I must say that Laos was one of our favorite destinations in Asia, although we knew little about this country and the time that we spent there was indeed short. But there were too many experiences that we wanted to squeeze in the two months and a half time that we reserved for Southeast Asia and we spontaneously decided to dedicate more of it to exploring Vietnam, decision which brought us at the end of our stay in Laos to Dien Bien Phu.

Nong Khiaw was definitely the right place to end our trip in Laos and to feel even more in love with the natural surroundings of the country, but it also felt more isolated than other places and while trying to find connections with the Vietnamese border we found ourselves left with few options only. We booked a private transfer to the bus station in Pak Mong, from where we took the bus which was connecting Luang Prabang with the Vietnamese border, paying in total approximately 24 Euro per person. Another option was taking a speed boat along the Nam Ou River to Muang Khua, from where travelers can continue by bus till the border. At the time when we were there we found out about multiple construction projects for building dams, which were also threatening the river cruise industry and that will make certain routes on water not accessible anymore in the future.

The bus from Nong Khiaw to Dien Bien Phu

The bus ride itself felt long but somehow entertaining while watching the way local people travel. They usually take with them lots of luggage, including sacks of rice and even animals. Buses in Laos are always great opportunities to engage into authentic experiences. But don’t expect much comfort in return.

The bus ride took much longer than expected and we arrived late in the evening at the border, where we had to go through two border filters on both sides of it. The process on the Laotian side went smooth and fast but later on the Vietnamese side it took much longer. We were even confronted with the situation of being asked for extra money by the border officers due to the extended working hours caused by our late arrival. We protested at first against it, even if it was a small fee, but eventually felt forced to pay it as we were already very late and we hoped to still be able to catch a night bus to Sapa, in the northern part of Vietnam..

Unfortunately, the last bus left before our arrival and we had to spend the night in Dien Bien Phu, but luckily we found a very cheap room right in front of the bus station and could enjoy delicious noodles at one of the many small restaurants in the area. We did not even have to look for the accommodation as locals approached us immediately with offers.

Bus from Dien Bien Phu to Sapa

Direct buses and minibuses to Sapa leave every morning at 6:30 and 9:00 or later in the evening at 17:30 and 18:30. Most offers are for buses leaving for Hanoi or some of the main touristic destinations in the northern part of the country.

We left the next morning with the earliest minibus, arriving eight hours later in the mountains close to the Chinese border, where we hoped to spend a few days admiring the impressive rice fields that make Sapa such a famous destination. But unluckily the only impressive thing that we discovered in the three days in Sapa was the thick mist that surrounded the mountain and the cold air that convinced us to leave early towards the sunnier places of the country. The next stop on our route across Vietnam was the capital city, Hanoi, where we got to learn about the busy city life of the Vietnamese people.

Nong Khiaw was our last destination in Laos and the place where once again we felt in love with this country. Deep green valleys surround the small village hidden between mountains and hills, offering hikes to spectacular view points.


Things to do in Nong Khiaw

Apart from trekking or cycling around the village or taking a boat tour on the river, travelers can visit the historic Pha Tok Caves, which served as shelters for people to hide during the Vietnam War, or hike the limestone mountains for surprisingly beautiful landscapes.

One of the most famous activities around the village is trekking the route of the 100 waterfalls, which many sources on the internet and local tour agents recommend. But we found out that also just a simple walk in the village can turn into a rewarding experience. You can admire the beautiful surroundings while crossing the bridge over the Nam Ou River, try the local food and observe the peaceful life of the people.



While searching for coffee, unfortunately we realized that Nong Khiaw felt nothing like the coffee paradise that we discovered in Luang Prabang, but instead offered us the chance to try again some of the delicious Indian food that we always happily enjoy whenever we get a chance to.

Hiking to the viewpoints in Nong Khiaw

Our limited time in Laos allowed us to enjoy just few of the many activities that could be done in the area. So we decided to chase sunsets and in the two days that we spent there we climbed to the two main view points, that rewarded us with spectacular view over the village and the infinite green landscapes of the limestone mountains.



At the beginning of the both treks you will be asked to pay a small fee, part of which supports the local community and helps maintain the trails. Allow yourself around two hours for any of the hikes and wear proper shoes, as some parts are very challenging and steep.



Despite the short time that we spent in the country, Laos conquered our hearts and easily made it to the list of our best places to travel. We spent the last day in a local bus that brought us to the border with Vietnam, the last big adventure of our journey in Asia. Read more about it here.

See more pictures of Nong Khiaw here.

Luang Prabang is best known for its well preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage which made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting more and more tourists each year. Located at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, it is one of the most important cities in Laos and the heart of the Laotian culture.

Visa for Vietnam in Luang Prabang

We ended up staying a whole week in the city, as our plans to continue overland till the northern border of Laos and cross after into Vietnam forced us to extend our stay while having to wait for the visa applications to be processed. We could have gotten our passports stamped earlier but we opted to wait and pay the smaller price, which helped to cover for the expenses of the extra days in the city. Besides the financial aspects, Luang Prabang didn’t feel like a place that we wanted to leave too early. The visa process went smooth and fast, although it was a pricier option than applying for the visa on arrival. But the latter option would have forced us to arrive in Vietnam by air and we wanted to continue our journey overland.


