My First Impressions of Laos

First Impressions of Laos - Luang Prabang - Asia Travel

Pink and purple.

If I could describe Laos in colors, it would be pink and purple. There’s this soft haze of pastels that often falls over the country, and it’s easy to see why they call this the romantic traveler’s paradise.

The outline of the distant mountains, the soothing flow of the river, the soft swaying jungle always close by as you walk home from another night of paper lanterns, solo street guitar players, and red brick sidewalks.

This is Laos, a country I’ve been wanting to visit since I first came to Southeast Asia in 2013. I missed out on seeing the country back then, but I knew I didn’t want that to be the case this time I was in Asia.

First Impressions of Laos - Luang Prabang - Asia Travel

Ask almost any traveler who has been to Laos, and they’ll gush about the fond memories they have from the country, the hospitable locals, and the countless adventures they found themselves on.

I’ve been in Luang Prabang for the past few days, and I wasn’t expecting it to be such a quiet and sleepy city, well, I guess town is a better description. The facades of the old buildings bring you back to French colonial times. A stroll along the Mekong River will make even the most pessimistic person pause and appreciate the view.

The pace of life is much slower in Laos than Vietnam, Cambodia, or Thailand. There’s no rush, just a methodical way that locals go about their day. Life is peaceful here and I don’t always know what to make of the lack of busyness that I’ve become accustomed to in Asia.

First Impressions of Laos - Luang Prabang - Asia Travel

It has been raining almost every day since I arrived, but I don’t mind. I spend my days sipping coffee and working in cafes, dipping into another wat or museum along the way.

Laos is a country that I very much want to like, everything that I’ve heard about it sounds exactly like me and my travel style. Laid back, adventurous, and local.

I’ve only been here for less than a week, but I can already tell that me and Laos will get along just fine. There’s so much about this country that I don’t know, and it entices me in a way that only a brand new culture can.

First Impressions of Laos - Luang Prabang - Asia Travel

The food is a mix of different Asian cuisines, especially Chinese in the north, but still very much its own Laotian style. The people are more quiet and shy than any other Asian cultures I’ve come across. The one exception being the adorable Laotian kids who run around in groups, always a smile on their face and a high five to give you.

If there’s one thing I want to do while I’m here, it’s getting to know the locals better. I want to take the time to understand Laotian culture and the history of this diverse nation.

I went to the UXO Laos Center in Luang Prabang yesterday, and I was blown away to learn about the Secret War in Laos that the US was involved in. Of course, I never learned about it in school, but I want to learn about it now and educate myself on the struggles that locals still face today from that war.

First Impressions of Laos - Luang Prabang - Asia Travel

There are monks of all ages draped in orange robes with delicate orange umbrellas, you can find them around every corner. The giving of alms if very popular here. If you wake up early enough you can witness the procession of quiet monks accepting offers from devoted Buddhists each morning.

First Impressions of Laos - Luang Prabang - Asia Travel

And the Buddhist temples! There are temples everywhere. In Luang Prabang alone there are 34 UNESCO-protected wats  – and remember, this isn’t a big city. Buddhism is clearly a big part of the community and daily life.

I love walking around barefoot in the golden steeped temples, seeing more Buddha statues than I can count, giving a quick smile to the monks on the street when they make eye contact.

First Impressions of Laos - Luang Prabang - Asia Travel

There are spiders the size of your fist and an undeveloped nature to the country. There is more poverty than I’ve seen anywhere else in Asia, including Myanmar. Yet locals seem far less likely to want to rip you off here like they do in Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

The local night market of handmade goods in Luang Prabang is one of the best I’ve seen, except for maybe the ones I discovered in Taiwan. It lights up the main road each night, and each night I start from one end to the other, slowly working my way down the street in the light lukewarm air.

First Impressions of Laos - Luang Prabang - Asia Travel

I don’t usually buy anything, but I enjoy people watching and taking it all in, sometimes with a fresh fruit smoothie in hand.

The red lanterns guide me past the line of old buildings, lighting up the dark streets. I choose to eat down alleyways and try a new dish every night. The lone guitar player next to me is playing another lovely tune. I smile at the pretty laotian women and say “Sa-bai-dee” before heading back to my simple guesthouse a few blocks away.

Life is slow here, but it’s exactly where I want to be right now.

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My First Impressions of Laos - Asia Travel - The Atlas Heart

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Mimi McFadden
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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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