From Thailand I will be making my way into Laos via the border crossing in Chiang Khong. This is definitely going to be the country I spend a little more time wandering around in without a hectic schedule. Laos seems like an interesting country with its culture and abundance of conservation areas in its Southern Region, but there aren’t as many draws to Laos for me as most of the others countries on my list. Sure I’m excited to go and experience the slow-paced lifestyle of the Lao people, but I’ve known from the start that Laos will be a very different experience. It seems to still be a developing country with a lot of unspoiled land that tourism doesn’t seem to have hit as hard. I have a feeling I’m in for some killer views, and hopefully a better understanding of life in Laos.
1) Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to the Royal Palace Museum, Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Wisunarat among a few other temples, and a handcrafts night market. I’ve also heard that there are a few caves nearby, including Pak Ou Caves which is now home to hundreds of unwanted Buddha images.
In Vientiane, I’m incredibly interested in seeing the Arc de Triumph replica named Patuxai. Apparently the American government donated concrete to Laos for the intention that it be used to build a new airport… they build Patuxai instead. If my guidebook is correct, I’d love to climb to the top and take in the views of Vientiane. Also in Vientiane are a few more temples such as Wat Si Saket, with its collection of silver and ceramic Buddha’s, and Xieng Khuan, or Buddha park.
From Laos I will make my way to Cambodia. To be honest I have mixed emotions about Cambodia. I’ve wanted see Angkor Wat for a long time now, so I’m excited about that, but I’ve had a few people tell me about their experiences, and the experiences of their friends, that makes me a little apprehensive about the country. If what I’ve heard is true, the line between acceptable and unacceptable that’s crystal clear here in America definitely doesn’t apply in Cambodia. Despite this I’m still excited to get to experience the country first hand, and thanks to those seedy stories, I’ll probably be a little more on guard and aware while I’m there.
1) Siem Reap & Angkor Wat
I’ll admit that the main reason I’m going to Siem Reap is for Angkor Wat, which as I mentioned above has been on my list for years. I also hear there are a few temples nearby, including one named Wat Thmei worth seeing, as well as tours of ceramics being made, where you can try your hand in a half day course, and tours of a handcrafts workshop, silk farm, and even a butterfly center.
2) Bat Dambang (or Battambang)
With its French-period architecture (pictured above) , a number of temples nearby, and close access to some villages in the surrounding area, Bat Dambang ended up being a must see on my list. It’s only a boat ride away from Siem Reap, and I for one can’t wait to see this gem of a city for myself.
3) Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh has been hailed as a mixture of old and new Cambodia. While I’m here I hope to see the Royal Palace (pictured above), the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, the Independence monument, and maybe even both Wat Phnom and Wat Ounalom which is said to house the one eyebrow hair of Buddha himself. I’m also looking forward to visiting the many markets such as Psar Thmei, Psar Tuol Tom Pong, and Psar Reatrey.
From Cambodia I will be making my way into Vietnam, so look for Itinerary Part 3 soon.