The southeast Asian country of Laos is sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam with Cambodia to the south. It would make sense to add this country to an itinerary when exploring the neighboring countries.
So should you travel to Laos?
Rand and I asked ourselves this question as we explored this country. We had skipped Laos when we visited Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia in 2012, but made room for it on this round the world trip.
The problem with Laos is that it is not nearly as interesting as its neighboring countries. Thailand with its beautiful wats, fantastic food, and glorious beaches; Vietnam with chaotic Hanoi, laidback Hoi An, and amazing food; and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat can’t be missed.
But we had a nice time in Laos. We loved laying in a hammock by the Mekong River. We had a blast kayaking, ziplining, and tubing in Vang Vieng. We enjoyed strolling through Luang Prabang eating fancy international cuisine at moderate prices. We were pleasantly surprised at how much we liked the little town of Luang Namtha.
But most everything we did in Laos can be done in other countries. You can stroll through colonial town of Hoi An Vietnam and eat French pastries every night (and the most delicious Bahn Mi). You can zipline and kayak in northern Thailand. You can swing in a hammock by the Mekong in Vietnam or Cambodia.
Yet, the scenery in Vang Vieng as you tube down the river is not duplicated elsewhere. The towering karsts are not like anywhere I have been. The historic Luang Prabang has its own unique feel. And no where else have I been able to buy a kilo of sticky rice!
So if you are planning a trip to southeast Asia and are wondering if you should go to Laos, I would say, go if you have time.
In 2012, we spent just 6 weeks in southeast Asia. It was the right decision to skip Laos.
This time we are traveling for a year, so we had time to travel in Laos and I am glad we did.