After our awesome experiences on The Loop, it was back to Tha Kaek and up to Vientiane for one more night in this wonderful little country. Ted had been to Southeast Asia in 2002 but missed out on making it to Laos – which is one of the reasons we wanted to be sure to visit this time around. Compared to it’s rather wealthy and tourism-friendly neighbors (Thailand and Vietnam, respectively), Laos is very much the little kid brother – it’s got similar natural beauty (save the beaches), amazing Asian culture and food, but people just don’t seem to come here, except for those who are a little more independent and adventurous. It’s managed to avoid some of Thailand’s pitfalls though – no sex tourism (if you want to sleep with a Lao person, you have to be married, and you could get thrown in jail or deported if you forget this rule!), no lady boys, not many drug problems, etc. It’s modern when you least expect it, yet more rural and poor than you could ever imagine. The tourism services exist but not at the level or complexity that we had experienced in most other places we visited. Though many folks speak English, many more do not. It will be interesting to see what happens to this amazingly friendly place in a few short years. It would have been fascinating for Ted to have seen it in 2002 and be able to compare it to now – I’m sure it has changed a whole lot. Though Laos is still very much under the radar compared to other Southeast Asia hotspots, it has so much going for it and it is only a matter of time until this sleepy little place finds itself in the same league as the big boys.
We were not ready to leave Thailand and we were not ready to leave Laos either, but our trip was winding down, we were running out of time, and we needed to B-line it to the beach to relax in our final days of bliss. We caught an international flight to Malaysia where we had an awkward 16 hour overnight layover. We made the best of it by spending the night in a sketchy hotel near the airport, eating some ridiculously good seafood noodle dishes, and getting a decent night’s rest. Then it was back to the international terminal for our flight to Bali!