Only passing through Laos for 2 nights. Any recommendations on must-see / do
Luang Prabang, the ancient royal capital of Laos, is a laid back town with excellent food (both street food and restaurants), beautiful wats and friendly people.
In the early morning, it is wonderful to see the town's monks, all in saffron robes, walk through the mists collecting alms. (Beautiful, but remember it isn't a tourist attraction but a religious ritual, so respect and quiet, and not getting too close with your camera, are important).
A popular day day trip is to the Pak Ou Caves - a boat trip down the Mekong to a cave where old Buddha statues are "retired". There are hundreds!
The Luang Prabang Night Market is another site not to be missed. The main street is closed to vehicles at sundown and vendors set up stalls selling all sorts of gorgeous things, including some of the most beautiful textiles you'll ever see.
Here are some more of my tips, especially on where to eat, from an article I wrote for Taste and Travel International magazine: http://traveleater.wordpress.com/laos-eating-high-and-low-in-magical-luang-prabang-in-taste-travel-magazine/
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Not sure what your interests are but here are some options - take into account that Laos is a very laid back country. I spent a month there just slowly crawling from the North to the South and it definitely wasn't enough.
I agree with the tips above, Luang Prabang is definitely worth a visit. There's a really cool spot where you can eat (at least this was the case 5 years ago) where you could get all you can eat vegetarian food for $0.5. It opens at nightfall and they only have one long table. It's near the night market (if you're not into shopping all sorts of memorabilia then I don't see the hype for the market, when you've seen one you've seen them all, ok almost, I'd rather go all out to a local Bangkok food market in the morning if you're going to be traveling there as well).
If you'd like to have a really good time with crazy people and access to all sorts of medicine Vang Vieng is the place to go. A nice long day tubing on the upstreams of Mekong side river and then dancing and chilling at the wannabe hippy open air bars / nightclubs / restaurants. You can easily get stuck there for weeks which a lot of people I traveled with did.
I also really liked the capital, Vientiane. Just walking and taking in all the different people, the culture of complete chillness, and quietness of the traffic (no honking as opposed to crazy honking in all the neighboring countries). Everything is fairly cheap in the capital as well so this is the place to take care of your body in forms of different treatments in a luxurious spa. They're really sweet and really the cost is very affordable, basically everything was less than $10. And I'm not talking about any happy endings here but the nice massages and all kinds of treatments for women.
Laos is a hoot albeit a chill one. Try to take it in as such and not run around to too many places. :)
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