Laos offers a laidback atmosphere that pervades throughout the whole country, alongside vibrant, fascinating local cultures and traditions. Rachel Hand explains where you can go to chill out in Laos.
Coming from the hubbub of other Asian capitals, it is hard to believe that Vientiane is a capital city at all. Even urban life moves relatively slowly in Laos, and a few days lazily exploring Vientiane is a great way to get into the mood. Sip a Beerlao by the river at sunset to fully soak up the atmosphere of South East Asia’s most laidback capital city.
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang has retained much of its traditional feel, from French colonial architecture to tree-lined streets free from buses and trucks. You’ll often see Buddhist monks wearing their orange robes, which adds to this adds to the overall sense of calm. Visit Kuang Si Falls, 30km from the city, for a pleasant excursion, but go early or late in the day to avoid the crowds.
The Plain of Jars
Situated around Phonsavan, these huge jars of unknown origin are dotted around the countryside. The largest and most accessible site is at Thong Hai Hin with around 250 jars, but there are many other sites. You can touch and even climb into the massive solid stone jars, at what is one of the most bizarre sites I’ve ever visited. Set in beautiful rolling hills, this is a great way to enjoy the fresh air and the countryside.
With a reputation as a backpackers’ haunt, you might be tempted to skip Vang Vieng in your quest for total relaxation, but the stunning landscapes surrounding Vang Vieng make it worth a visit. The limestone cliffs with hundreds of caves are great to explore, and if tubing isn’t relaxing enough for you, why not try kayaking down the river while soaking up the scenery? Beautiful sunsets abound in Laos, and Vang Vieng is no exception; just find a spot along the river and enjoy the show.
Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands)
Visiting these islands, spread along the Mekong River, is the perfect way to have an ultra-chilling time. If the rest of the country isn’t relaxed enough, life at Si Phan Don seems to move at an even slower pace. Experience the tranquillity of traditional village life and island hop to get a flavour of the different places. Or head straight to Don Khong, avoiding the slightly lively backpacker atmosphere of Don Det, and spend a few days chilling out by the river.
Laos has not shared the tourist boom of many other Southeast Asian countries. As a landlocked country, it doesn’t offer the beaches of Thailand and it has nothing to rival Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. However, unlike its neighbors, Laos offers a uniquely relaxing atmosphere and is the perfect destination for unwinding, chilling out, and enjoying a slower pace of life.