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Where We Are: Laos

We started the Backpacker’s Route Through Southeast Asia in Thailand. We made our way north through from Bangkok, to Chiang Mai, to Chiang Rai, and have finally made our way into our next country: Laos!

Laos was the country in Southeast Asia that I was most excited about and for no good reason. I just remember looking into Laos last year and thinking it looked beautiful and relaxing and secluded, and I was just really excited to experience it. It has not disappointed.

The Bamboo Bridge in Luang Prabang, Laos.

We crossed over the land border between Chiang Khong, Thailand into Houay Xai, Laos, and I couldn’t wait to see what this country was all about. Entering Laos was our first land board crossing through Immigrations, and it was surprisingly simple.


That Laos Life

From there, we got right on the two-day Laos slow boat from Houay Xai to Luang Prabang via Pakbeng. And let me tell you, there is no better way to spend two days than to spend them on the slow boat between tiny towns in Laos.

I listened to audio books, and I watched tiny Laotian children wave at us as we passed through their hometowns, and I got actual, uninterrupted work done. We passed by the dreamiest landscape of rolling mountains and long, skinny boats and temples carved into mountain caves. It was stunning.

Slow Boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, Laos

I know I typically check in with you by city, but I’ve decided to keep this post more high-level at the country level. We’ve upped our pace through Southeast Asia and it doesn’t seem right to share my impressions on these small towns after spending such short periods of time there. So while we’re currently in Luang Prabang, Laos, which is an incredibly quaint city in the mountains along the Mekohng river, let’s check in on what this new country is like!

Kuangsi Waterfalls

The Kuangsi Waterfalls near Luang Prabang

First Impressions on Laos

  1. It’s quaint. I don’t think this is a good thing, for a lot of reasons, but being in Laos feels like stepping back in time. The streets are lined with family owned business, where it’s not strange to find a kid working at a bar. Kids are playing barefoot in the street and there’s always people on the riverbank with a beer watching the sunset.
  2. We’ve got some French influence in the house! We spent a good month eating nothing but $2 Pad Thai, and don’t get me wrong, it was amazing, but I was pretty excited to see some bread make an appearance on the street food scene! You can’t go 20 feet without finding a street vendor who will sell you a baguette stuffed with veggies and cheese and a little bit of chili sauce if you’re lucky, and it’s a much welcomed treat.
  3. The markets are legit. We’ve been to a lot of markets around the world. (I could actually tell you the exact amount but I’ll save the suspense and include that in my 6-months stats post.) The Laos markets are some of the best, because they have a pretty high volume of actual homemade crafts, whereas many markets are all pedaling the same mass-produced tchotchkes. There are handwoven scares and hand-painted art and lots of other cute little things with elephants. It’s all really great!

Just like any good SEA country, Laos is chalk-full of beautiful temples.

What you need to know — Luang Prabang, Laos:

  • Population: 56,000
  • Altitude: 700 meters
  • Exchange Rate: 8,320.25 Lao Kip to $1 USD
  • Primary Language: Lao, some English
  • Walking Tour: None, just DIY
  • Time Zone: Indochina Time Zone, UTC +7 (13 hours ahead of US Central Time)
  • Taxi: Just Tuk-Tuks, which are like motorized pedicab taxis, and Songthaews (think Uber pool, but you can hail one down on the street)
  • Uber: No
  • Public Transit: Just Tuk-Tuks and Songthaews
  • Emergency Number: 214018
  • Running: We will not likely be running here.
  • American Football: Football in Asia isn’t really fun to track because of the time difference. We can only catch the nights games in the morning our time, so we can’t really watch them at bars.
  • Starbucks: Not one!
  • Local Starbucks Specialty: N/A
  • McDonald’s Veggie Burger: There’s not a McDonald’s here! That’s the first city I’ve been able to say that in!
  • Coffee Price: You can get a hot coffee for about 10,000 KIP (~$1.20 USD) and an iced coffee or latte will cost you about 25,000-30,000 KIP (~$3 – $3.50 USD)
  • Beer Price: A large Beer Laos ranges from 10,000 KIP – 20,000 KIP ($1.25 – $2.50 USD)