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Laos is one of the least densely populated countries in Asia, even less densely populated than the United States. It also has the misfortune of being the most heavily bombed country in the history of warfare: one planeload of bombs, every eight minutes, around the clock, for nine years, all illegally courtesy of Uncle Sam. The only Laotians I knew of before coming here were Kahn, Minh and Connie Souphanousinphone of King of the Hill
Laos is also the darling child of South East Asia, all the travelers I met along the way said Laos was their favorite country by far. Laos doesn't have a lot of tourist attractions per se, but it has gorgeous scenery and lots of charm.
Luang Prabang is surreally beautiful, but its also a great example of how incredibly fast things are changing in South East Asia. Its mind boggling. My three year old guidebook promised me few tourists and friendly locals all throughout Laos. I'm sure that was the case then, but now Laos is packed with tourists. The locals -except for the awful tuk tuk drivers- are completely immune to tourists here in Luang Prabang. I'm trying to get off the
beaten path in Laos (French colonial architecture is not why I came to Asia) but I can't figure out how. Tourists are everywhere. It's frustrating.
That's the thing about South East Asia these days, you're going to have to actively search out the exotic. 90% of the travelers I've spoken to absolutely hated Vietnam. If you do it wrong and only take the cafe minibus being herded North to South, your experience will probably not be great. I felt like I did a good job seeing all sorts of different parts of Vietnam- I wish I knew how to do Laos justice.
That's not to say Luang Prabang is not worth visiting despite the tourist overload and the scary bus ride from Vientiane. Its a beautiful, peaceful, World Heritage listed small town with 32 temples- its just bustling a little bit more these days. I can't shake the feeling that I should have been here years ago.
I'm having a great time visiting the wats and chatting with the monks- in Laos all Buddhist males become monks for a time in their life, they go to school in the monastery. They're great kids and they're dying to
practice their English with you. My favorite sight in Laos is the monks in their bright orange robes walking down the street to collect alms in the morning. Its definitely worth getting up for. The night market is also great, I've bought tons of stuff but passed on the opium pipes.
I'm going to spend the next week or so heading south through Laos until my visa runs out. I'm flying from Bangkok to Burma on March 22nd- I'm convinced that Burma's going to become the next Laos so I better get there ASAP.
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