Laos

Laos Travel | Attractions | What’s so good about Laos?


There is a small country in Southeast Asia. It is very poor, with many citizens living below the poverty line.

It has a socialist government that seems to care more about… well, I’m not sure what it cares about, but certainly not roads. or freedom.

A midnight curfew was imposed across the country. Everyone was indoors then.

Getting from one place to another here is a nightmare – a 200km drive could take you all day. If you are lucky. The country’s main roads are full of potholes and only wide enough for two cars.

There are no prosperous metropolises. The capital has a million inhabitants, but it’s not what you’d call pleasant city life. The country is also landlocked, so you won’t be going to the beach.

Oh, and the little fact that this place is absolutely littered with unexploded ordnance – which still routinely kills and injures innocent people – was thoughtfully left by the Americans in a senseless war Next, many people don’t even realize it’s happening.

This is Laos. Doesn’t sound too good, does it? But the funny thing is, despite all of these obstacles, and maybe even because of them, Laos remains an incredible travel destination. Probably one of the best in the world.

Talk to any traveler who has been to Southeast Asia and they will babble on and on for hours. Thailand is good, they will say. Vietnam is really interesting. Cambodia, well done. But Laos? Laos is great.

I’m in Laos right now and love every minute of it, trying to figure out what makes this country such a great place to visit. It’s cheap, obviously, but so are all the countries around it, with Laos always being voted a favorite.

Is it a landscape? Diversity of experience? Is it the turbulent flow of the Mekong River, the towering limestone caste of Vang Vieng, the river islands of Pakse, the ancient temples scattered in Luang Prabang, or the strange stone jars scattered in Phonsawan? perhaps. A little bit.

But it’s also the almost uncanny freedom travelers have in a country where citizens are tightly controlled. Want to rent a motorcycle? Go for it. Want a beer down the river at 10am? Go for it. Want to lie in a hammock all day? Go for it.

But even that gets old after a while, so there must be something else going on here. Also: the people.

Now, this is where you usually start to get rid of clichés like “simple” and “not complicated”. Poor man’s old chestnuts seem to be happier having nothing than we are having everything.

I’ve been trying to come up with a different way to express it, but essentially this is it. Lao people are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. But it’s not just forced friendliness to please foreigners—it seems more real than that.

Laos is one of those special places where there seems to be no barrier between travelers and locals. In some countries you have to work hard to be accepted as a friend, but in Laos you feel like you already have millions.

It’s ridiculous because we’re totally different – us foreigners with fancy backpacks, millions of kip and stupid “pipeline” sweatshirts, and a developing country struggling to get by.

But it works. True friendships are formed.

For travelers, Laos exposes you to a simpler way of life and you immediately feel a part of it.

The country is the epitome of life without all the gadgets and distractions of the western world. Instead of being woken up by car horns, you are woken up every morning by a crowing rooster. Instead of sitting in a cafe with a laptop, people go to open-air restaurants to chat.

Most importantly, they make you feel welcome, which is why everyone loves Laos and everyone wants to go back. I know I know.

Have you had similar experiences in Laos? What makes it such a great destination?

Twitter Follow Ben Groundwater on Twitter @bengroundwater

E-mail: bengroundwater@gmail.com





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