So my friends from home had left Thailand and after spending a week with them it was time to part ways and go to Laos! Solo traveler once again…for about 3 hours. The bus picked up more passengers from Chiang Rai and that’s when I made my first travel companion, Pablo from Germany. We spoke for about 30 minutes before we decided we wanted to travel together. He was taking the slow boat to Luang Prabang and I was staying on the bus, but we were going to meet two days later and start our journey.
The bus smelled like absolute shit. It makes sense since it was a total of 21 hours. The bathroom stench was so strong that I thought the smell came from me at one point. We stopped in the middle of the night to grab dinner and we were all so excited to get away from the bus, until we got off the bus. It smelled even worse outside! Like rotting bodies were everywhere. Really appetizing! When we finally got to LP we walked to our hostel and waited outside until it opened.
The first two days were spent visiting waterfalls. Best waterfalls I’ve ever seen – so much so that no other waterfalls have been worth seeing afterwards. These waterfalls resemble rice paddies in that they have kaskading levels throughout. Kuang Si Waterfalls is the more popular one with a black bear sanctuary, and a hike up to a lagoon and cave. But Tad Sae Waterfalls was better in my opinion because you were able to explore any part of the waterfalls which means less people around you. A group of us climbed through the different levels and just chased the sun around while giving ourselves mud baths.
When Pablo arrived we left Luang Prabang and went on our way to Nong Khiao, a small town in the north of Laos. We stayed at Sunset Bungalows and had an amazing view of the Nam Ou River. Not a river for swimming unless you wanna risk jumping into shit colored water but it was beautiful nonetheless. This town was so peaceful and easy to explore. There are so many sandy pathways through fields of greenery and rivers! Laos nature was the best I’ve ever seen in my life. I walked around for hours, in complete awe of my surroundings. There was a man farming in a wheat field so I walked over to ask him where Pha Tok Cave was. He offered to bring me through the back so I didn’t have to pay the entrance fee. So nice! Just kidding – nothing is ever free. After he took me to the entrance he requested that I pay him money. Never forget that when you travel Asia! There definitely are genuinely nice people here but you also have to understand these people think that because you’re a foreigner that money comes easy for you. And it does, at least compared to them! So if someone does you a solid, then give a little money to them because it may go a long way for them! And if you don’t want to feel ripped off, then just remind yourself that an act of kindness here probably won’t be free and decline their help. I’ve met a lot of travelers who have gotten scammed a lot, including myself so I can understand being skeptical of locals. But it’s not always a scam. If they help you out, help them out a little too!
I walked through these caves and an immediately felt chills flow through my spine. This cave was a hiding spot for local people to escape the bombs dropped by America. You can see trenches where people hid and bullet holes along the walls of the cave. Not many people know that Laos is the most bombed country in the entire world. America dropped a shit ton of bombs on Laos during the Vietnam/American War and denied it, because America suspected that Vietnam had a trade tunnel going through Laos to get weapons and supplies to Southern Vietnam. They were right, but they didn’t know where the tunnel exactly was, so they bombed many parts of the country. One third of these bombs are still active in Laos which means that today, there is at least one person injured or killed everyday by bombs. In Vang Vieng, you can hear bombs being detonated in the distance by machines. It’s pretty insane what we don’t know about the world until we see it for ourselves.
When Pablo felt better, we decided to hike up to a sunset point but instead of coming back down the same day, we slept on the top of the mountain and enjoyed a really lovely night. It was fucking freezing but definitely worth it. We started hiking up the mountain with our huge backpacks filled with warm clothes and essentials, with only 40 minutes until sunset. The hike is normally 1 and a half hours. It was not an easy hike up but we made it just in time and yes, it was totally worth it!!! Bring beer and whiskey to keep yourself warm if you decide to do this. When the sunset we watched the stars and the Milky Way for a few hours before passing out and waking up to a sunrise and making our way back down.
My last stop in Laos was Vang Vieng, before Pablo and I parted ways and I headed back into Thailand. Vang Vieng is so naturally beautiful – it’s filled with picturesque landscapes, mountains and greenery! The view outside our guesthouse was fantastic and it wasn’t even the best view. One of the days was spent motorbiking outside of Laos and hiking up mountains and through caves to get to awesome viewpoints. Another couple of hard hikes that were so worth it! I wasn’t expecting the hikes to be hard so I went in flip flops but I highly recommend real shoes. It would be much easier! The main attraction in Vang Vieng is river tubing paired with day drinking but I didn’t do that – there’s always next time though!
On my last night, Pablo and I went to a bar with another friend and the three of us ordered a joint from their hilarious “secret” menu which offers a load of different substances that come in the form of omelettes, pancakes, shakes and etc. We’re poor and can’t afford much so we settled for a 10,000 kip joint, approximately $1.25. You aren’t allowed to smoke it in the bar area so be prepared to be lead into a small closet filled with clothes and blankets. Pretty unique experience and a really great last memory of Laos!