Don Det (4000 Islands)
When you first enter Laos
, you’ll quickly realize that everything slows down. Time seems to have lost its meaning there, and it is especially apparent in Don Det, a hippie heaven just north of the Cambodian border.
Southern Laos receives far fewer travelers than its fast growing Northern side, and most travelers here are found lazing in a hammock outside of modest bungalows built by the river, soaking in silence. It’s the perfect start to your Laos journey! Some may say that there’s not much to do in Don Det, but that’s not true.
You can go for kayaking trips that take off daily in the morning, rent a bicycle and get lost in the villages, head to Don Khong to check out the waterfalls, and of course, tube your way down the Mekong River with new friends you’ve just met. It is also home to the stunning Li Phi Waterfalls.
From Don Det, take a 3-hour bus to Pakse, the biggest southern city and a major transport hub in Laos. You are likely to arrive in Pakse in the afternoon, so it’s best to spend the rest of the day relaxing, sorting out a motorbike rental, and getting ready for an incredible adventure in the Bolaven Plateau.
Also just on the outskirts of Pakse, Wat Phu is an impressive Khmer temple that reminds me of a miniature version of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, though it was actually built in the 7th century, way before Angkor Wat.
Wat Phu does not see as many tourists, though, so it’s a nice change of atmosphere. This will make a nice day trip from Pakse, just make sure to pile on sunscreen as there’s very little shade!
The capital of Laos is surprisingly quiet and laid-back. There’s honestly not a ton to do in Vientiane, though if you’re heading to Thailand after and want to spend more than 30 days there, it’s the perfect place to sort out your 60-day visa. There are a few temples worth checking out, such as the golden Pha That Luang, and the Wat Si Saket.
It is a unique way to spend your day, and you can still take beer along with you while taking in the scenery as you float. Rent a tube, grab a beer, go alone or with a few people, and let the river take you from the top of the river to town. If you want to make it active, consider kayaking instead of tubing. There are still a few stops along the way, including a popular Irish bar. If you want to avoid the crowds, consider going in the early morning. The weather would be much more forgiving, too. Leave all of your valuable belongings behind, or bring a dry bag with you.
Vang Vieng is a great place to rock climb, whether you are a first-timer or an experienced climber. This area and others around it are getting more and more popular with the climbing community.
From Vang Vieng, take a bus to Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a highlight of Laos for many travelers, and a lot of people end up staying longer than intended. An icon just outside the city, Kuang Si Waterfalls are stunning and SO worth seeing it in person (the water really is that blue!). If you are fairly confident and comfortable on a motorbike, you could rent one and get there on your own.
This could be a nice ending to your Laos journey, A popular activity to do in Huay Xai is The Gibbon Experience, where you get to spend a few days zip-lining in the jungle, with an opportunity to stay in a treehouse and witnessing the gibbons in their natural habitat.