There are many reasons to visit Laos when you are backpacking to South East Asia: Stunning waterfalls, healthy and full of flavors food, smiley locals who will invite you home and show you around, Buddhist temples, undiscovered by ordinary travelers villages and local towns as well as affordable prices of transportation and accommodation.
Explore the temples
Like many Asian countries, Laos has no shortage of stunning temples to be admired and explored. If you want to escape the tourist hordes and appreciate the architecture, hide away in the temples for some genuine peace and quiet. A popular place to come and listen to the monks at prayer is the Golden City Temple (Wat Xieng Thong) located in the old quarter of Luang Prabang. For a full day out in Champasak, take a boat ride down Mekong River and climb to the top of the hill to see the stunning Wat Phu and mountain views.
Gawk at the views from viewpoint Nong Khiaw/ Ban Sop Houn
Although the hike up to this spot is by no means a walk in the park (see what I did there), the gruelling climb up is worth it. Your reward? Breathtaking views of lush green mountains interspersed with the murky river. It’s even better when you do the hike to see sunrise or sunset, as the weather is more forgiving and nothing beats a stunning view beneath the orange glow of the sky. Just remember to take a torch and mosquito spray!
Eat and shop at the Luang Prabang night market
With thousands of tents selling everything and anything you can imagine, spend a couple of hours here looking, buying, exploring and getting lost. You will probably stumble upon something you like whether it’s a handmade scarf, rice vodka (snake included!) or the local Laos coffee. You can then spend the evening eating at one of the restaurants or food stalls close by. If you like to shop till you drop and love a good bargain, then head to the night market any day from 4pm! Luang Prabang also has a Morning Market. With cool and fresh weather, friendly food vendors and even better food, it’s the best way to start the day.
Venture through the underground river caves
You can easily spend a few hours at any of the caves in Laos, but one that should be on the top of anyone’s list is Kong Lor Cave. A newer region for tourism and a part of the Khammouane Khast National Protected Area, the beauty of the cave and the surrounding mountains are completely unspoiled. Take a boat trip through the pitch black cave by flashlight and explore the mysteries of the cave as you walk through lit passageways. Look out for spiders, bats and snakes! Once out the other side you can cliff jump and spend some time swimming till your heart’s content.
Experience the alms giving ceremony of the monks
For a completely local and humbling experience, get up bright and early to see the Alms Giving Ceremony right in the heart of Luang Prabang. Buy boxes of rice or biscuits to participate in the ceremony or just sit back and watch in awe. The procession will start on the main street near Wat Xieng Thong, where hundreds of monks will walk through the streets lined receiving offerings from the local people. What the monks get from the people is their food for the day, however they also give most of it to poor people sitting along the way. This experience is an extremely moving one, regardless of your religion and is not to be missed if you are in Luang Prabang.
As it is a local ceremony, remember to be respectful. Dress appropriately and don’t take pictures unless you ask permission. Just enjoy and take in the feeling.
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