Hang out in Luang Prabang
This was my favorite town in Laos, for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s super chilled out and I met some amazing people at my hostel (which also had a pool!). Second, because there are loads of amazing bakeries, and I ate so many delicious sandwiches and pastries. SE Asia isn’t particularly known for its bread products, but Luang Prabang was part of the French Colonial Empire, and thankfully the food has been influenced. In addition to bakeries, there’s also quite a lot to see in Luang Prabang, and it’s a great town to explore by bike. Make sure you climb up Phu Si Hill to check out the temples and watch the sunset. This is one of my favorite photos I took on my entire trip, and it was only taken with an iPhone!
Sunset on Phu Si Hill
Mekong River sunset
Catch a boat to Si Phan Don (4,000 islands)
This was the highlight of my trip to Laos, and the perfect place to unwind after a lot of long bus rides. The main island is Don Det, although it’s still really tiny and not too overdeveloped. There’s not that much to see or do here, but that’s part of its appeal. I spent a lot of my time here relaxing in riverside cafes, catching up on my blog and enjoying the views. We did spend one day kayaking on the river, and it was both terrifying and amazing. It was terrifying because there were rapids and we accidentally capsized, but it was also amazing because we got to see rare pink Irrawaddy river dolphins. There are only about 100 left in the wild, so we were very lucky to see them.
Scale the Kuang Si Waterfalls
I’m pretty sure these are the most beautiful waterfalls in the whole of SE Asia - photos can’t quite capture just how turquoise the water really is! It felt like paradise, especially when we stumbled across a secret infinity pool with a cave. Every single level of the waterfall is stunning, but just be warned that the bottom pool is full of feet eating fish! I hate it when fish nibble your skin, it creeps me out so much! This is a must visit if you are in Luang Prabang, and a lot more fun if you go with some friends or other travelers.
Turquoise waters at Kuang Si Waterfall
Float down the Nam Song River in Vang Vieng
A few years back, tubing in Vang Vieng was the biggest party scene in the whole of Laos. There used to be bars lining the whole riverbank, and the idea was to bar hop down the river in your tube. Sadly, a few people took things too far alcohol-wise and ended up drowning. These days, the town has cleaned up its act, and there are only a couple of bars to stop at for a few drinks. It’s still probably not the safest, as the current is quite strong, but if you are a sensible person like me you, can have a great time. The scenery is amazing, and it felt a bit like being in Jurassic Park. I went with some really fun people, so we had a few beers, but still managed to be safe!
Explore the ancient city of Angkor
The Ankgor complex is obviously a must visit, and many people spend at least three days exploring the many temples there. I only had time for one day, which I think is plenty for the main highlights. Whatever you decide to do, do not miss out on watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat itself. The sihoulette of the temple against a colour-changing sky is stunning, and totally worth the early alarm. Straight after sunrise is the best time to explore Angkor Wat, and if you are a big temple fan, it may be an idea to hire a guide. I like temples, but I had more fun watching the families of monkeys that live there! My favorite temple was Tah Prohm, which has been taken over by nature. It was actually used in one of the Tomb Raider films, so you may recognize it. I also really liked the Elephant Terrace and the Bayon, and then we finished the day watching the sunset at Phnom Bakheng.
Angkor Wat at sunrise
Learn about Cambodian History in Phnom Penh
Anyone visiting Cambodia should make it a priority to learn about the countries heartbreaking history. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge took over the Cambodian government, and over the next four years, was responsible for one of the world’s worst genocides of the 20th century. The regime was led by Pol Pot, whose idea was to return the country to its classless, agrarian routes. This involved killing over 2 million Cambodians who were considered to be intellectuals or professionals, or anyone who did not conform to the regime. If you want to learn more, visit both the S21 Prison and the Killing Fields, which is where many Cambodians were detained, killed and buried. This may be the most distressing and emotional days of your trip, but is essential that we remember the events so history does not repeat itself. It also allows you to develop a deeper understanding of present day Cambodia.
Enjoy paradise on Koh Rong Samloem
This beautiful little island is well worth a visit if you want to escape reality and kick back for a few days. Unfortunately, the weather was terrible when I went, but I could definitely see the islands potential. I really wanted to trek through the jungle to the various beaches around the island, and kayak out to some great snorkeling spots. There are also some great restaurants and bars on the island, especially the Dragonfly which is the perfect spot to watch the sunset and enjoy a cocktail. There are some great resorts on the island if you don’t mind spending a little more, but wherever you stay, it will be wonderfully peaceful.
Relax in Kampot and Kep
If you enjoy lazing about in a hammock, eating amazing seafood and drinking cocktails whilst admiring the sunset – then you will adore both Kampot and Kep. They are two of the most chilled out places I went on my trip, but there are still some places to explore if you like to be more active. I spent a great day exploring Bokor National Park by motorcycle, and another day touring the countryside by tuk tuk. Other than that, I spent most of my time cycling between cafes and bars, eating all the food and hanging out with expats. Make sure to try Kampot pepper, it’s supposedly the best pepper in the world!
Bokor National Park views
Riding the bamboo train
Ride the bamboo train in Battambang
This is a truly unique experience, and just one of the great things about Battambang. The train is basically just a plank of wood on wheels, but it still picks up some speed as it rattles along the track. It’s very amusing when a train comes the other way, as one of the trains then has to be lifted off of the track to let the other pass! The bamboo train is not the only reason to visit Battambang, which is also the perfect little town in which to unwind and enjoy the surrounding countryside. One of my favorite things about the town was food, especially this amazing Thai fusion restaurant called Jaan Bai. There are lots of great restaurants in Cambodia that give back to the community by either employing former street kids, or by raising money for charities. Jaan Bai is one of these restaurants, and the food is so delicious.
Give back to the community at Chi Phat
I didn’t actually get an opportunity to visit Chi Phat, but I have read a lot about it. It’s basically a community-based ecotourism project close by to the Cardomom Mountains. I’ve always wanted an authentic jungle camping experience, and I think Chi Phat would be a good place to start. They organize lots of different activities, including jungle treks, sunrise birdwatching boat trips, camping experiences, homestays and lots more. I love nature, so I think I would be in heaven here! The only drawback is that it’s not the easiest place to get to, hence why I didn’t make it. But if you have plenty of time, please go and have an adventure on my behalf!