Arriving in Laos
When I decided to go to South East Asia, I had to put Laos in my itinerary. I knew nothing about the country, but something triggered my curiosity. And it certainly didn’t disappoint! Actually, Laos became one of my favourite destinations during this trip. Especially the 4000 Islands area! Laos is a place where you can find peace, the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets and beautiful nature. I arrived at the 4000 Islands region by bus. I boarded a bus in Phnom Penh in Cambodia and paid $30 to get me to the island of Don Det. The bus will take you to Nakasang, and from there, you’ll take a boat to Don Det for 15.000 KIP per person one way.
I met many people on the bus and quickly realised that many people spent a fair bit of money on a hotel or guesthouse. $20 doesn’t seem a lot for a night, but as I was travelling for five months, $20 was out of my budget. When I checked online, I couldn’t find any cheaper accommodation either. So when I arrived, I decided to walk around and see what I could find! And believe it or not… I found the cutest private hut for only 30.000 KIP a night! With a hammock overlooking the water! Yes, it was basic, but it was perfect for the experience I was after 🙂 There was no internet, but nothing that a SIM card can’t fix! I got one from Unitel SIM Net, and I was online in minutes. I stayed here for three nights and even got some work done with this stunning view.
Sunrise or Sunset
The sunsets and sunrises at the 4000 islands are breathtakingly beautiful! Many argue you should get a room at the sunset side. And there are some lovely places where you can stay. But I also realised it was a lot busier there, a lot noisier with many bars, and often the view was blocked by restaurants or other guesthouses. I stayed at the sunrise side, and I just enjoyed a beer on the sunset side when the sun was going down. The prices on the sunrise side were also cheaper and I loved waking up with the sun on my private porch!
What to do at the 4000 Islands
There is so much to do around here, and I wish I stayed longer! It was my favourite place in Laos. I met some people who stayed here 1-2 nights, and if you ask me, that isn’t enough… You can rent a bicycle and explore a few other islands such as Don Khon. You can go canoeing on the Mekong River and explore the beautiful nature. Take a boat trip, and with a bit of luck, you can spot Irrawaddy dolphins! Or take a trip to the Don Phapheng waterfall or the Li Phi Falls. The Don Khone Li Phi Somphamit Waterfalls Park has an entrance fee of 35.000 KIP and is open daily from 8 am till 5 pm. The Khonephapheng Waterfall Park costs 40.000 KIP and has the same opening hours.
The Boliven Plateau
From Don Det, I took a bus to Pakse, a small town with few things to do. But I made a stop here as I wanted to explore the Boliven Plateau. I booked a day trip for 150.000 KIP, and in hindsight, I wish I had rented a motorbike for the day to drive around. We stopped at some waterfalls, some local villages and some “forced” handicraft markets. It was very touristy and the weird taste of tourism left a bad taste in my mouth. There was even time to attend a live cockfight… It didn’t sit well with me, and I didn’t feel like we explored that much. So if you decide to visit the Boliven Plateau, I’d recommend making your own plans. When I’m going back to Laos, I’d love to drive the Loop or see Thakhek and drive the Loop there instead.
I wasn’t well organised for Laos, and I travelled to places that I found online on blogs and Instagram on the go. So from Pakse, I took a night bus all the way to Vang Vieng for 200.000 KIP. Another place people seem to love! And I don’t know what’s wrong with me… but I hated it! I only ended up staying here one night. I think if you like parties, this is THE place to go. But as I’m not really into that kinda thing, I felt off. Most hostels were party places, and most activities also had a party in mind. I rented a bike and explored the area, however, and boy is nature beautiful here! So I think for both party and nature lovers, Vang Vieng has a lot to offer. I would have preferred to stay on the calmer side of the river, though. If you can rent a scooter or motorbike, you’re in for a nature treat here! You can also visit the Bue Lagoons here, which are excellent to see but not as spectacular as other lagoons in Laos. I guess Vang Vieng felt a bit like a tourist trap to me with tons of loud music. I know… I’m old 😉
For only $10, I got to my next destination, Luang Prabang. After the 4000 Islands, I finally arrived in a place that felt good again for me! So good that I stayed longer than I thought I would. I got myself a lovely private room for a few nights, and I worked overlooking the Mekong river. I also made a trip to the Kuang Si waterfall.
For the most beautiful sunset, I went to the stupa on Mount Phousi. I got there early, but there were sooooo many people here, and it got way too crowded! People even started cursing at each other to get the best spot and selfie sticks were in abundance! So I ventured to the river again and enjoyed a private sunset instead. It is also worth getting up early to see the Alms Giving Ceremony at 5.30 am! Afterwards, you can visit the food market. The night market is also a fun place to be, and there are tons of excellent restaurants here.
I’d love to go back
Yes, I would love to go back. But this time, I would skip some things and add more. I loved the very south and the north. Next time, I would love to visit Nong Khiaw and Luang Namtha, but I didn’t have enough time when I was there. I scheduled two weeks for Laos and four weeks for Vietnam. If I could make the same trip again, I would stay 3-4 weeks in both countries! But I had already booked a flight to Vietnam where new adventures were waiting for me! Of course, everyone is different, but I like my travels pretty relaxed and quiet. For that reason, I found places like Vang Vieng not so attractive. I much prefer a local vibe and travel off the beaten track. So if I travel to Laos again, I’ll get myself a motorbike to travel around!
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