I always try to keep an open mind when traveling to a new country so I came to Laos with a blank slate in mind, not knowing what to expect. All I had planned for was the flight into Luang Prabang and flight out from Vientiane. I was nervous since I wanted to see as much as possible while making sure that my friend and I would make it down to Vientiane in time for our flight! And yes, this trip was done with less than USD$200. So if you're wondering whether 7 days in Laos is possible, it totally is! Exchange rate of 1 USD = 8103kips & accommodation prices were split between 2 people.
7 Day Itinerary in Laos
Day 1 - Luang Prabang
Settle in, explore town, & Grab Dinner
After arriving in Luang Prabang and checking into Namhkhan Riverside Hotel, we decided to explore the town for the rest of the day, find other guesthouses for the rest of our trip, and find some dinner. After exploring and speaking with locals and other travelers, we decided to make our way to Muang Ngoi ("Meng Noi) the next day having heard that it's the new Nong Khiaw, as in less tourist-y with peaceful and scenic activities to do away from the bustling city of Luang Prabang.
Tip: I like to book the first night's accommodation in advanced. It may not be cheaper than actually going and asking around on the day of, but usually the 1st day after traveling is tiresome so I like to just check in and then find other options later. This has worked for me on so many occasions and I highly recommend it especially for those traveling flexibly and during low season!
Day 2 - Nong Khiaw -> Muang Ngoi
4 hour car ride to Nong Khiaw & 1 hour slow boat ride to Muang Ngoi
Early in the morning after enjoying our delicious complimentary breakfast (banana pancake and lemon fruit juice) and swatting flies away (FYI there's just a ton of flies in Laos idk why), we booked tickets through our guesthouse for a tuk tuk to the bus station and a minivan to go to Nong Khiaw. (Costed 80,000kip but if you arrange your own tuk tuk and buy a minivan ticket at the North bus station it would only be around 50,000kip.)
Once in Nong Khiaw, catch a tuk tuk to the waterfront to buy tickets to Muang Ngoi. There are cafes and accommodations around for lunch that will allow you to use their bathroom (much needed after the 4 hour car ride and upcoming 1 hour slow boat ride!)
Tip: If you get on the slow boat first, you can snag seats that are padded and face forward. Otherwise you'll be cramped in the back on an uncomfortable bench most likely with tourists and locals and some luggages.
Day 3 - Muang Ngoi Neau
Tham Khan Cave, trek through mountains & to Bana village
I'll dedicate a whole post soon to Muang Ngoi and our interesting stay at Lertkeo's Guesthouse, but in the meantime it was one of the highlights of the trip... there's so much to write about! In short, I'll just say this small fishing village is definitely the perfect getaway. Definitely worth a visit if you have the time! Muang Ngoi is also a great spot for trekking, fishing, banana boating, or splitting your trip up if you're headed further north to Muang Khua (though boats don't run everyday so it's best to check the schedule beforehand).
Day 4 - Muang Ngoi -> Nong Khiaw-> Luang Prabang and the Night Market
9:30am Slow boat ride & eventually head back to Luang Prabang
Heading back to Luang Prabang from Muang Ngoi is the exact reverse route of how you came. However, when waiting for minivan transport back to Luang Prabang from Nong Khiaw will depend on your luck. We waited up to 2 hours for the minivan to fill up and for those who had a flight later that same day, it was definitely took some negotiating with other travelers since it's a first come, first served bases. I wouldn't plan on having such a tight schedule because the van's run much less back than they do coming up.
Once we arrived back in Luang Prabang, our mission was to book our tickets for the famous Kuang Si Waterfalls! There are tons of tour groups that will do half-day tours to Kuang Si Waterfalls. We took the time to compare prices from different tour groups (usually around 50-60,000kips) as were determined to not do a tour group as we wanted to go there ourselves. While we were asking tuk tuk drivers outside of the night market how much a ride for 2 people would be (and clearly getting higher rates at 180,000-200,000kips), a man serendipitously approached us and said he had a group heading out tomorrow morning and had some spots left. He gave us a cheaper price of 40,000kips as we were NOT going through a tour group (they get a fee from the drivers). SCORE! We told him we were staying at Nocknoy's Hostel, he gave us his name and we shook on the fact that his friend would pick us up in his van the next day. We made sure not to pay him in advance to ensure that even if we did not get picked up the next day, we did not lose any money. (Ugh yes, this happened to me before in the Philippines).
For the rest of the day, continue down the main road to check out the night market for the typical foods of nutella banana crepes, fruit smoothies, and shopping souvenirs and trinkets. If you haven't experienced a South East Asia night market yet, it's generally the same with mostly the same products. I love it all the regardless, but I'll be sure to write a post on these night market experiences and how to haggle!
Day 5 -Luang Prabang: Monk Alms, Kuang Si Waterfall & VIP Sleeper Bus Adventure
Having heard mixed reviews towards the tourist industry regarding the morning monk alms, we weren't sure whether to go or not, but we decided to wake up at 5:30am and witness from afar. We made sure to turn flash off our phones and not be disrespectful by shoving our cameras in monks faces (as we heard many tourists used to do this which gave tourism a bad name). There will be women forcefully trying to sell rice and other foods for you to give as alms to the monks, just politely say no and walk away if this is something you're not condoning.
After the monk alms, we took a quick nap then got ready to head to Kuang Si Waterfalls! Once the driver picked us up in a minivan with 10 other people, we traveled through the winding roads and reached the waterfalls. Determined to get to the waterfalls before the rest of the crowd, we sped walked through the bear sanctuary (we decided to spend time there on our way back) and headed towards the waterfalls. After taking some photos and climbing up to the top of the mountain (which was a lot more work for little reward), we finally got back down and took a dip in the nice cool waters. Yes there will be little fish in the water that will nibble at your feet, but if you're in the shallow areas or continuously moving then they won't bite you! Also be very careful near the edges and don't attempt to stand up/walk around or you'll probably fall like I did...
Full review of my VIP Sleeper Bus experience from Luang Prabang to Vientiane coming soon!
Day 6 - Arrive in Vientiane
Rent a Bike & sightsee
After 12 hours on the sleeper bus, we finally make it to Vientiane! We found Mixay Paradise Guesthouse, checked in, and since it was early in the day, decided to stretch our legs from that long bus ride by renting out bikes (15,000kips) and biking to all the top sights in Vientiane. For safety reasons, we got a paper copy of a map of Vientiane from the bike shop so that we wouldn't have to whip out our phones for GPS constantly on the road. Also, I've heard stories of people getting their iPhones snatched straight out of their hands before! (Not specifically in Laos, but in other countries... so better be safe than sorry). We biked to: Pha That Luang, Patuxai (Victory Gate), That Dam, wet markets etc and I'm not the best biker but all the drivers and motorbikers were super nice and I didn't feel unsafe or in danger biking on the main roads.
Day 7 - Vientiane & Departure
On the last day of any trip, I like to take it easy. We did some last minute shopping and headed to a cafe before doing our last haggling with tuk tuk drivers to take us to the airport.
Have you traveled to Laos? What were some activities you enjoyed? What are some aspects of my trip that you'd like to hear about more? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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