Low Cost Small Group Tours of Laos. (Pronounced LAO).
Lao PDR should stand for Lao – Please Don’t Rush
Laos is among the very poorest countries in the world.
Lao is the most laid back country in S.E. Asia. One of the trademarks of Lao is the diversity of its people and cultures. There are a number of traditional arts and crafts that represent their way of life. Lao has a rich cultural heritage with religious art and architecture forming the cornerstone of artistic traditions. The mighty Mekong river also plays a very important role for much of the land locked population.
There exists across the country many distinctive monuments and architectural styles.
Baktrax Tours to Laos
We have a range of fantastic tours that visit Laos only or take in Laos and a neighboring country or two.
Check this link for all tours that include Laos
HIGHLIGHTS OF LAOS:
A highlight is a cruise up/down the mighty Mekong. River scenery/life just doesn’t get much better. Comfortable boats have now fully replaced the 10 or so backpackers lying on the floor recycled fishing boats of a decade ago. Now you can enjoy the passing parade with a hot coffee or cold beerlao as well. the scenic memories will stay with you forever. The next highlight will be one of many, if you are a beer drinker. Beerlao is usually voted the best beer in the region by most travellers and Baktrax fully concur. At not much more than USD$1.00 a big bottle it wont break the bank either. Beerlao is a source of national pride.
LUANG PRABANG: Possibly the most charming city in all S.E. Asia.
The top highlight of many in Laos really is Luang Prabang. Along with Hoi An in Vietnam Luang Prabang is up there with the best when it comes to Heritage listed towns and cities. While modern restaurants and bars ply the main road most are still in the original old buildings dating back to colonial times or even further. A joy to behold as this is one place that all travellers love bar none. Again a beerlao or other cold drink by the river at sunset is another must do. Just being there is enough to get you on fire with excitement and that’s even before you take in the numerous attractions. A real feel good destination if ever there was.
VIENTIANE: Without doubt the most chilled out capital in S.E. Asia makes that a highlight in itself. Walk to most of the main attractions. Enough things to see and do to keep most busy for a day or more.
One of these is the most notable buddhist temple of Wat That Luang, the most Sacred Stupa, in Lao. Its dome-like stupa and four-cornered superstructure is the model for similar monuments across Laos. Stupas serve to commemorate the life of the Buddha and many stupas are said to house sacred Buddha relics (parts of Buddha’s body).
Then there is the Arc De Triomphe look alike of Patuxai, the National Museum and numerous other temples & cultual attractions. Coffee from the bakery beside the central fountain circle will make for a pleasant rest break during a busy day.
Lots of shopping opportunities all over the place and while not as extensive as Thailand you will still get a chance to purchase something interesting. This may include anything from world class silk products to a $2.00 beerlao T shirt.
PAKSE: The next real highlight is probably the lesser known Pakse in the far South towards the Cambodian border. Nearby Wat Phu Champasak is another world heritage listed monument from the Angkor period and is the main reason tourists are starting to arrive. But even without Wat Phu, Pakse in itself is another charming as well as a typically Laos laid back town. Meandering around town is another true local experience as you can join the locals at the Pakse Plaza just to begin with. Another amazing feel good destination. Add in possibly the best all round restaurant in Laos of Daolin and this place will only become more popular as word gets out. Get there fast. Until the tourist hordes arrive a la Luang Prabang Pakse will keep our vote as the chill out capital of Laos.
UDOMXAI. Time to get on the Baktrax and see both a real Thai town and even more so the passing of tiny villages between Luang Prabang & Udomxai. A fascinating days travel which will show you how the other half live. Expect lots of waves from smiling locals. This is probably, along with the Savanakhet to Pakse bus, the days travel you will be telling people back home about the most. Eye opening to say the least for first timers to Laos.
