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What to do in Laos

Visit temples

Statues outside temple, Luang Prabang, Laos

There’s no better way to learn about a country’s people than to understand their beliefs and to visit their places of worship. As a predominantly Buddhist nation, Laos houses some of the oldest Buddhist temples (wats) and monasteries in the world. Time-scarred yet well-preserved, these structures tell the story of the country’s past and the people’s incredible faith.

The That Luang, or the Great Stupa, in Vientiane is the most sacred monument in Laos. Considered a national symbol, it features the main stupa and two temples. Stories say it was built during the third century to house one of Buddha’s bones. However, the structure standing today was erected by a Laotian king in 1566.

Another Buddhist temple worth seeing is That Dam, also in Vientiane. Called the “Black Stupa,” it is believed to have been inhabited by a seven-headed dragon, which protected the people from the Siamese. Although one of the oldest stupas, it still stands majestically on grass-covered grounds.

While it may be impossible to visit every temple in the country, going to at least two or three is a great way to jumpstart your Laos adventure.

Go river tubing

Family floating on an inflatable tube in a river during their vacation

Just because Laos is far from beaches doesn’t mean it has no good places filled with water. Landlocked though it may be, this little country has great rivers where you can take a dip, enjoy the water’s warmth, feel the exquisite texture of the riverbed, and touch the very heart of nature. Majestic waterfalls in some regions also offer clean and refreshing natural pools.

The Nam Song River is among the most popular rivers in the country. Here you can safely swim and play in the water, then relax by the edge afterward.

But river tubing, an activity that allows you to float downriver in a large inner tube, remains to be the biggest attraction in this river.

If you’ve never gone river tubing before, think of it as rafting in a much smaller one-person boat, and imagine how much more fun (and dangerous) that could be.

Of course, you would be very foolhardy to go river tubing in white water, so as early as now, we’re warning you: don’t try it. Even in gentle waters, river tubing is a fun way to enjoy the Laotian rivers.

Live with the locals

A family riding in a bike. On the background, school boys in uniforms riding bicycles on the way to school. Vang Vieng is a developed city and people have a strong emphasis on education.

Plunge into real Laotian culture by living with the locals themselves. Forget about fancy hotel rooms and food you have been used to. Stay in a Laotian family home and blend in with their everyday routine.

Laidback but hardworking, Laotians will surely amaze you with what they can do in a day. Prepare yourself to be humbled by their simple yet happy lifestyles. Get to know their past, present, and picture of the future. Join their festivals and get in the mood to mingle with the crowd.

Exploring the country’s heaven-kissed landscapes is also more enjoyable with people willing to show you around. Let the Laotians bring you to places you have never been to. Let them tell you tales you have never before heard. And let them show you the real essence of being a local. Release your reservations and take this incredible challenge in a foreign land.

Take pictures

Laos is a quiet country whose thrills are usually of the quiet type – the kind that you get when you get when your eyes fall upon sights such as the fog lingering over a coffee plantation, the amazing colors of autumn in Luang Prabang, or the crystal drops of dew among the vegetation in the Bolaven Plateau.

Remember that unless you decide to make Laos your home, your vacation will eventually come to an end, and these sights will be gone. While it may be hard to leave such a divine paradise, bringing home a reminder of its beauty requires not a single drop of sweat.

Arm yourself with a camera and you are ready to go. Wherever your feet take you, be sure to capture even a single moment of you being there. For instance, immortalize the fine time you have exploring Laos’ jungle by taking a picture of the wilderness. Freeze your encounter with Buddha by continuously clicking away.

Laos gives you a thousand and one reasons to come and visit, and it only takes a small plastic/metal gadget to take home every single one.

Shop till you drop

When it comes to shopping for souvenirs, you could hardly find a better deal than what you get in Laos. The prices of goods here are so cheap, it’s criminal for you to go home with less than a dozen souvenirs in your luggage.

The local market of Vang Vieng sells some of Laos’ best products. Here you will find textiles, kitchenware, and even fresh food. Various types of the traditional phaa sin (sarongs) can also be bought, along with hand-woven shirts. You can likewise buy trays and baskets made of bamboo, straw, or grass.

One thing you need to remember, though: bring cash. Though price is hardly ever an issue in the country, payment can be: you’ll be hard put to find places that take credit cards, so make sure to pocket a good amount of cash.