Laos

Keep an Open Mind About Vientiane, Laos

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Patuxai at sunset—C.Helbig

In my last post I wrote about our high expectations for Luang Prabang with all its glowing reviews. In contrast, we arrived in the Lao capital of Vientiane with doubts. Many accounts of the city call it boring and lacking attractions. Lonely Planet describes it as “languid”, which gives the image of a lifeless place. They’re wrong. While Vientiane lacks the charm and tourist appeal of Luang Prabang, it has a lovely authenticity and plenty of worthwhile sights, activities, and places to eat/drink. The city has a warm and embracing feel, especially around sunset when locals congregate along the banks of the Mekong and around Patuxai.  I have very fond memories of our two days in this sweet place. Continue reading

Categories: Laos, Places | Tags: , , , , , , | 15 Comments

High Expectations for Luang Prabang, Laos

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Cooling off at Tat Kuang Si—C.Helbig

Described as “one of SE Asia’s crowning jewels” that provides “world-class comfort and spiritual nourishment,” there’s no wonder we had high expectations for Luang Prabang. The superlatives are largely true and a trip to Laos would not be complete without a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the things that stuck me most about our four days in Luang Prabang (not enough) was the diversity of things to do and see. From temple viewing, to pampering, to swimming under waterfalls, to shopping-til-you-drop, Luang Prabang can keep you as busy or relaxed as you desire. The one downside: the secret is out and you won’t have Luang Prabang to yourself. Continue reading

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Northern Laos Part III: A Perfect Day in Muang Ngoi

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Muang Ngoi’s spectacular riverside location—C.Helbig

We were loath to leave Nong Khiaw (see Parts I and II) and wondered whether Muang Ngoi, just an hour upstream on the Nam Ou, could hold as much appeal. It did, and perhaps even a tad more. Like Nong Khiaw, its riverside location and mountain scenery are stunning, but Muang Ngoi is smaller and even more basic and laid back. Mike and I agree that our favourite day of our travels through Cambodia and Laos was in Muang Ngoi: relaxing, hiking, caving, kayaking, and shopping for weavings (well, that last one was more up my alley).

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Categories: Activities, Kayaking, Laos, Places | Tags: , , , , , | 27 Comments

Northern Laos Part II: Hike to Phadeng Peak Viewpoint, Nong Khiaw

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At the Nong Khiaw viewpoint—C.Helbig

If you only do one activity while visiting Nong Khiaw (other than lying in a hammock admiring the view) it should be hiking to Phadeng Peak viewpoint. I heard lots of excuses for not doing it: it’s too hot, cold, difficult, steep, early, late…Mike used a combination of these to talk himself out of the hike. I remember the regretful look on his face when he scrolled through my photos. He hadn’t expected the views to be that stunning (nor had I). Don’t miss out on this activity when you’re in Nong Khiaw. It’s well worth the roughly one hour uphill grunt, and the effort needed is not nearly as bad as many reviewers make it out to be. Continue reading

Categories: Activities, Hiking, Laos, Places | Tags: , , , | 37 Comments

Northern Laos Part I: Nong Khiaw

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Looking up river from the bridge in Nong Khiaw—C.Helbig

We had many great experiences in Cambodia and Laos, but my favourite was the time we spent in northern Laos, in the small villages of Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi. Coming from predictable, orderly Vancouver I enjoy the “chaos” of cities in SE Asia. However, the reality is I can only handle so much Bangkok, Phenom Penh, or even Siam Reap. The natural beauty and peacefulness of northern Laos made me very happy. Our visit to Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi was the perfect complement to a wonderful trip that was heavy on culture, history, and urban centres. Part I of my series on northern Laos features Nong Khiaw. Continue reading

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Bangkok, Cambodia & Laos Trip Report: Reflections

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Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew—C.Helbig

I am tempted to launch right into my favourite day of our month-long trip that included Bangkok and a sampling of Cambodia and Laos. But, I feel a stronger need to put chronological order and reflection into this first of a series of posts. I’ve tried to find one photo and write one paragraph that summarize my (and usually Mike’s) overriding, totally subjective takeaway on each of the places we visited. If you want to find out about my favourite day, you can scroll down to the end. If you can hang in there, please follow our journey. There’ll be lots more to come about the exotic attractions of these friendly, great value travel destinations. Continue reading

Categories: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

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