Where We Be
Two Key Phrases: sabaidi (sah bai dee) = hello
kop jai lai lai (cop jai lie lie) = thank you very much
Transport: Be prepared for every bus and minivan to take longer than
the official time listed. Transport in Laos takes forever! You just have to
roll with it. Roads in Laos are actually better than in Cambodia, but finding
buses that leave when you want them to leave and go where you want
them to go isn't always easy. Case in point: Savannakhet. We gave up on
getting there. And for Pakse to Thakhek, night buses were our only option.
Often buses will drop you off at a station outside of town and you need to
pay for a tuk-tuk or songthaew to take you the rest of the way. This is
annoying but often unavoidable. Just remember that prices are low by U.S.
standards so it's best not to get worked up. Laos tests your patience when
it comes to transport, so try to get into a mellow "non-Western" space.
Lodging: We tried staying in rooms with just fans but found it too hot in
March/April. We recommend seeking out lodgings with AC and paying the
extra $5 to $10 per night if you're there in the hot/dry season as we were.
Footwear: Sandals or flip-flops are a good idea since you're constantly
taking your shoes on and off. Temples always require you to remove your
shoes, and many lodges and even some restaurants do as well.
Best Time to Go: We would not really recommend Laos in March/April: it
was hot, dry, and hazy, water levels were low, and rice fields were dry dirt
instead of green. There are better months to travel here (like Nov to Feb).
Si Phan Don: If your boat arrives at night, consider staying on Don Det
since it's a pretty long walk in the dark (30+ minutes) to get to Don Khon.
Champasak: We paid extra to get into Wat Phou early. The official
opening time is 8 am but if you pay 50,000 kip instead of 35,000, they may
let you in between 6 am and 8 am when it's much cooler and quieter.
Treetop Explorer: It can be logistically difficult to book this tour ahead.
We just showed up at Green Discovery's Pakse office and said we wanted
to leave soon but were flexible about the exact date. We told them our
hotel name -- and they got in touch with us later that day and said we could
leave tomorrow at a reduced price based on four people instead of two.
Kong Lo Cave: Tevas are a good idea since you have to get out and walk
at times in the water. A bathing suit is helpful. Headlamps they provide are
much stronger than the ones we brought. We recommend you stay locally
(instead of at Thakhek as we did) since it's very scenic in the area.
Luang Prabang: Food/drinks at atmospheric Western-style restaurants
are more expensive here than elsewhere in Laos. Night market food stalls
are a terrific value. So are sandwiches, crepes, and smoothies at vendor
stalls on Sisavangvong Street. If your room has a small fridge, you can buy
sodas and beer for roughly half price at local mom and pop stores.
Kuang Si Falls: Best to go early before crowds arrive around 10:30 am. If
you decide to hike to the top of the falls, go for the exercise, not the views.
The right side is steeper than the left. Wear swimsuits and tevas to swim.