Cambodia and Laos are a dynamic duo, at once laid back yet vibrant, unspoilt yet well connected, full of natural splendour whilst home to enchanting cities. Winding your way through the heart of Indochina, from the bulb of Cambodia, to the long thin spine of Laos, following its natural lifeline, the Mekong, is bound to be an adventure you will never forget. This is southeast Asia at its most intriguing.
Discovering Northern Laos
Few people visit Laos without taking in the amazing capital city of Luang Prabang but few people head further north than this. Holly tells us why the north of Laos has a lot more to it than people think…
From Luang Prabang, I set off on what can only be described as an amazing adventure into Northern Laos that I can’t recommend enough. My guide Nak was almost more excited about the trip than I was, his enthusiasm was infectious and instilled in me an immense excitement from the off. Arriving into Nong Khiaw we were certainly not disappointed. Connected by a large bridge, the quaint town stands astride of the river, the banks of which are lined with bamboo bungalows on stilts. These are a lovely place to laze in the mornings and watch the mist slowly rising over the mountains.
I would highly recommend taking part in one of the many day tours that you can book when you are here. We did a fantastic 50 minute boat trip to a local village, where we then set out on a short trek to a waterfall. For about an hour we hiked across beautiful rice paddy fields and carefully negotiated our path over streams, whilst passing by lovely villages with children shouting the customary hello. After a quick refreshing swim under the cascades of a waterfall, our local guide Tia produced a delicious ‘jungle style’ lunch consisting of various traditional delicacies (including the Laos staple of sticky rice) wrapped in banana leaves. Our tour also included a 2 hour kayak back to Nong Khiaw, which, luckily for us, was a downstream trip!
After our stay in Nong Khiaw we headed a little further north to the sleepy village of Muang Ngoi. Upon arriving at Muang Ngoi it was clear we had stumbled across something really quite special. There were chickens, piglets and children running around our feet as we headed along the dirt road which ran through the village. The main street is lined with a few restaurants and shops which you can walk up and down again in less than 5 minutes, but it’s nice to stop and chat to the locals who are all extremely friendly and welcoming. I could have easily spent all my time here simply watching the world go by. As I sat reading at a local cafe, I watched the local children perform flips and summersaults into the water. The women were shrilly gossiping and giggling whilst tending to their laundry and the men were putting the world to rights over a basket of sticky rice and laap salad. It really felt like a sample of authentic Laos life!
In between watching the world go by and tucking into many a delicious papaya salad, we decided to take a short trek up to the Tham Kang Cave. The panoramic view across the river valley certainly did not disappoint and was a highlight of what can only be described as an amazing adventure! We spent about a week all together in northern Laos, which I would say was a perfect amount of time to be able to see what there is to see and do the activities on offer, with a little bit of time left over to adopt the Laos lifestyle and simply relax!
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