Dabbling in Jet Lag
Laos is often overlooked by tourists, most of whom opt for more convenient Thailand or up-and-coming Cambodia. This forgotten landlocked country offers a unique experience that combines stunning scenery with a relaxed and slow-paced way of life. Laos has beautiful colonial cities, adventure destinations, and some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Southeast Asia. If you are looking for your next destination, 2 weeks in Laos should definitely be on your list.
Here is your complete guide to spending 2 weeks in Laos.
Get In and Around
Getting to Laos can be complicated as direct flights are quite expensive. In general, for any trip in Southeast Asia, I recommend taking a flight to Bangkok, and from there either flying, internally, with Air Asia or taking a night bus to one of the major cities (Vientiane or Luang Prabang). Flights are cheap and night buses are comfortable making both options feasible. My adventure in Laos began in the capital, Vientiane. I flew into Bangkok and took a night bus to Vientiane. From either Vientiane or Luang Prabang, getting around Laos is very easy. Buses are plentiful, cheap, safe, and comfortable.
Top Sites for 2 Weeks in Laos
My journey in Laos began in the capital, after arriving on an overnight bus from Bangkok. From there I headed south to visit Tham Kong Lo Cave and doubled back to visit the north. In the north, I visited Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, and, finally, Huay Xai. This is how I organized my 2 weeks in Laos, but you can do the same trip in reverse.
Useful Tip: If you take a long-distance bus, you will be dropped off at the bus terminal for that city, which is always 15 km from the city center. You will need to take a tuk-tuk to arrive at your destination. Always negotiate the price, and know where you want to go. Even if you don’t have a reservation, look up a hostel and have the address ready, and tell the driver you already have a reservation.
Vientiane is the capital of Laos. In general, the capital is quieter and more peaceful than the large cities in the neighboring countries. Laos’ history and its connection to French Indochina have played a role in its current-day culture. There’s a noticeable French influence in Vientiane that extends to its cafés and restaurants. I only spent two days in Vientiane. I walked around the city and enjoyed free performances at the culture center. Here is a list of the sites I also visited.
Wat Si Saket – capital city’s oldest temple
Vientiane City Pillar Shrine – a small Buddhist shrine
Patuxai – a large war monument built to honor Laos’ independence from France
Pha That Luang – a 45-meter Buddhist stupa wrapped in over 500 kilograms of gold
Patuxai – a large war monument built to honor Laos’ independence from France
Getting to Vientiane
Vientiane is easily reached from any city in Laos. There are multiple buses per day, as well as night buses.
Visiting Tham Kong Lo Cave
Tham Kong Lo Cave (sometimes spelled Konglor Cave), is hidden deep in the Phu Hin Bun wilderness of central Laos. It is one of Southeast Asia’s geological wonders. Otherworldly stalactites, spooky limestone formations, and ceilings over 300 feet tall make this flooded cave a highlight in Laos. The Nam Hin Bun River flows through the cave, making it only accessible by small boats which can be hired from one of the river villages. Boats make stops throughout the 7 km cave, where you can explore parts of the cave on foot.
Getting to Tham Kong Lo Cave
Getting to Tham Kong Lo Cave is done by bus from either Vientiane or Tha Khaek. The bus will drop you off in Ban Khoun Kham – the village nearest to the cave. There is plenty of accommodation, and it is within walking distance to the cave. At the cave, you can purchase a ticket to pass through the cave via boat with a guide. The tour is 1-2 hours. You can spend the night in the small village on the other side – Ban Kong Lo, but you will need to purchase an additional ticket to return.
Vang Vieng was once Laos’ backpacker and party capital but it has recently transformed into one of Southeast Asia’s best adventure destinations, offering a variety of exciting activities from river tubing and kayaking to mountain biking, ATV adventures, and hot air ballooning. I chose to go hot air ballooning, and it was really an epic experience.
