Julie Laos 15 Comments

Laos was a total surprise for us…unexpected beauty, exceptionally good food, incredibly friendly people.  We only spent one week in this amazing country and it stole my heart.

We arrived in Laos from Thailand, taking the slow boat down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang.  Luang Prabang…a small town with a goofy name, is also one of the prettiest small towns in Southeast Asia.  Laos was once a French colony and it’s the French influences that make Luang Prabang so enjoyable.

Luang Prabang River

ThongbayThongbay Guesthouse

We spent six nights at the Thongbay Guest House, which we all liked for the views from our bungalow over the river. The grounds of the guesthouse property were beautiful, filled with palm trees and other tropical plants, small thatched bungalows, and orchids growing everywhere.

Every morning we would be served breakfast on our deck, definitely the best breakfast of the trip so far. Breakfast was huge! We could choose from eggs, pancakes, and noodle soup, and we were also served yogurt with muesli, fresh fruit, warm French bread, tea or coffee, and orange juice. It was amazing!

But it couldn’t all be perfect.

While we were staying here, Laos was experiencing colder than normal weather.  During the day it pleasantly reached the mid to upper seventies, but at night temperatures would go as low as 50 degrees. Our bungalows did not have heaters and it got quite cold at night.

To make matters worse, it was very noisy during the night. Laos is a Buddhist country, like many other countries we have visited recently, but this is the first place where we were awoken by bells at 3:30 am.

3:30 am!

Every morning, not even close to the crack of dawn, a Buddhist monk would start playing these bells, and it was loud. The poor guy must have been so miserable having to get up so early on the cold, dark mornings that he took his frustration out on these bells, because he played them like he wanted to wake everyone else up as well. These bells would then wake up the stray dogs in the area, as well as Luang Prabang’s record setting number of roosters, and all the animals would start howling away.

Just when things began to quiet down, at 4:30 am, a second monk would play the drums. This would stir up the roosters and the dogs again. It was insane! Somehow, Tyler and Kara were able to sleep through the cacophony of sounds every night but Tim and I weren’t so lucky.

The view across the river from our bungalow.

Across the River


Walking from Thongbay Guesthouse into town. 

Our Walk

We usually spent the mornings at the hotel, doing homework and trip planning.  And surprise, surprise again…Laos had one of the fastest internet connections of the trip yet. Who knew that in little Luang Prabang, in a developing, communist country, Tyler would be able to upload a month’s worth of his videos to YouTube! The wifi hasn’t been this good since Dubai.

Luang Prabang

The afternoons were spent exploring the town of Luang Prabang. It is a beautiful city, with its French architecture accented with palm trees and tuk-tuks. Most signs are written in Laotian and French, although we saw a fair amount of English and Chinese as well. The four of us have been learning how to read Chinese characters in preparation for China and we love trying to decipher the signs.

Street in Luang Prabang

Rum and Coke

Our Favorite Spot in Luang Prabang

As with any town with French influences, the food was excellent, as were the coffee and the drinks.

While we were in Luang Prabang, we tried several restaurants, but the one we kept coming back to was Un Petit Nid Biblio Bistro, a small restaurant with a waiter we loved. He was a very friendly Laotian man who spoke decent English and always had a smile on his face. He greeted Tyler as “boy,” a typical greeting in this part of the world. It’s a big step up from being greeted as “babies,” what Tyler and Kara have been referred to since entering Nepal. For an almost twelve year boy, hearing “what would you like, boy?” is much better than being called a baby. The kids have not been thrilled with being referred to as babies but Tim and I think it’s hysterical.

Anyway, the food here was good, but what we really kept coming back for were the drinks. We just loved how things were different here. Tim’s rum and coke was served as rum in a wine glass with a can of coke, which he would mix together. I ordered Blue Hawaiians, a great mixed drink that I loved.

Luang Prabang Night Market

Night Market Luang Prabang

Chicken FeetAlmost every night we walked through the night market.  Night markets are very popular in Southeast Asia.  Every afternoon, truckloads of souvenirs would be dropped off in town, the roads would be closed to cars, and people would erect tents and set up their goods to sell.  It was mostly souvenirs which were very repetitive, with people selling silk scarves, silver jewelry, journals, bags, paintings, and other souvenirs.  Everything was dirt cheap, making shopping that much more fun.

We sampled some street food, as well.  Tim was a big fan of the grilled chicken breasts on a stick, which were also dirt cheap.  Kara, Tim, and I tried chicken feet but we were not impressed.  They tasted fine, but if you’ve ever seen a chicken’s foot you would know that there is very little meat on them.

Touring the Temples

To the delight of Tyler and Kara we kept temple visiting to a minimum while in Luang Prabang.  We visited only one temple while spending an afternoon touring by bicycle, and only took a minute or two to peek inside.

Laos Mural

In conclusion, we all really enjoyed Laos. Luang Prabang is a great city to visit and it is much different from many of the other towns we have seen in Southeast Asia, partly due to its French influences. The highlight of Laos was the slow boat down the Mekong River, which was an unforgettable experience.  I love it when places and activities turn out to be so much better than we were expecting.

Next up is Cambodia…back to the heat, back to exploring temples!

More Information about Laos & Southeast Asia

SOUTHEAST ASIA ITINERARY: If your visit to Laos is part of a bigger trip through Southeast Asia, don’t miss our 3-month Southeast Asia itinerary and travel planner.

CAMBODIA: In Cambodia, explore the temples in Siem Reap, spend some in Kampot, and visit Phnom Penh.

BANGKOK: For a list of top experiences, check out our article Best Things to Do in Bangkok. We also have an article about where we ate and drank in Bangkok.

