76. Laos

Laos: Lao, Laos, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic – whatever you want to call it, we braved two more weeks of oppressive jungle heat to sample the sights, above average local beer and spicy, spicy salads of the superstar darling of the SE Asian tourist circuit.

Sloan: Loved it, annoyed by it. Let me explain – I didn’t expect much difference between Cambodia and Laos, physically or culturally. Indeed, flying from one capital to the other was like flying between Houston and Dallas, both in terms of distance and level of culture shock experienced. Outside of the capital of Vientiane, however, the landscape was stunning; rugged mountain landscapes, lush river valleys, wide fertile deltas and happy, happy, happy people making a go of it in every little nook and cubby. I could have stayed for weeks more in some isolated little town on the fringe. But because we blitzed through Laos in two weeks, we chained ourselves again to the well-worn tourist trail. As a result, my weariness for those experiences has reached an all time high. Or is it low? I don’t know, but I do know that the postcard-perfect tourist destinations in Laos are filled with far too many Western-kids on their gap year and cranky old white men all behaving like priveleged babies. And set against an unrivaled, ancient backdrop of temples and limestone karsts, the main streets of Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang have nary a trace of local life outside of the tourist industry. When we rented a motorcycle to brave potholes and crooked police checkpoints, we were always rewarded with richer experiences outside of the city. Those moments saved it for me because truthfully, the rest of it leaves me pining for the colorful, beautiful mess of India. You can’t get away with anything there, except everything, and that’s the beauty of it – too much and too little around every corner and absolutely no tourists for hours. If that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for. Which I guess I am. On the other hand, the Lao cave swimming and elephant bathing were hands down two of the most blissful and memorable moments of my life. I smell compromise.

Amy: April felt sometimes like a grudge match between Cambodia and Laos. After Cambodia, I thought for sure the Khmers had won this one but now that I’m on the other side of two weeks in Laos, I know different. Laos rocks. With so little time we stuck to a trusty tourist route of Vientiene, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. We like to get off that trail whenever we can but sometimes you have to admit that Christina Aguilera is popular for a reason, she’s awesome, and this tourist trail is awesome too even if all the spoiled Euro kids love it. We had several serious discussions about blowing off the plans for the next month and just staying right here in Laos. We could easily pick up work here volunteering for any number of international aid organizations or just float down the river a dozen more times or spend copious amounts of time fawning over one elephant after another. In the end after much discussion over many a Beerlao (the best and cheapest SE Asian beer, hands down) we decided to stick with the plan and make our way to Thailand. Here we come.


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