For this time round, my guest post comes from Adam, one half of Pergi Dulu. Adam travels around with Susan, his wife, and I have been following their blog for quite sometimes. The first thing that attracted me the most from their blog was their time lapses videos of sunrise and sunset – two things I love the most. They have been spending quite sometimes in Laos, I hope you will enjoy this post on the off beaten track of Laos.
Laos is a wild country located in Southeast Asia filled with rugged mountains, raging rivers and unique cultures. It’s a popular destination with all sorts of different travellers — those with lots of money come to relax in the colonial ambience of Luang Prabang’s 5-star villas. Others come to zip through the main tourist route of Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. And those with more time and less interest in luxury move further afield to get off the beaten track.
So what is off the beaten track in Laos? Well, since Laos is a heavily touristed country, you’re unlikely go anywhere that hasn’t had its fair share of tourists over the years. What you can find outside the main tourist areas are towns and villages that at any given time may only have between 0 and 10 other travellers in them. And when you consider that each of those travellers is doing his or her thing throughout the day, it’s easy to get the feeling that you’re the only person in town.
Phongsali is the name of a town which is the capital of the northernmost province in Laos which is also called Phongsali province. Part of the attraction of Phongsali is that it is difficult to get to and as a result, few travellers make the effort to go there. Located at about 1400 metres above sea level, it’s a town filled with character and has a distinctly Chinese feel. The old quarter features amazing old buildings and quaint noodle houses where you can snack on a bowl of pho and watch the comings and goings of the town.
Phongsali is about 16 hours by bus from Luang Prabang.
Another remote frontier town next this time right next to the Vietnamese border, picturesque Vieng Xai is steeped in remarkable history. During the Vietnam war, there was a parallel war being fought in Laos between the communist Pathet Lao and the American backed Lao royal family. The headquarters of the Pathet Lao war effort centred on Vieng Xai where the leadership group lived and coordinated their push for a communist Lao state.
Because of the Americans’ superior air power, the Pathet Lao were forced to the extreme measure of living inside caves for the entire duration of the war. These days visitors can come to scenic Vieng Xai and take a tour of the many caves which include bedrooms, meeting rooms, toilets, kitchens, army barracks, hospitals and theatres. You’ll barely see another tourist in Vieng Xai and it really does feel like you are off the beaten track. But it’s one of the best and most underrated attractions in the whole country.
Everyone that has visited Muang Ngoi would agree on one thing — it’s not off the beaten track as there are usually anywhere between 10 and 100 other tourists in town. So why talk about this place? Because it feels like it is off the beaten track.
Muang Ngoi can only be visited by boat as there is no road connecting the town to the outside world. Electricity is only available between 6PM and 9PM, almost every guesthouse only offers cold water showers and the local people live very simple lives. Everything about Muang Ngoi gives the feel of a small Lao village in the middle of nowhere and that is exactly what it is. Mass tourism has not turned this place into a cheap imitation — it’s the real deal and those who are less adventurous will still feel as though they are off the beaten track.
Laos is a magnificent country where visitors can choose between luxury and budget. These towns offer visitors an insight into parts of the country that have an authentic feel and the opportunity to truly interact with the local people. Laos is a wonderful country for that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam is an Aussie who gave up full-time work in 2009 to explore a different way of living. Since then, he met his Indonesia wife Susan and they both started blogging about travel at www.pergidulu.com and www.bacaresepdulu.com
A lover of food, photos and travel Adam plans on living life to the fullest and sharing it with anyone who wants to listen.