Category Archives: Laos

Spirit house in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang: The Tourist Trail Isn’t So Bad After All

We couldn’t leave mainland Southeast Asia without first sampling the delights of Luang Prabang and Angkor Wat. Luang Prabang is the one place in Laos where shit works. Restaurants never confused our order, the city is walkable, and the tourist sites are well run and worth checking out. A lot of backpackers and tour groups come here so it is definitely not off the beaten track. There are some irksome features such as the frankly tedious and overly large night market that clogs up the main drag, and the tourist hordes around the beautiful tak bak ceremony are frankly unpalatable. However, the UNESCO designation means that it is one of the few large towns in Southeast Asia that retains a timeless air. After bitching about tourist crowds in our last post, we really enjoyed Luang Prabang and stayed longer than we planned.


  • The temples. All 33 of them.
  • Great local food and drink
  • Traditional urban architecture
  • For a tourist city it is surprisingly friendly and hassle free
  • Local handicrafts
  • The very sobering UXO center

When we were there
February 12-16 2016


  • Night market


We jumped on the pickup from Nong Khiaw. It cost … Read more

Nong Khiaw

Banana Pancake Blues in Northern Laos

When we were planning this trip, visiting Laos and Cambodia were two big priorities for us. I had happy memories of Laos from my 2000 trip. It was quirky, laid back, and low on backpackers. Getting around was tough. The roads were terrible and for many areas the only transport was trucks jam packed with locals. Now the roads are better and the buses have much improved, I hoped to get to some of the far flung places that I missed out on last time. Unfortunately, every backpacker that visits Thailand has the same idea. Many places in Laos are now fully paid up members of the Banana Pancake Trail, a collection of towns, beaches, and islands that are epicenters for backpackers. The only reggae in the ubiquitous reggae bars is Bob Marley, the spicy curries are toned down, banana pancakes appear on every menu, and the de rigeur clothing is a Lao PDR hoodie! It’s safe, you can find millions of like-minded uninspired backpackers, and most likely you can party. You jump on boats and buses full of foreign tourists going to places overrun by foreign tourists.

There is no denying that the Banana Pancake Trail (BPT) covers a … Read more

Akha women, young and old.

Akha Hill Tribe Trekking in Phongsali

You know your Akha hill tribe trek is authentic when your guide is struck down by black magic! Welcome to Phongsali in far northern Laos, where even experienced guides are terrified by ghosts and spirits.

Getting off the beaten track in Laos is much tougher than on my last visit in 2000. Back then, the whole country was off the banana pancake trail! Undeterred, Laura looked for the phrases ‘terrible road’ and ‘difficult to get to’ in the Laos Travelfish guide and all signs pointed to Phongsali (Phongsaly) in the north. The area is linked to the rest of Laos via a rickety local bus on a winding mountain road. There are no backpacker hotels or restaurants. But there are two organizations, the local tourist office and Amazing Laos, that offer moderately adventurous hikes to some of the most authentic hill tribe villages in Southeast Asia. Seemed like a place for us. … Read more