What we loved…
Animal Tourism – Traveling Laos can be an animal lover’s dream. Between The Gibbon Experience and ECC – Elephant Conservation Center, we spent a lot of time in Laos with magnificent animals. There’s no guarantee you’ll encounter the elusive gibbons on The Gibbon Experience, but if you’re lucky you’ll hear their beautiful songs and witness them gracefully gliding through the jungle. Plus, you get to sleep in treehouses only accessible by zipline, and with a tour operator that is responsibly contributing to wildlife conservation.
Along with EVP in Cambodia, ECC is setting the bar for responsible Elephant tourism. Find out what they’re doing to save these endangered beauties. Go ahead and chat with their research scientist, veterinarian, or the mahouts about their elephants, and . We spent 3 full days with these gentle giants – feeding them, walking with them, riding them, and simply observing them. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, go back – you rode them?” Yes, and we have no guilt for it because we educated ourselves, and purposely went to a place that is doing a lot of good for Asian Elephants. ECC treats their Elephants well, and has you ride the elephants bareback one person at a time. We happened to be there when they had an infant elephant in their nursery – talk about adorable!
Animal tourism can be awesome, just be sure to chose a responsible tour operator.
Beer – A dark beer in Asia? Yes, my friends it’s true Laos delivers. In addition to its original Lager (a typical light Asian beer), Beerlao brews a Dark, and it’s pretty darn tasty! You can also find Beerlao Gold premium lager and another standard Asian lager, Namkhong beer. They’re all fine choices, but the Dark is the unique treat that sets Laotian beers apart from the rest.
Laid-backness – Nobody’s in a rush in Laos. Everybody’s happy. You’re greeted with smiles and friendliness around every bend. What else can you ask for?
What we didn’t love…
Air Pollution – We don’t recommend traveling Laos during burning season – when all the farmers are scorching their fields to prepare for the next planting. This, combined with the emissions of their second-hand vehicles, made for some pretty nasty conditions. We could barely see the sun through the constant layer of grey, but we sure could feel the debilitating heat being trapped in.
It’s Not Easy – There’s a lot of ground to cover between highlights – meaning a lot of loooooong, stinky, sweaty, sleepless, and down right uncomfortable bus or van-taxi rides. All the places we explored were absolutely worth the effort, but none of it was easy to get to.
Not Quite Thailand / Not Quite Vietnam – Had we not just been to Thailand and Vietnam, we’d have zero knowledge of this, but it is what it is. The food, the dress, the architecture, the souvenirs, the culture – it all feels a little bit like their neighbors to the east and west. Laos feels like Thailand’s or Vietnam’s kid brother. On the flip side, being the kid brother comes with far less tourists, which is always nice.