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I came across the tranquil country of Laos in the middle of a nine month backpacking adventure and just after spending a long time in the hustle-bustle of Thailand. In my travel journal, I referred to it as a “welcome return to the Third World.”

What follows is an excerpt from my original thoughts on Laos from July 20, 2009.

“Situated between Thailand and Vietnam, Laos (pronounced Lau; the s is silent) provided the return to the rural third world lifestyle we had been missing since leaving Sri Lanka. The country is primarily countryside with small villages scattered throughout and the occasional bigger city. Most houses are built on top of stilts and made of flimsy wood with tin roofs and stairs or a ramp leading to the door. When it is not raining, the underneath part is used for shade, laying in hammocks, eating, working, storage and more.

The cheapest way across the Mekong River in Laos to get to Champasak is to wait for the ferry
The cheapest way across the Mekong River in Laos to get to Champasak is to wait for the ferry

Tourism is relatively new to Laos, only having appeared on the traveler radar around 20 years ago. Still, the people have caught on quickly and, even if it is limited to a few block radius, most cities have a tourist area filled with dirt cheap (by our standards, expensive by theirs) guesthouses, food, markets, Internet and travel agents. However, it is much easier to escape these areas than in other countries, as a quick trip outside this small area provides a fascinating window into local life.

A bus takes a break near the station in Vang Viang, a popular stop on the backpacker trail in Laos
A bus takes a break near the station in Vang Viang, a popular stop on the backpacker trail in Laos

While there may not be that much to actually do in Laos in terms of major tourist attractions, we spent two weeks there relaxing, enjoying nature and the slower pace of life, seeing the occasional temple or site and immersing ourselves in the environment. Two weeks was not nearly enough and I would love to return one day.”

As we learned on the island of Don Det, the Beerlao bottle made a perfect candle holder for long evenings hanging out in a hammock overlooking the river
As we learned on the island of Don Det, the Beerlao bottle made a perfect candle holder for long evenings hanging out in a hammock overlooking the river

I have lots more photography from Laos.

The town of Louang Prabang is surrounded by lush greenery and all-too-many signs of construction
The town of Louang Prabang is surrounded by lush greenery and all-too-many signs of construction

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