Immediately after purchasing our plane ticket out of Laos, we felt a surge of regret. We suddenly felt like idiots for leaving a country we loved so soon. Here are seven things we will miss most.
The overall atmosphere
Immediately after setting foot in Laos, you notice a change, and breathe a sigh of relief. Everything is a bit calmer, slower, more laid back. Tuk-tuk drivers wait for you to come to them, people pause to say hello to you on the street, and foreigners are not the center of attention. Tourism hasn’t seemed to change Laos as much as its neighboring countries— or maybe it’s just the way Lao people are. It’s hard to put a finger on it exactly, but there’s just a feeling here that makes you want to stay.
Sticky rice (and new Lao dishes)
After eating it with every meal during a trek through Nam Ha, we were hooked on sticky rice. Chewy and flavorful, a perfect finger food for dipping into anything else on your plate, it is the standard accompaniment for Lao cuisine. And though dishes here are not as boldly flavored or expansive as the more familiar Thai food, they do include delicious flavor combinations we had never tasted before. A particular favorite is chicken laap—minced chicken bursting with flavors of lime, mint and ginger. The fried spring rolls in Laos also seemed unusually tasty.
Lazy days in Nong Khiaw
Some of our favorite memories from Laos will be of the times we did nothing at all. Our shady deck had a commanding view over the Nam Ou river valley, and the constant activity on the opposite bank made long-term lounging an entertaining pastime.
After a steady stream of tasteless, colorless beer in the rest of Southeast Asia, Beerlao Dark is a shining ray of hope in a gloomy tunnel of beverage despair. It’s an impressive 6.8 percent and it actually tastes like something. Something good.
Biking is an excellent way to explore a new place, and it was especially nice in Laos, where drivers are a bit less maniacal and tons of locals also ride bikes. It’s slow enough that you can appreciate the details in passing scenery, respond to hellos and palms outstretched for high-fives, yet fast enough to cover a lot of ground. Plus, you can feel like you’ve earned those spring rolls.