Laos is fast becoming one of our favourite countries on our trip. Lao PDR, which the locals jokingly tell us stands for ‘Please Don’t Rush’, is a country filled with welcoming people, breathtaking views and a very chilled vibe. A welcome difference to our month in Vietnam which was all rush, rush, rush and try not to get run over by a moped on the pavement!
First stop was Phonsavan in the mountains to visit the Plain of Jars. There are thousands of jars across 90 sites in the countryside around Phonsavan and we visited one of the most exciting. They date from the iron age and are one of the most important prehistoric sites in South East Asia. They’re thought to be a form of burial site but little is truly known about them – a bit like Stonehenge. They’re very eerie and many locals claim that ghosts wander the plains at night.
Laos was heavily bombed by the US Air Force in the sixties and seventies and the Plain of Jars was seen as a strategic spot, meaning many of the jars show damage and there are bomb craters all over the land. The US dropped an estimated 262 million cluster bombs on Laos (called ‘Bombies’ by the locals) and around 80 million of these did not explode. The visitors centre at the site we visited taught us lots about the effect of these today. Large areas of Laos are still inaccessible and the Plain of Jars sites themselves can only be accessed by walking along paths where the land has been cleared, avoiding areas which has not.
Next stop, we visited somewhere which was a firm favourite for us – Vang Vieng. Known for its outrageous parties and many drink and drug related deaths in the past, the town now has a much calmer and (in our opinion) therefore more fun vibe. The local police and government have worked to ensure that bars and backpacker activities have a more chilled, slower-pace than they used to have. We spent days tubing down the river and stopping for the odd beer on the way, walking through the mountain-studded countryside and visiting caves and lagoons. We’d end each night sitting watching the sunset by the water… It was complete bliss. There were a few buckets of cocktails and maybe one night when we did end up in one of the town’s few nightclubs too!
Despite being Laos’ capital, Vientiane also has a pretty slow pace to it. We stopped for a couple of days in town to visit the city’s famous temples and our favourite night market of the trip so far. The riverside city is also home to the COPE Visitor Centre, where you can learn about the charity’s work with people who’ve become amputees due to unexploded bombies around the country. It was fascinating and one of the best things we’ve done in Laos.
Next stop, Luang Prabang! See all our pics from Laos so far below…