Laos is my favorite destination in South East Asia. I love its greenery, its relatively untouched territory, its oodles of peace and stunning mountains, rivers and nature. If there is one place in the world, where I want to go on a relaxing holiday, it has to be Laos. Having said that, Laos is a great destination for backpackers and for those wishing for some off-beat adventure experiences.
Below are 10 things you can do under the purview of relaxation and off-beat adventure to have a unique experience on your next holiday to Laos.
1) Cycling or Motor biking across Bolavan Plateau
Southern Laos and especially the Bolavan plateau with its cooler climes is blessed with an insane number of waterfalls, coffee estates, quiet green villages in the countryside and lots of dense forest cover. Most tourists give this part of Laos a miss or spend only a brief time here. However, if you spend more time here, you can make a solid connection with the very friendly local people, do some mountain biking, dirt biking, waterfall climbing, forest trekking, and so much more. This is untapped territory and offers the best of off-beat adventure in Laos. Be ready to rough it out though.
2) Ziplining across the dense green canopies of north Laos
This is a stunner adventure experience. Ziplining over the dense forest canopy of North Laos to reach your tree house, waking up to the sound of exotic birdlife and to the sight of the sunrise over the misty forests and ziplining every time you wish to hit the ground. This experience is not for the faint-hearted, but if you wish to indulge in adventure, this has to be one of Laos’s top adventure experiences. As you are located right in the middle of a serene forest, you can go for jungle treks, birdwatching, wildlife sighting, fishing and/or mountain biking.
3) Traveling by river from Muang Khua to Nong Khiaw
The whole country of Laos follows a riverside life. Hence, a Laos holiday is not complete if you don’t experience this riverside life. For an off-beat river trail, follow the Nam Oou river downstream from Muang Khua to Nong Khiaw. Muang Khua is a quiet riverside town. Muang Knoi, the next stop is a village totally cut off from the world with no electricity or phone connectivity and then comes Nong Khiaw, a beautiful large town with all modern amenities and the riverside charm. It is quite an experience to travel across Laos by river and see its countryside and small villages.
4) Attending a traditional Lao wedding
It is not easy to get invited to a local wedding, but if you do get the opportunity, do not miss it. During this local wedding, you will get to understand their traditions and see how close it is to our Hindu traditions in India. The event is extremely colorful with lots of glitterati and as always, there is delicious local food. The fish and the bamboo salad are to die for.
5) Idling at a riverside hut at Don Det or Don Khon
You can’t get any better than this for a relaxed holiday. South Laos and North Eastern Cambodia is home to 4,000 islands that lie on the Mekong river and these islands offer a rustic riverside atmosphere that screams ‘relaxation’. You could play your guitar, read your favorite books, volunteer to help the locals with their day-to-day work, go for a swim every day in the Mekong river, enjoy the fresh catch of the day from the river and basically do anything that gives you relaxation. And if it rains on these islands, the place becomes nothing less than magical.
6) Applying for a visa at embassies/consulates in Vientiane
This might not be your stereotype tourist activity, but if you are traveling to other countries on this trip of yours, you should know that Vientiane is possibly the easiest place around to apply for a visa. Most travelers apply for a visa to India, China, Myanmar, Vietnam and even Russia from here. Visa formalities for all the so called tough countries becomes so much easier here. And while you wait for your visa, you can enjoy the easy paced life of this capital city and the evening markets by the Mekong river.
7) Swim under the Kuang Xi waterfall
One of Laos’s prettiest waterfalls, the Kuang Xi offers a great day trip from Luang Prabang and a fantastic way to cool down in the tropical heat. While you can take almost any kind of transport to this place, I prefer to take a mountain bike and a dirt trail to reach this waterfall. The countryside is fabulous and the mountain bike allows you to go to places where other vehicles cannot go. And once you reach the azure waters of the waterfall, all you’d want to do is dive in for a refreshing dip and then admire the nature in this place. Once you are tired of being a water baby, you can explore the Kuang Xi sloth bear sanctuary nearby where sloth bears caught by poachers find a home.
8) Do a cannon ball at the Blue Lagoon near Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is one of the main reasons for Laos being such a favorite on the South East Asia backpacking trail. Its tubing, drugs and beer scene used to be a rage between 1980 and 2000s. Unfortunately, a lot of people lost their lives to drugs here and thankfully, it has been many years since all of this has stopped. However, if you go today, you can explore some of its pristine lagoons, caves, limestone karsts, TV bars and so much more. My favorite is canon balling from the top branch of a tree into the blue lagoon. Water babies and adventure enthusiasts will love this place.
9) Tracing history along the Mekong river from Northern Thailand to Luang Prabang
Another popular backpacking route that begins near Chiang Saen in Northern Thailand and goes to Luang Prabang in Central Laos, this trail on the Mekong river takes you through villages and rich Mekong history that has been preserved very well. It can get quite boring to travel 10 days by boat, but if you plan your itinerary properly, you can opt to stay back at the intermediate villages for 2 to 3 days, explore its nearabouts and continue your downstream journey to Luang Prabang.
10) Trekking in the forests off Luang Namtha
A dense forested part of Laos and one that is blessed with much cooler weather, the Luang Namtha region of Laos is ideal for hiking, trekking, mountain lovers and wildlife lovers. Home to many small tribes, this belt is ideal for those multi-day long treks through dense jungles and to remote villages in an already fairly sparsely populated country.