VANG VIENG: Again another fascinating days travel either to or from Vang Vieng. V.V. has been on the backpackers banana pancake trail for 20 years now so is more of a party town than anywhere else in Laos. A number of adventure activities to do before the beerlao comes out in the evenings adds to the appeal for many. Thankfully it can still be a quiet destination for those who want an early night also. The scenery both coming and going as well as in town is some of the best in all S.E. Asia.
SHOPPING: Without the range of it’s neighbours you will still find something to buy along the way. The biggest choice of produce in the country in one place is the Talat Sao or morning market in Vientiane, (open all day), which has everything from local produce to precious stones and silver as well as a myriad of souvenirs and other junk. Better from a tourists point of view is the evening market in Luang Prabang which sets up daily on the main road which is closed to all traffic and has great handicrafts, clothing and all manner of things you never knew existed before you arrived but now want desperately. Bartering is again the order of the day as it is in all Asian markets and the smile is always a key ingredient to getting the best price. Lastly; gold and silver shops are not uncommon and some good deals can be had if you know your stuff. Buyer beware with gems is the usual advice also.
VERY HONORABLE HIGHLIGHT MENTIONS:
PAKBENG: Little Pakbeng deserves far more time than the evening arrivals and early morning departures than most people give it. This extremely scenic Mekong river side town now has enough infrastructure to keep most people content for some extra laid back time.
HUAY XAI: Many years ago Chiang Khong on the Thai side of the Mekong was the stop of choice for those heading into Laos. Thus it has now become over run with Tourists and is far too spread out to see in a single one night stop. Across the river in Laos is Huay Xai which while now seeing a few visitors is far more compact, laid back and charming than its Thai counterpart. Not having to get up as early to cross the river is just another plus for staying here prior to heading down the river or onto Chiang Mai.
THA KHAEK & SAVANAKHET: Both these central large towns again sum up Laos. Beside the Mekong, laid back with colonial buildings to relax in and with only a few other tourists to compete with.
FOOD: Lao food is not unlike Thai food only without the diversity of the more famous cuisine of its neighbour. Plenty of spicey heat for those wanting it also. Add to the chillies, coriander, mint, lemongrass, ginger and basil among other fresh ingredients and a good meal is always only a short walk away. While Vietnam and Cambodia also have the Frech legacy of Baguettes for breakfast it would seem Laos has the best of these filling favorites. Noodle soup as usual is readilly available at all hours.
One of the best Laos dishes is Laarp, This dish can be firey or mild depending on your taste but consists of minced meat,usually chicken or pork mixed in with lime juice, garlic, onions and mint leaves and chillies among other things. Served with sticky rice and a side salad of lettuce leaves. Roll a small ball of rice in your hand and mix it with the laarp then roll it all up in a piece of lettuce and the taste can be sublime.
DRINKS: As mentioned beelao is the staple for locals and it a source of national pride and you will rarely be more than a few minutes walk away from a local drinking hole or tourist bar with the former being far more fun. Homemade rice whiskey in the poorer rural areas is often the drink of choice because of the very low cost. Lao Lao as it’s known is best left to the locals for the most part. A good bottle of imported wine can be easily found in the main tourist areas.
Laos grown coffee is considered to be as good as any and this strong brew goes extra well with the morning baguette. Often mixed with sugar and a large amount of condensed milk it will get you going for sure. A weak chinese like tea will often be given as a chaser also and is a great palate cleanser.
Drinking water in bottles is readily available at a very low cost everywhere you travel. Tap water is not safe to drink at all. Water offered to you in jugs in restaurants is safe to drink also. Fruit shakes and other western soft drinks are very common and even more so in the tourist areas.
THE LAOS POPULATION: Exactly like all their neigbours – Extremely friendly with broad smiles the order of the day. These smiles only get broader as the beerlao or lao lao goes down also. Two Baktrax customers were almost moved to tears by the heartfelt friendliness of the locals at one stage.
SABAI DEE LAO. (Welcome to Laos) Always just pronounced Lao also rather than Laos. How would you possibly know of the poverty though when Lao is so safe and friendly overall and all they do is smile and say chock dee (good luck) with a beerlao in hand.