Best things to do in Laos for a first timer
Overshadowed by its better-known coastal neighbours, Laos remains one of Southeast Asia’s most charming destinations. True to the Buddhist ways, the country retains a slow, old-fashioned charm. Change has been an unhurried occurrence, in fact, you will notice most communities still adopting the same ways of life as 20 years ago, with little technology or influence from western countries (apart from the French Influence of course).
The best things to do in Laos are exploring the untouched sceneries, sparkling temples and testing out the tasty cuisine. The snaking Mekong river is lined with limestone cliffs and brooding jungle and the people are wholesome and welcoming!
If you haven’t been to Laos, this list should soon change that!
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Best things to do in Laos for a first timer
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1.Feast on the glorious Laotian cuisine!
I just love the exotic flavour combinations of Asian cooking, and the food in Laos is no exception! You will find similarities to dishes you find in Thailand and Vietnam with a slight Laos twist! Make you sure you the Khao Niaw (sticky rice), Larb or Laap (minced meat), Tam Mak Hoong (green papaya salad), Khao Jii Paté (Baguette)! This Luang Prabang food guide is sure to get you excited!
2. Explore The Pak Ou Caves in Luang Prabang
One of the best things to do in Laos is to take a short boat ride from Luang Prabang up the Mekong River to Pak Ou Caves where you will witness hundreds of Buddha statues. The journey itself is specular with views of limestone cliffs and riverside communities. Most tours usually a stop at one of the handicraft villages along the way. The most popular stop is Ban Xang Hai (or Whiskey Village) where you can taste the local brew, check out some textiles and see some baby ducks! The caves are filled with hundreds of Buddha statues. Buddhas in every position, every era of life, and every size line the cave walls. More than 6,000 Buddha statues and images fill the caves. Damp earth assaults the nostrils, even the brush of bodies as tourists enter and leave doesn’t stir the air.
3. Hike Mount Phousi for Sunset in Luang Prabang
Up until 1975 when the communist took over Laos, Luang Prabang was the royal capital! Today it is still classed as one of the charming cities in south-east Asian and definitely my favourite in Laos. The main part of Luang Prabang is located on a peninsula between the Nam Khan and Mekong river, golden-roofed temples, charming wooden houses and French provincial buildings fill the main roads. Hike Mount Phousi for a bird’s eye view of the magical city below!
4. Explore the charming capital in Vientiane
Like many Asian countries, Laos has no shortage of stunning temples to be admired and explored. The pretty relaxed capital of Vientiane is no exception! Vientiane boasts colonial charm, tranquil Buddhist temples, friendly locals and fabulous food.
Don’t Miss: Fresh bakery goods in the cafes, Lao Herbal Steam Sauna and Massage and Wat Sok Pa Luang temple and The Great Stupa!
5. Eat & Shop at the Luang Prabang Night Market
Laos’ royal capital, Luang Prabang is home to the region’s most authentic night market, where local hill tribes sell textiles, handmade silver jewellery and delicious local delicacies. Thousands of red and blue tent sell everything and anything you can imagine! You can then spend the evening eating at one of the restaurants or food stalls close by.
6. See the Golden Stupa in Vientiane
The Golden Stupa or That Luang is one of the biggest and most magnificent stupas in Laos and being gold is also one of the most recognizable! The Golden Stupa is also the most sacred monument in the country, from the outside high walls protect this magnificent gold leaf covered stupa Stupa that stands over 148 feet tall.
7. Rise early for the Alms Giving Ceremony of the Monks in Luang Prabang
There are many things to do in Luang Prabang but one that can’t be missed is to witness the Alms Giving Ceremony. It is one of the most humbling and authentic experiences you can have in Laos and one that will leave you feeling moved. Get up bright and early to give boxes of rice or biscuits or just sit back and watch in awe. Hundreds of monks walk through the streets lined with offerings from the local people. This experience is an extremely special one, regardless of your religion and is not to be missed if you are in Luang Prabang.
8. Visit Kuang Si Waterfalls in Luang Prabang
One of the best reasons to visit Luang Prabang is to experience Kuang Si Falls. Kuang Si Falls is a massive picturesque waterfall which is around 25km from Luang Prabang and can be reached by car or motorbike. 20,000 kip ($2.50 USD) per person is all it cost to get into the waterfall where you can explore the lush rainforest and surene turquoise pools.
9. Explore Vang Vieng by bike
Vang Vieng is a riverside town, mainly visited by backpackers because of its river tubing parties. The main street is full of guest houses, bars, restaurants and tour agencies but its main attraction is the dramatic hill landscape surrounding the humble town. Grab a bike explore the stunning landscapes, it’s a given as well you will meet a few friends on the way- Vang Vieng locals rock!
10. Visit the South
Pakse in southern Laos is an incredible untouched region waiting to be explored! You will be spoiled for things to do in Pakse, including Vat Phou a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Khone Phapheng Falls the biggest falls in SEA and Don Det, 4000 mini islands spread across the Mekong River. You will be welcomed by the warming locals and showcased to the local cuisine. Pakse and southern Laos should definitely be on your Laos Itinerary!
Editors Tip: Feeling a little more adventurous? Try the mesmerising motorbike loops in Thakhek and Pakse.
11. Go tubing in Vang Vieng
One of the top things to do in Laos is tubing! Ah yes, the famous tubing! This was the one of the most fun and probably most dangerous (alcohol and water not a great mix) experiences I have ever had! Grab a tube and float down the Nam Song, stopping in at riverside bars for drinks, dancing and games along the way.
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