Do in Laos
Trekking in mountainous Northern Laos is popular, and this often includes homestays in minority tribe villages. The main hub for this is Luang Namtha where the two day Ban Nalan Trail is especially notable. The trek route goes through the Nam Ha National Protected Area, and involves staying in Khmu villages. Other trekking hubs include Oudomxay, south of Luang Namtha, and Pakse in southern Laos.
On the river
Kayaking can be arranged in a wide number of locations. The ambitious traveler could kayak the Mekong between Luang Prabang and Vientiane.
Tubing (floating down the river on a large inflatable tube) is one of the attractions of the Southeast Asia backpacker circuit. The hugely popular stretch of the Nam Song at Vang Vieng is lined with bars that lure you and your tube in with ziplines, water slides, loud music, buckets of terrible local whisky and unlimited Beerlao. If you’re more interested in enjoying the scenery, quieter tubing locations include Si Phan Don, Nong Khiaw and Mung Ngoi.
River cruises are a popular way to take in Laotian scenery, and options include working your way up or down the Mekong.
The limestone karst formations in Northern Laos are ideal for rock climbing. Vang Vieng is the main rock-climbing centre but climbs are also possible further north at Nong Khiaw and Mung Ngoi.
A recommended Laotian experience is the herbal sauna. Often run by temples, these are frequently just a rickety bamboo shack with a stove and a pipe of water on one side. Usually open only in the evenings, the procedure for a visit usually is:
* Enter and pay. Typically the rate is around 10,000 kip, plus around 40,000 kip for an optional massage afterward.
* Go to the changing room, take off your clothes and wrap yourself up in a sarong which is usually provided.
* Keeping yourself modestly sarong-clad, go to the shower or water bucket in one corner and clean yourself.
* Plunge into the sauna room. It will be dark, hot and steamy inside, with intense herbal scents of lemongrass and whatever the sauna master is cooking that day. You will soon start to sweat profusely.
* When you’ve had enough, exit the sauna, sip on a little weak tea and marvel at how the tropical heat of the day now feels cool and refreshing.
* Repeat at will.