Hello there – we are Candy and Jonty King, a South African couple from the Instagram account @candy_and_the_king. Welcome to our travel guide on the best things to do in Laos – the beautiful hidden gem of Southeast Asia.
Born in a town called Durban in South Africa, we both attended well known schools in our hometown. Growing up in South Africa, you would think that we would’ve been exposed to a diverse array of cultures on a daily basis but that wasn’t the case. We lived in what can only be described as a “bubble”.
We weren’t exposed to many cultures that were different from our own. However, we loved growing up there and are grateful for the foundation it gave us in life. It was only a couple years after we met that our little story tumbled into a travel scene one evening in November, 2014.
That evening turned out to be the moment when everything changed. We didn’t think life would change too much for us until we had that “aha” moment. A normal date night transpired, somehow, into a conversation about our futures (it seems cliché but it was extremely raw and real).
Out of this conversation came the conclusion that a “travel life” was for us. So within three months we were engaged, had resigned and were on our way to China. Our engagement was so cool. It involved an international airport runway and a blood moon rising over the Indian Ocean.
That was the first fairytale moment for us and the very beginning of a fairytale life. We’ve written about our story more in depth. For those who’d like to read it, you can find it on our website: www.candyandtheking.com.
Why Laos is so Incredible
The first time we visited Laos was to see the majestic limestone waterfalls in Luang Prabang. The second time was with the intention of being based here. Whenever we travelled in the past we had a base and that’s how we chose Laos. We found jobs teaching that provided lots of holidays.
We knew we wanted to be based in Southeast Asia, so it was perfect. We actually wrote a free e-book for anyone who would like to create a travel lifestyle for themselves. It’s downloadable on our website under freebies.
Our first impression was just how romantic the town of Luang Prabang was. We fell in love right away. Laos is a very “rural” country. In the capital, Vientiane, it is not uncommon to see chickens running through the streets and have the odd dirt road pop up every now and again.
The people of Laos are so friendly and you really sense such a community when you live here. There are a lot of waterfalls and a whole lot of jungle.
Three Special Years Living in Laos
We have been based in Laos for three years now and what a journey it has been! We’ve seen a lot of the capital Vientiane and we’ve loved visiting Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, Pakbeng and Xayaboury (for a wedding).
We’ve seen amazing blue lagoons, waterfalls, caves, taken a two-day slow boat from the Thailand border to Luang Prabang, visited a lot of temples and tried a lot of ‘different’ foods. As we are now full-time “digital nomads”, we plan to head to the north of Laos to Oudomxay (if the weather permits).
Our aim is to see the Plain of Jars, discover more epic waterfalls and see for ourselves just how “Chinese” the northern region of Laos really is. We were once based in China so we are intrigued to find out if the Lao culture has adapted to the more dominant Chinese culture.
We’ll also head south to experience 4000 islands and who knows what else!
Favourite Place: Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is our favourite place as we came here for the first time five years ago during our honeymoon. We love visiting Kuang Si Waterfall. Kuang Si is a limestone waterfall that cascades into many smaller pools.
During the dry season (October to April), these pools are turquoise! Exceptional for photos. During the rainy season (May to September) the falls become this powerful force of nature. You’ll feel the strength of the walls from 30 metres away and even leave drenched just from being there.
10 Best Things To Do in Laos
Laos is a country with a few famous and well-known sights and then a plethora of secret spots and hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. From our own travels, doing research and hearing about places through the grapevine – we can recommend the following 10 experiences:
- Plain of Jars in Oudomxay
- 2-Day slow boat from Chiang Khong (Thailand) to Luang Prabang
- Alms Giving ceremony in Luang Prabang
- Kuang Si Waterfall in Luang Prabang
- Wat Xiengthong and various other temples in Luang Prabang
- Blue Lagoon and Phu Kham Cave in Vang Vieng
- Patuxay Monument in Vientiane
- Pha That Luang in Vientiane
- That Luang Festival in November, Vientiane
- Thakhek Loop – motorbike journey
Bonus: 4000 islands in Don Det, southern Laos.
People and Culture of Laos
The people of Laos are very peaceful and friendly. “Sabai Sabai” or “Bor Pen Yang” is how we live here. In other words: “everything is cool”, “no worries”, “hakuna matata”. Forgiveness comes easily in Laos which is amazing.
We’ve met many locals and have tried to learn the language which is similar to Thai. You can check out our TikTok where we express the culture, language, fashion and trends of the country we’re in @candy_and_the_king.
We love the family-style meals here which is a big part of the Southeast Asian culture. Laos is the biggest consumer of sticky rice (khiaw naew) in the world. We love sticky rice. There is a big street food culture here along with extremely spicy (hot) foods and fresh organic vegetables.
Bamboo sprouts, broths and noodles are a staple diet, but our absolute favourite Lao dishes can be found at a restaurant in Luang Prabang called Manda de Laos. This fine dining restaurant is a little more on the higher price range than what you usually find in Laos, but it’s a must try.
Laos also has amazing locally grown coffee beans. The best cafes in Laos in our opinion are Indio, Saffron, Naked Espresso and Kaogee.
Best Places to Stay in Laos
Maison Dalabua is a hotel on UNESCO classified lotus ponds. The atmosphere is lovely, the service is the best in Laos and you can capture epic drone shots on ponds. See our IG post: www.instagram.com/p/CDtpGmLA2w9/.
NamKhan Ecolodge is another beautiful place that grows 70% of their food served in the restaurant. Beautiful wooden rooms that are handmade by the carpenter on site and again awesome for glamping photos near the river. More photos here: www.instagram.com/p/CCvt9AIge-W/.
Cherished Memories in Laos
The 2-day slow boat from Thailand to Luang Prabang is a magical experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is such an amazing experience, being on the mighty Mekong with nothing but jungle for miles and only passing the odd village with little kids playing (nakie) in the river.
Need to know Before you Go
In our opinion, everyone (even if you never come to Laos) needs to be educated on the so-called Secret War. Basically, Laos is the most bombed country in the world with 270 million+ bombs dropped on villages.
These bombs came from the United States and many of them failed to detonate. This means there are millions of bombs scattered throughout Laos making it almost impossible for the country to develop properly.
Laos is landlocked with very few shopping malls. For digital equipment or clothes, don’t expect to find them in Laos. Make sure you bring mosquito spray! And a lot of it especially for towns outside of Vientiane.
Some people avoid Laos in the rainy season. The reality is that Laos has loads to offer in both the dry and rainy season. During the rainy season you can experience lush rice fields, raging waterfalls and muddy adventures.
Expect delays and things not to go smoothly. Laos is a laid back country. One of their favourite sayings is ‘Bor Pen Yang’ which means hakuna matata! Vientiane is more expensive than you’d think. So with most food products imported from Thailand, be prepared to spend a little more.
Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoy visiting this beautiful country!