Hi all! After spending time in Luang Prabang I visited Vang Vieng and Si Phan Don. Overall, Laos is a super relaxed country. The pace of life is slow, and there is plenty to see and do if you like being outdoors (both things I love). It’s also poorer and more rural than other Southeast Asian countries. And Lao people are super hospitable and friendly.
Van Vieng is a beautiful town situated on the Nam Song River. Kayaking, tubing, caving, mountain biking, climbing, and trekking are big here. I decided to tube the river and purchased a “100% waterproof” bag to keep my belongings safe. It broke as I opened the package, haha. Glad I realized that before! Had a lovely day floating the river along the backdrop of near vertical limestone mountains (see first photo below).
Side note about Vang Vieng:
It used to be a backpacker party destination (still is, but to a lesser extent). The government intervened in 2012 since many tourists were dying from drugs/alcohol/drowning, and over concern how tourism was ruining the town’s culture. Most bars along the river were shut down, and all zip-lines/rope-swings/slides have been removed. It still has a party atmosphere, but I think it’s good the government has limited it. Since the country is quite poor, it’s sad to see locals having little choice but to cater to tourists. Although tourism brings money to the area, it does change the culture of a place. I always try to be respectful of local customs and leave a good impression as an American. It truly feels unfair since the income discrepancy is so big between the US and Laos. I always knew I was incredibly fortunate, but actually witnessing it on this trip has been an entirely different experience. Seeing how people struggle everyday to meet basic needs is quite heartbreaking.
There is no denying what a beautiful place this is, and I hope it can maintain it’s charm for years to come.
I also went caving (another “opportunity” to face my fear of spiders, as there were some HUGE ones in there). Had to crawl through some very tight places and was quite happy to see daylight at the end. Very cool experience! It was nearly a bigger adventure finding the cave itself, as it was located along a dry riverbed, with zero signage, and no one around. Didn’t take many photos in the cave, as I was focusing on making it out. This was when we saw the light of day again, hallelujah!
Stumbled upon this soccer/futbol game. So nice to see, and what a beautiful backdrop 🙂
Motorbike rides: love them, but still not brave enough to ride one on my own:
Dinner, with an unexpected dance performance at Sae Lao Project to end the day:
This photo accurately sums up Lao food: HOT!
Next stop was Si Phan Don (translated to 4,000 Islands), an area in Southern Laos that sits on the Mekong River. The river splits into a wide maze of different channels, hence the name 4,000 Islands. During rainy season many islands are completely underwater. I stayed on the sleepy island of Don Det. I walked around the entire island in just over two hours (with many photo stops, of course). Also did some kayaking and saw two beautiful waterfalls, including the biggest in SE Asia. Saw Irrawaddy dolphins in the river as well.
Fishing is a way of life here:
Only 12,380 kilometers to home (7,692 miles)!
Kayaking tour….arms sore for days after:
Hiked a bit to this beautiful waterfall (not accessible by kayak for obvious reasons). The beautiful flowers were along the way to the waterfall:
New friends…it’s always refreshing how welcoming people can be (especially when travelling alone). Even if you can’t communicate verbally, there is always something to find in common, whether it be a smile, sharing a drink, or playing a game:)