I get itchy feet if I’m not going through airport departure gates, sad but true! After so long working on a travel show I now enjoy going back to some of the places I filmed at and enjoying them at my own pace and spending more time in the places that had an impact on me. One of those places is Laos. I regularly hop on a plane to Asia and throw myself into an Adventure. Laos in South-east Asia is bordered by Burma and people’s Republic of China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west.
I discovered Laos French-influenced capital, Vientiane, about three years ago. The people are so friendly, the food delicious and the simplicity of life is addictive. I was visiting Thailand and fancied checking out something different. Vientiane was one of those quirky places I’d heard a little about…I went alone and spent a week waiting to see what unfolded each day.
EARLY TO RISE…
One of my most memorable moments, and “must-do” for visitors, is waking at 5am to stand on a street in the city centre, where locals and visitors give offerings of rice or lollies to the Buddhist monks as they pass by.
As a sign of respect dress conservatively – cover your legs and shoulders and offer your gifts to the monks. On this day I was the only non-local giving offerings and I could tell the local Vientiane people respected my efforts in taking part in the local culture. I think whatever country you visit taking time out to take part in a local celebration or tradition adds so much more to your overall experience.
An unexpected highlight of my trip was meeting “Dave”, a nick-name given to him by Aussies I’m sure. Dave was an ex-monk I met through a friend while having my morning coffee. He was extremely friendly and offered to show me around on his Harley! Being a rider myself I jumped at the opportunity and before I knew it I was whizzing around Vientiane checking out all of the highlights.
We ended our tour at a temple or wat that Dave had studied at. Initially I felt like a fish out of water but was warmly welcomed by the monks, it truly was a magical experience. I sat and let the hypnotic hymns wash over me and relax my entire being.
Another must do while visiting Laos is Buddha Park (Wat Xieng Khouang), about 25 minutes from Vientiane, is filled with huge statues of Buddha. Also worth a visit is the temple Wat Sisaket, which has more than 6800 images of Buddha.
The best way to get around is by hiring a pushbike, or by tuk-tuk, a motorized rickshaw. The French history of Vientiane – it was a colony from 1893 – 1954 – is everywhere. There are fantastic patisseries and stalls selling crepes, do yourself a favour and try the “chocolate crepe”! There’s even a replica Arc de Triomphe – Patuxai. You can climb it and see right across Vientiane.
I also loved eating at local restaurants, a lot of them don’t have names. Take a Mekong river boat trip and get off at restaurants along the way. They’re built on stilts and overlook the water. Try the homemade curries. Lao food is traditionally eaten with sticky rice that you can eat with your fingers. It’s seriously YUM!
And as for shopping? Don’t forget the Morning Markets. You can buy delicious local produce and stunning silks! - I have a cupboard filled with them, the quality and colors are second to none.
READY FOR TAKE-OFF?
Getting there: Thai Airways flies to Laos regularly, with prices starting from $1098 from Perth to Vientiane via Bangkok, and $1130 flying from Sydney, including taxes. Go to ww.escapetravel.com.au
STAY LIKE A STAR: Be treated like a queen at the historic first-class Settha Palace Hotel, where prices start at around $230 per night. Check out www.setthapalace.com
STAY FOR A STEAL: Stay at the Novotel Vientiane. Prices start at $90 per night twin share. Visit www.novotel.com