Laos Roundup

A tuk tuk in Luang Prabang

A tuk tuk in Luang Prabang

I spent 21 days in Laos and an average of $25 per day. I have been slowing down considerably, largely due to travel fatigue as well as budget constraints. I only saw four places in Laos: Luang Prabang, Vientiane, the Kong Lor Cave, and the 4,000 Islands. Highlights include learning about the Secret War, taking a cooking class, and simply relaxing and not worrying too much about my next steps.

I had some difficulties in Laos, most notably losing my ATM card on my very first day in the country. Entirely my fault, I simply forgot to take my card out of the machine after withdrawing money. The experience wasn’t too terrible, though, as it gave me an excuse to linger in Luang Prabang longer than I might have otherwise, visiting sights like the Tad Thong waterfalls. I also had my faith restored in Schwab (the only bank you should use if you are traveling abroad) and FedEx, miraculously receiving a new card less than two weeks after I lost it, virtually halfway around the world.

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The Kong Lor Cave

Boarding the boat to begin the trip down the cave

Boarding the boat to begin the trip down the cave

I’d heard from several people that the Kong Lor cave in central Laos was a highlight of their trip in Southeast Asia, so I knew I had to make it a priority. For a place that is on so many “must see” lists, I was surprised on how truly rural and undeveloped the area around the cave is. The town of Kong Lor is just one long street that has a handful of guesthouses and restaurants, no internet access, and hardly anybody who speaks English. It was a very pleasant and peaceful place to spend a few days.

It wasn’t too difficult to get to, as I took a direct tourist bus from Vientiane that I booked through my hostel. The bus dropped me and the four other westerners off in front of a guesthouse about a kilometer away from the cave.

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Tad Thong Waterfalls and Ban Houay Thong

A woman and her grandson at Ban Houay Thong Village

A woman and her grandson at Ban Houay Thong Village

One of the best days I spent in Luang Prabang was visiting the Tad Thong Waterfalls and National Park. The trip is less popular than Kuang Si, but just as enjoyable and far more tranquil.  It’s only 6km outside of the town center and is easily reached by bicycle.

The main draw here is a circular jungle trek which passes several small waterfalls and interesting trees and flowers. However, the best part of the area is the village of Ban Houay Thong, which is uphill from the jungle trek on a narrow, dirt path. There you will find friendly locals and lots of puppies. I wish I had brought some books from Big Brother Mouse to give the children, but unfortunately I was unprepared.

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