Nestled between Thailand and Vietnam, and touched in various places by China, Myanmar (Burma, whichever) and Cambodia, Laos is still somewhat unspoiled by the tourism that has largely turned Thailand (and to a lesser extent, Vietnam) into cultural shadows of their former selves.
Tourism Dollar vs Communism Poverty
With a chequered history in human rights violations that seems to typify Asian communist countries, Laos appears to be striving to integrate itself into the more modern climate of goodwill heralded by the Soviets and Chinese, welcoming tourists with beaming smiles and open arms while surreptitiously sweeping their dubious past misdeeds beneath the ever dog-eared communist rug. The weighty tourism dollar is a penetrating incentive to clean up one’s international act, and, by all accounts, the Laos government is polishing their commercial acumen with a zeal bordering manic.
The Dawn of Commercialism
Though rapidly developing, commercialism is still in its infancy in Laos, so it’s best not to travel here expecting luxury five star hotels and extravagant meals in restaurant so pricey they put the fraud squad on your bank manager’s speed dial. But if you’re up for some rough and ready spontaneous travel that epitomizes what backpacking is all about.
Laos is a relatively unspoiled romp that lends itself perfectly to a loosely-structured travelling style. However, times are changing, so to experience this pristine and unique example of Southeast Asian culture before the businessmen tear the heart out of the place, you need to get there quick.
Places to visit in Laos:
- Vientiane – the capital city unlike others
- Luang Prabang – the jewel in the crown of Laos tourism
- Vang Vieng – the place to don your party hat
- Pakse – the gateway to the Bolaven Plateau and Si Phan Don
So visit Laos before it’s gone; it’s not going to be there forever. Vang Vieng is indicative of what’s to come.
When you look back at your trip, it’s not the partying and whooping it up you’re going to remember; it’s the culture. The differences are what urge us to travel and explore, not the similarities.