It might be experiencing something of a tourism boom – foreign tourist arrivals have grown considerably this decade – but Laos remains one of the sleepier backwaters of Asia and is therefore a great destination for seeing something different from the norm. Aside from Luang Prabang and Vientiane, try these three things to do:
#1 Luang Namtha
Up in the very north of the country, Luang Namtha is the perfect launching pad for interesting trekking into surrounding hills. Being on the traditional China to Laos backpacker route, the area has plenty of tourist infrastructure, but it’s all still very mellow. Fly from Vientiane or take a 10-hour bus from Luang Prabang.
#2 Vieng Xai
The huge cave complex in this northeastern region is where the Communist Pathet Lao ran operations against the US-backed royal government in the 1960s. Get there on a quick songthaew ride from provincial capital Sam Neua, which itself is a long (12- hour) but pretty bus ride from Luang Prabang.
#3 Si Phan Don
At the other end of Laos, on the southern border with Cambodia, is Si Phan Don, whose name (“4,000 islands”) gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect: pretty Mekong scenes, kayaking, biking, hiking, relaxing. Reach it via an eight-hour bus from Pakse, or cross over from Cambodia itself.
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