Check out my post on hot air ballooning in Vang Vieng.
Vang Vieng is a small town, which barely covers more than a few blocks, is located in the middle of stunning limestone mountains, giving it some of the best views in Laos and the ideal setting for adventure sports. The best way to view the city and the surrounding area is to rent a bike, which does not cost more than $2 for the day.
Getting to Vang Vieng
The only way to get to Vang Vieng is by bus or minivan, which departs from both Luang Prabang and Vientiane every few hours. From Vientiane, it takes about three to four hours. If you come by minivan from Vientiane you will be dropped off in the city’s center.
Luang Prabang sits on a peninsula between the Nam Kham and Mekong Rivers and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its beautiful colonial architecture and traditional Lao temples. The main sites and attractions in Luang Prabang are easy to see in a day or two, making this a great place for relaxation. I spent two days in this beautiful city. Below is a list of some of the highlights that I visited.
Alms Giving Ceremony – The monks pass through the city along Sakkaline Road and the citizens offer alms. The ceremony starts at 5:30 am and continues until just after dawn. It is really an awesome event to witness, and should not be missed.
Mount Phou Si – A small hill (referred to as a “mountain”) that rises about 100 meters over the center of Luang Prabang. From the hill, there is an excellent viewpoint with a spectacular view of the city and its surroundings. There are two impressive temples on the hill, with Wat Chom Si at the summit.
Luang Prabang Old Town – Built during the French Indochina period, the Old Town’s gorgeous buildings and variety of cafés and restaurants make it the perfect place to chill out.
Luang Prabang Night Market – The Luang Prabang Night Market opens in the Old Town just before sunset and runs until late at night, with a variety of vendors selling cheap clothing, souvenirs, local handicrafts, and a variety of other souvenirs.
Kuang Si Falls – Located just under 20km from Luang Prabang, the Kuang Si Falls are a spectacular series of waterfalls that drain into a beautiful blue swimming hole. There are tuk-tuks and minivans that depart several times per hour. You can either sign-up at your hostel or as you walk through the town there will be several people offering departing times. If you decide to pick up a minivan on the street, make sure to haggle (this is the option I chose).
Huay Xai and The Gibbon Experience
Huay Xai lies north of Luang Prabang and is best known for The Gibbon Experience. This magnificent adventure gives you the opportunity to spend 2 or 3 days (depending on the package you select) trekking, ziplining, and sleeping in a treehouse in the tropical forest of Laos. There are a series of zip lines, spread across a length of about 15km, that lets you fly above majestic forest canopies, while you observe the mysterious wildlife that the forest holds within itself. The zip lines lead you to the entrance of the world’s highest treehouses. Each treehouse has taken over a year in its construction, and some go as high as 40m.
As part of the experience, the treehouse serves as your home in the heart of the forest and a fabulous nature observatory. The project is called the Gibbon Experience as gibbons, small-sized highly endangered apes, are heard everywhere in this forest, and you glid from one tree house to another like the gibbons do, with the help of zip lines. You will need to reserve a place far in advance. This is not a cheap experience, but it is without a doubt one of the top things to do in southeast Asia.
Getting Back to Bangkok
If you started your journey in Vientiane and finished in Huay Xai, and need to get back to Bangkok, there are many options. You can either fly or you can take a night bus back to Bangkok. You can also explore northern Thailand as you make your way back to Bangkok.
Summary of My 2 Weeks in Laos
Laos is truly a wonderful place to travel. Given that it is less popular than the surrounding countries, it really gives you a chance to meet other travelers. I was able to form groups easily, which helped me save money on activities. I enjoyed the slower pace of the culture, the lack of crowds, and the relaxing atmosphere. 2 weeks in Laos seems short, but it is really an enjoyable experience. If I had to choose my favorite destination in Southeast Asia, Laos would be it. If you are thinking of traveling to Southeast Asia, 2 weeks in Laos should definitely be on your list.
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