Travel in LAOS
It is said that in the 1930s, when much of Indochina was under the French protectorate, the French governor returned home and was asked what is the difference between the various people he “protected”. The answer remained in history: “The Vietnamese plant rice, the Cambodians watch it grow and the Lao listen to it grow”. And indeed, from the moment you arrive in Laos, you will be amazed by all the silence. Even the capital, Vientiane, is thousands of decibels quieter than any other Asian capital. I wouldn’t have tried to ride a bicycle in Bangkok, Delhi, Hong Kong or Kathmandu even if I had been paid for my weight in gold, but in Vientiane I had no problem.
But the most beautiful city in Laos is not Vientiane, but the old royal capital, Luang Prabang. It is a gorgeous combination of the Indochinese architecture with the colonial influences brought by the French – do not be surprised if next to a temple that absolutely shines you will see villas with Doric columns. And life unfolds quieter than the waters of the Mekong River passing through the city. In the proximity there are waterfalls where you can swim and a few hours away on one of the most serpent roads that I have ever been there is the last hippie refuge in Asia – Vang Vieng. I asked some Thai people why they came to vacation in Laos (Thai language is very similar with Lao). They told me they came to see Thailand as it was 50 years ago. And I think they are right. Because in Laos I felt I am experiencing that Asia discovered by the first post-war travelers, when the nation slowly recovered… that Asia where time doesn’t matter, where the monks walk barefoot through the city at 6am and receive food from locals who are kneeling, that Asia where nothing costs more than $10 (except for a helicopter ride), that Asia where the roosters announce the morning and the night is lit only by the stars.
In Laos, you can normally arrive after you first land in Thailand, or better in Malaysia (to avoid paying too much for the Thai visa), and through the country you can guide yourself only by one principle – Go Slow. Citizens can receive visa-on-arrival for one month, once they arrive in Laos.