Laos is fast becoming a Mecca for backpackers in South East Asia. Well by Laos, I mean Vang Vien. It may not be the place where tubing was invented but it is its greatest exponent. Tubing has become as crucial on every backpacker's checklist as a full moon party or Songkram.
For those (all be it few) of you who aren’t in the know, it is basically a rubber ring, a river lined with bars, and a hell of a lot of fun. It is easy to see why people flock there in droves. In fact, one guy once told me that he saw his friend crying as he left. Upon asking him why his friend mumbled “because I’m leaving paradise”. Yeah, I thought he was laying it on a bit thick, but he was adamant. But here is a little he didn’t let me in on. Laos is Paradise. And there is more to Laos than Tubing.
Ok maybe that is laying it on thick but Laos is a beautiful country and one worth exploring beyond Vang Vien. In fact, it has two places that would enrich every backpacker’s experience. Luang Prabang and 4000 islands. If traveling is about relaxing and breathtaking sights, then anyone who leaves them out of their itinerary is foolish.
As relaxed a city as the world has ever seen. maybe it has something to do with the environment. Two rivers and a temple topped the mountain. In fact head there after the debauched lifestyle that is tubing to recover. In fact, this is anti-tubing. Not in the sense that you can’t have a good time (you can) but more that there is so much on offer to see. Whether it is visiting one of the many triangle-shaped buildings, heading to see the Kuang Si Falls, or taking part in the alms ceremony.
In fact, it is probably the second best place to see a monk in his natural habitat (the first in Chiang Mai). Actually, my friend had one bum a cigarette off him; it is still in some contention as to whether it was just a man dressing up. As a city, it is not what you would come to expect from South East Asia.
A slightly different pace to tubing and even Luang Prabang. In fact, you may slip into a chill coma and never wake. Becoming a local mooching about the fairytale pools, swimming, and relaxing. The heart rate never reached higher than 60bpm. In fact, it might be an idea to pick an argument with the travel companion just to ensure the old blood pressure doesn’t drop too low. 4000 Islands or Si Phan Don as the locals would say, is where a number of rapids come together to create waterfalls, pools, and just awe-inspiring scenery. The photos you take are pure Facebook fodder.
So there are two places to go in Laos other than Vang Vien. Try to get to them otherwise, you will really be missing out on a country that has so much in terms of scenery. Also after sinking one too many buckets of tubing a change of pace is recommended.