What to do in Luang Prabang?

Laotian cuisine enchanted our taste buds and we enjoyed every opportunity to try new local dishes and snacks. Various noodle soups, grilled fish, fried Mekong River moss and tasty fresh fruits were our favorites. And because Laos is a famous destination for coffee lovers, we spoiled ourselves with delicious coffee at some of the terraces in the city center.



The place had a warm and welcoming vibe that we could continuously feel throughout our stay. We enjoyed walks along the riverside, hiking to the Buddhist temple at the top of the Phou Si Mountain and cycling around the city. After watching the sunset from the peak of Phou Si, visitors can climb down to the city’s main street and explore the colorful night market and the evening view over the Haw Kham Royal Palace Museum.



Travelers that like to wake up early can watch the procession of Buddhist monks at sunrise, collecting alms offered by locals.

Another spot that we found interesting, mainly for its story, is the bamboo bridge across the Nam Khan river. The bridge is being washed away every year by the rising floods and rebuild later by a local family that also charges a small fee for walking to the other side of the river.



If you are interested in history, you can visit the UXOLAO Visitor Center to find out about the devastating events that marked the country since the time of the Vietnam War till the present day.



The Kuang Si Falls & the Tat Sae Waterfalls near Luang Prabang

We reserved one day for exploring the Kuang Si Falls. The place can be reached by tuk-tuk or van, but we decided to rent scooters as prices were low and we had more fun driving by ourselves. We arrived at a busy parking space in an area crowded with people, restaurants and kiosks selling snacks, drinks and souvenirs. After paying the entrance fee we walked along multiple shallow turquoise pools and later hiked up to the source of the stream, where we chilled for a while and where Miriam even went for a swim.



The place is large and we found many quiet spots away from the more crowded areas. We went there to see one big waterfall but saw also many beautiful smaller ones and enjoyed the cooler air in the shadows of the surrounding jungle after driving under the hot sun of the afternoon.

At the end of the day, we realized that we could have spent much more time at the waterfalls because of the large area that they cover, but the early sunset and the long ride home forced us to leave before dawn, as we wanted to reach the city during daylight.

But instead, we started early on the following day and cycled to the Tat Sae Waterfalls that were closer to the city, but equally beautiful to the Kuang Si Falls.


The Tat Sae Waterfalls near Luang Prabang

The area where the waterfalls are located is reachable only by boat, after crossing the river and we found it to be very well organized.



Visitors can swim in the water or enjoy a drink with a view over the turquoise landscape. It is also a spot to watch elephants which, unfortunately, are used as an attraction for tourists that fancy elephant riding.

We decided to rent bikes that day and cycle to the waterfalls. The distance was short but the ride quite challenging due to the many slopes and the hot temperatures. Still, we enjoyed the views along the way and rewarded ourselves with a swim in the refreshing waters at the destination and a coffee before we cycled back to the city.

Luang Prabang has been a place that we enjoyed very much and just the first stop on the route that brought us one week later to Nong Khiaw.

See more pictures from Luang Prabang here.

After the long journey in Asia, we thought that we’ve seen enough and had little expectations when we booked our flights to Southeast Asia. Of course, each country always had something different to offer and we experienced new flavors in each individual land, but we need to say that Laos and the Mekong River impressed us in a particular way.

As we weren’t forced anymore by visa regulations to flight to the future destinations, as it happened between Thailand and Myanmar, we happily took the bus from Chiang Mai towards Chiang Khong, a small village at the border with Laos, where we spent our last night in Thailand.



The following morning we embarked on a boat that brought us along the Mekong River to Luang Prabang.

River cruise on the Mekong River

We applied for a visa on arrival when we crossed into Laos and the immigration control went fast and smooth. The tour company that we booked the river cruise with assisted us during the border crossing process and organized our transfer to the pier, from where we started the two days long cruise through some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes.



We were happy to travel in a different way, which allowed us to admire more of the natural wonders that would be more difficult to explore by traveling overland by bus or car. Apart from the colder wind in our second morning on board, the warm weather helped us to enjoy the journey to the fullest. Comfortable four-seat tables and long benches along the front part of the boat, as well as a small terrace with few chairs at the front allowed us to admire the surroundings from different angles and take many beautiful pictures.



We shared the table with the “dutchies”, our friends for the Netherlands which we got to know in Myanmar and with whom we met after also in Chiang Mai when we decided to continue the trip together for a few more days. Having them with us surely made the whole experience on the river more pleasant and enjoyable.

Lunch, snacks and drinks were served on board, so we had little to worry about as the personnel of the boat took good care of everything and everybody. We spent the whole first day on the river, with a short break in between, when we visited a local village.


At the end of the day, we got transferred to our accommodation, from where we could admire the beautiful valley stretching along both sides of the Mekong River at sunset.



During the second day, the boat personnel organized more activities for us, including visiting another village.



Short before arriving at our destination we also stopped for a visit at the Pak Ou cave temple, which is hosting more than 1000 statues of Buddha.



Late in the afternoon, we arrived in the port of Luang Prabang, where we planned to spend a few days, which became some of our best in the country and in all Southeast Asia. Read more about it here.

For more pictures from the cruise on the Mekong River click here to access the gallery.