French, so you can imagine.

On the other hand, there are more reasons why I didn’t love Laos:

-Very few attractions. Many travelers like to stay away from touristy places and I completely understand their point and why they like virgin spots, although for me it was undeveloped to the point of being boring. I like to have options and there didn’t seem to be many other than walk along the river and the occasionally cave or waterfall.

-Slow motion.  There is a saying that the true meaning of “Lao PDR” is Lao – Please Don’t Rush. Now I can see why. Everything seems to be in slow motion, people stand out in the streets just looking off into the distance, like there is nothing else to do. Oh wait; there is nothing else to do. Again some people may like this, but after a couple of days I was missing some action, some energy.

A little depressing. Laos is one of the poorest countries in Asia and it’s recovering from a communist regime. It was isolated until the 90’s. Their struggles are very noticeable, especially in small towns.

Traditional Laos dish called Laap

Not a big fan of the food. Besides Vientiane and Luang Prabang our food options were limited. Even there, Laotian food doesn’t exactly tantalize the taste-buds.

-Big language barrier. I don’t blame Laotians from my inability to speak their language, but with the exception of our guide on the Mekong tour and a few others, we didn’t meet anyone that we could communicate with. So far in Asia people in general speak very little and broken English, but they always try to communicate somehow, hand gestures, charades, etc. In Laos we felt locals made very little effort and seemed generally indifferent.

-No middle ground. The lack of tourist development made it hard to find a middle range travel style. An example of this is when Adam went to explore a cave; the difference in price was a $200 tour versus an $8 motorbike ride. So we had to choose the luxury option or the cheap not-so-good/comfortable-option.

Over all I don’t regret visiting Laos, but if I could to do it all over again, I would have spent less time there and more in Cambodia.

If you have been to Laos, please drop a line about your experience, I would like to hear your opinion.

Cheers from the Weegs!

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Comments To This Entry.
  1. Rashaad September 18, 2012 Reply

    My only direct experience with Laos was a day and a half I spent in Vientiane two years ago, so I can’t say I know the country well in any way. I will say Vientiane was a very sleepy town, and a colossal difference from Bangkok. One thing I noticed was there were no 7-11s in Vientiane, a huge contrast from Bangkok. Laos definitely wasn’t as developed as Thailand. I don’t know if it’s fair to say I was indifferent about Laos. But I do wish Vientiane was more memorable.

    • Pamela September 19, 2012 Reply

      I can see that, totally agree!

  2. Stephanie - The Travel Chica September 28, 2012 Reply

    A travel experience is so personal and dependent on many factors. I’ve never been to Laos, but I’ve had so many conversations with travelers about places they loved that I wasn’t impressed by and vice-versa. But you won’t know until you go for yourself :-)

    • Pamela September 28, 2012 Reply

      I agree, right now we are in Vietnam and I’ve heard from many travelers that people here are rude and sketchy. So far we have had a great experience and find the people very nice.

  3. We absolutely loathed Pakbeng (first night’s stop on our trip down the Mekong in May last year) but Luang Prabang was quite nice… although the 4am drums were a little disconcerting the first time we heard them (our guesthouse was next to one of the wats)!

    I’d have been more well-disposed toward the place if I’d had my laptop with me, and had not forgotten the charger for my camera! As it was, my partner had to do some work, so pinched my iPad, which meant I didn’t even have access to my books… so I admit, that I did get rather bored there!

    The Lao in LP seemed to be lovely people, and in some cases, the very soul of generosity. We didn’t have any communication problems in either Pakbeng or LP; we found that even if they couldn’t speak English, most people were OK with (our rubbish!) Thai, or French, and were happy to teach us basic phrases in Lao!

    Overall we found the town to be rather expensive (but lazy afternoons at Utopia or Dyen Sabai were worth the extra expense!). But there was little to do, and little choice of food (we don’t eat meat either). Still, we didn’t go hungry, and the best food we found was at the night market, where we could fill our plates for a dollar. It wasn’t especially inspiring food but it was plentiful, and very nice.

    After five days in LP however, we cut short our holiday, and flew back home to Chiang Mai! LP airport is uber-cute, BTW (it has a goat)! I’d be happy to return, esp. as it’s only an hour’s flight from Chiang Mai… but I’ll be taking my tech with me!

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