PLACES TO GO IN VIETNAM: Hoi An is our favorite city in Vietnam but Hanoi is a close second. Cruising Ha Long Bay is a wonderful experience as is taking a boat trip on the Mekong Delta. For a bigger list of things to do, read our article Best Things to Do in Vietnam.

AROUND THE WORLD TRAVEL: Do you dream of traveling around the world? Check out our Guide to Traveling Around the World, where you can get information on how to plan your big adventure, what to expect while traveling, and what it is like to finally come home.

Planning a trip to Laos? Read all of our articles in our Laos Travel Guide.


Visiting Luang Prabang Laos


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Comments 15

  1. Avatar for Oona

    For years, I had wanted to visit Laos but kept putting it off to explore its neighbouring countries instead. I finally went there this year, and I was stunned! It’s amazing! Just like you, I was surprised that the internet is fast, and the country has so much to offer! I totally loved the vibrant cafe culture in Luang Prabang.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  2. Avatar for Sabrina


    I love your blog! My son is 4 years old and has a peanut and tree Nut allergy. We are thinking of travelling to Luang Prabang with him. How did you find it in terms of your sons peanut allergy? Any advice?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We loved Luang Prabang. There are so many western-style restaurants here than going out for meals should not be an issue…so many great cafes, French food, coffee, etc. Every night there is a night market with local food. Tyler did not eat any of this, although a lot of it looked safe to eat. He just did not want to take the risk. L’Etranger Books & Tea is small bookshop/cafe that shows a movie every night, I believe. We watched the “Edge of Tomorrow,” and it was fun for the four of us and a nice nighttime activity for the four of us. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Mike

    “The poor guy must have been so miserable having to get up so early on the cold, dark mornings that he took his frustration out on these bells, because he played them like he wanted to wake everyone else up as well.” <<This is hilarious Julie! Thankfully we weren't disturbed on both occasions we were in Luang Prabang. The first time was right in the middle of town but in dungeon-like accommodation away from the road. The second time we were slightly off the main strip, which might have spared us. On the positive side – those early starts allow another opportunity to enjoy fresh baked baguettes.
    I'm astonished you found fast internet anywhere in Laos!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Maybe we just got lucky with that Wifi, or the wifi had been soooo bad at other places in Southeast Asia that our little hotel in Laos was amazing. 🙂 But that guy on the drum…hilarious and incredibly frustrating at the same time. Boy, I miss Laos. Thanks for writing in!! Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Briana and Kyle
    Briana and Kyle

    Looks beautiful and that is surprising about the fast internet. We avoided the country back in 2016 because we were concerned about the internet/being able to work. It was one of the reasons we also avoided Myanmar back then but after going last year we also found the internet was okay. Good to know. I think it depends more on the individual place/hotel sometimes.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Yes, this was a big surprise. The internet in Laos, at least in our hotel in Luang Prabang, was faster than in many places we stayed in New Zealand and Australia. But I had also read that Laos got a lot of outside funding for their internet, at least in some places, which accounts for the faster speeds. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for TTS

    I am planning this part of the trip now – if you had an extra week in Laos, how would you spend it?

    BTW – not sure when you are going back to South America but, have you visited Colombia’s Cano Cristales? As I was doing my planning for that region, I thought that may be right up your alley.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We have not been to Colombia yet, but thanks for the recommendation. As for Laos, I highly recommend the slow boat on the Mekong River, it was one of our favorite experiences in Southeast Asia. With more time, I’d consider visiting Vientiane. We never saw Tad Sae waterfall, located near Luang Prabang. And we chose to skip Vang Vieng because it sounded more like a younger crowd party spot and we were traveling with kids. But Vang Vieng looks beautiful and may be worth a visit. I heard that trekking in northern Laos can be a great experience but I do not know much about it. It may be worth looking into if you like that idea. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for TTS

        Thank you! And funny, we thought the same about Vang Vieng from the description…

        Yes Colombia – the more I researched it the more I was like, how come I have not been there in ages? Between Cartagena, Tayrona and the hidden city treck, the salt cathedral near bogota, valle de corcora (biggest palm trees ever – Lorax style!) and Cano Cristales, wow!

      2. Avatar for Graham

        Vang Vieng is also not to be missed. We stayed in a hotel beside a rickety bridge across the river: just like a Constable painting.
        Built on the concrete runway of a US airfield used during the Vietnam war

  6. Avatar for Anita Mitzel
    Anita Mitzel

    Julie + family, One of the reasons I started following your family’s travels is that my brother has traveled a lot is Southeast Asia….+ I thought I would have a better understanding of what he loves about the area. Actually, he has been sponsoring 3 children in the Cambodian Children’s Fund for many years + now he even is on the Board of Directors. Scott Neeson started this in 2004 when he saw poor children playing on the Steung Meanchey dump in Phnem Penh. Google this if you have time. The fund is really helping child poverty w/ education + strong family ties. I
    hope you all enjoy your travels + I hope no more banging drum monks w/ singing roosters + barking dogs!!!

  7. Avatar for Kathy (mom)
    Kathy (mom)

    I so enjoy your descriptions of the cultural differences. Travel companies would want to know all that you’ve discovered about Laos. Wondering if you’ve seen many other tourists there. It’s a treat when I receive a new edition on your blog. Keep it up!!!!

  8. Avatar for Missy McNaney
    Missy McNaney

    Your slow boat trip down the MeKong River looked so cool. And I had to LOL at your night time experiences with the monks, bells, dogs and roosters. Wait until you get older and there is no going back to sleep after that. Tell Kara we received our “poo card” ( which we loved) and several post cards, so glad she is back on track, we were missing hearing from her. One of my doctors just set up a mission trip in Myranmar and has been on mission trips to Cambodia, which he thinks is a beautiful country. Have fun and safe travels.

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