We weren’t originally planning on going to Laos, but in the end, I’m glad we did. Though are travels there were definitely slower paced then in other places (except for Vang Vieng), it was a welcome break and good chance to slow down. The biggest thing to do in most cities in Laos is to eat at cafes, do a little sight-seeing, but mostly just walk around and enjoy the architecture and cute buildings. There is still a large French influence in Laos, especially the big cities, where baguettes and crepes can be found at every corner 🙂
The Lao people are very nice, similar to Thailand, but not quite as jaded by the tourism yet – hopefully it stays like that for awhile! We noticed a lot of similarities to Thailand in the large cities, but this may be more as a result of so many tourists coming from Thailand that they are catering to those people.
Lao is still a poor country – its UN status is Least Developed Country – with much of its economy based on agriculture (rice) and probably fishing and tourism is starting to grow. Especially in the cities that we went to, it was not uncommon to see plenty of small business type stores sitting empty with the workers looking really bored – I wondered how these places even survived, but given that the income per capita was $1010 in 2010, I suppose it makes sense. But, Lao receives decent foreign aid, especially from France and really has only been open to tourism and foreign investment for about twenty years.
Lao has gorgeous countrysides (the roads are getting better) and beautiful riversides. But, I think the nine days we spent there were enough for us and we were ready to move on to Cambodia!
I got sick in Laos with an unknown infection, which is still troubling after a few weeks, though I have taken several medicines, prescribed and over the counter. The sickness resulted in more rest time than we’ve typically had during our trip so far. For me, Laos was an okay place to visit. Of the three cities we visited, Luang Prabang had the most places to see / things to do, and therefore, captivated my attention so much more than Vientiane or Vang Vieng, though I did have a lot of fun in Vang Vieng.
I was really bummed out about the quality of the roads in Laos – it was clear that they had sufficient materials (and probably enough funding) to build roads correctly, but they chose not to.
I was surprised in Vang Vieng, and again in Luang Prabang, when I met caucasian men and women who didn’t sound American (from their accented English), and yet either insisted they were American or told me they were told to sound American – to lure in new business. Two girls from Canada working at a bar in Vang Vieng were trying to sound Texan, and told me that I’d probably get free drinks if I told the bartenders that I actually was from Texas.
It’s sad when I read articles, such as this one from The Guardian, which correctly portray the tourism-centric nature of Vang Vieng, but describe the negative consequences it has on the local populace:
I think Laos is finding its place in the tourism industry of Asia, but it still has some kinks to work out.