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Myanmar: 2 Day Trek From Kalaw To Inle Lake Without A Guide Or Tour

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Whilst we did enjoy our 3 day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, we couldn’t help but think we didn’t need a guide for most of the walk. Not that there was anything bad about our guide but having someone leading you down such an obviously well trodden route seemed arbitrary for relatively experienced trekkers like us. So we thought we'd try and break down the experience so others could walk it on their own. We have written this guide for independent travellers who want to do-it-themselves.

 

Everyone has different expectations for a trek like this; meeting friends if you're a solo traveller or a couple exploring the village culture or discovering all about the local flora and fauna by chatting with the guide. For us, we like the freedom to walk at our own pace and feeling like we have conquered something independently.  Having a guide removes the fun and adventure out of the experience, which was our rationale for writing this piece.

Walk from Kalaw to Inle Lake without a guide

Walk from Kalaw to Inle Lake without a guide

3 Day Trek With A Guide

Firstly, If you want to trek the 3 day route we would recommend using a local tour company because the first day of the trek includes a web of hard to find routes around the reservoir up a view spot for lunch. You really need a guide to find these routes. If your interested in the longer, more popular, 3 day route we did some research before booking so you’ll have a rough idea of what it might cost for 2 people. The prices include a guide, accommodation, 3 meals a day, delivering your bag to either your next hostel or the boat port, boat trip ride to Nyaung Shwe and entrance into the protected area (you will pay this yourselves but we’ve included it in the total price). None of the tours include water but it's easy to buy it on the way. If more people join the tour the price goes down by about 10,000 Kyat / £5 per person. We picked Eagle Tours because they cap the tour group at 6, although no one else joined our tour so it was just the two of us and the guide. If you don’t mind how big the tour group is pick Ever Smile because they offer a fixed price of 44,000 Kyat / £23.60 pp but groups can be as big as 12, perfect for solo travellers. 

Cost of tours for 3-day tours for 2 people

Prices for 2 people on a 3 day trek; includes guide, accommodation, 3 meals a day, delivering your bag to either your next hostel or boat port, boat ride to Nyaung Shwe and entrance into the protected area (you will pay this yourselves but we’ve included it in the total price). None of the tours include water but it's easy to buy it on the way.

2 Day Self-Guided Trek From Kalaw To Inle Lake

2 Day Trek Without A Guide

If you’re the adventurous individual, group or couple who wish to tackle the 2-day trek without a guide we think this is entirely possible. With a bit of planning and an explorers spirit you can use a map to plot your route and follow our tips for successfully trekking to Inle Lake without a guide:

Before You Leave Kalaw

• One of the biggest barriers is the weight of you bags. When you use a tour company they will deliver your bag either to your next hostel, if you have one booked, or to the boat port so you can travel onwards with it. Your choices are to either walk with your backpacks, which is definitely an option if you travel light, or speak to a travel company to see how much it will cost for them to deliver your bag onwards.

• Bring enough money for the 2 days. Your accommodation shouldn’t cost more than 12,000 Kyat / $10 /£6.40 for 2 people for one night. This is based on what our guide said his company paid to each guesthouse for 2 people. There are many guesthouses in Htee Thein so don’t worry about finding a room. You could of course bring camping equipment and camp wild, which we would love to return one day and do! We have written about wild camping in this post: Living In A Tent

• Bring enough snacks for 2 days of lunches and a breakfast, have emergency noodles for dinner as well just in case. We’re sure a local villager would boil you some water as they’re lovely people.

• Prepare cue cards with Htee Thein and Inn Dein (the two end destinations) written in Burmese in case you need directions from a villager. It might be wise to translate water, food, guesthouse too.

• You’ll need to organise a taxi to take you to the starting point of the 2-day trek. It’s further south on the national road towards La Mine. It’s also where all the other 2-day trekkers get dropped off so drivers will definitely know it. Ask your guesthouse to book it to get the best price. Alternatively, you could walk from Kalaw towards the MyinMathi Caves and follow the road south to La Mine. You’ll need to leave at 5am as it will take between 3/4 hours.

• Try and get a proper map of the area.

Workers lay chillis to be sun-dried

Workers lay chillis to be sun-dried

Day 1 Trek to Htee Thein

• The route isn’t particularly challenging with only a few uphill sections, so if you are carrying your bags it is more than suitable for a fit backpacker carrying 10-20kg. (Mark carried 12kg to practice for the Annapurna trek)

• The walk is pretty much one straight route, which is very well trodden. The paths are also very wide to accommodate the many tourists so be prepared to see many other walkers. The beauty of this is that if your not sure on the route you could always tag along behind a tour group or ask one of the guides for help. There are plenty of people around to help you if you get stuck. 

• You have the freedom to decide when you will stop for snacks and water, most of the walkers will stop for breaks every 2 hours in one of the villages.

• Make sure you’ve saved Htee Thein and Inn Dein on your mapping app as you can use GPS to track your progress across the day. 

Our room in Htee Dein

Our room in Htee Dein

Accommodation In Htee Thein

• Finding a place to stay in Htee Thein will be very easy as hordes of tourists enter and leave every day. They may be a bit surprised that you’ve come on your own but they’re friendly hospitable people who will find you a bed. Your accommodation shouldn’t cost more than 12,000 Kyat / $10 /£6.40 per night and may even be negotiable or include dinner.  

• Your host may make dinner for you or you can get some boiling water for your noodles. Alternatively there is a restaurant in Htee Dein where you can grab food and beer, so lots of options.

• You may wish to bring a mosquito net as there are many animals in the village, and with animals come mosquitos!

A misty start from Htee Dein

A misty start from Htee Dein

Day 2 Trek To Inn Dein

• Leave early if you want to get ahead of the crowds.

• Be ready to pay the entrance fee into the protected area just after you have passed the large hotel before the road, entrance is 13,500Kyat / $10 / £7.40 pp.

• Some sections of this walk pass along the road for over an hour.  You should start to look out for a dirt track appearing on the left side of the road and use GPS to check you are walking towards Inn Dein. If you are unsure you can always wait for the tour groups to catch or ask a local person for some help using your cue cards.

• There is at least one checkpoint where rangers will check that you have paid to enter the protected area, be ready to show them the ticket.

•You will need to negotiate a boat ride to Nyaung Shwe when you reach the canal. You'll know its the right way because of the number of restaurants on either side of the canal. Through our tour company we paid around 15,000 Kyat / $11 / £8.40 for the hour long boat ride up across Inle Lake, but we think it should be much cheaper than this considering you can hire a boat for the whole day for around this price and upwards.

Sun setting on a rice paddy in the dry season

Sun setting on a rice paddy in the dry season

Hints & Tips

• Be aware, by walking this trek on your own will mean that less money goes back to the local community. You will be paying back through accommodation and paying for food but not to the guide or tour company.

• On both days you will pass relatively busy national roads.  If at any point you feel you might be lost then you should wait on the road and get advice from a local person. Or ask them to help you get some transport.

• The tour group guides are nice people, always ask for advice if you need it. The local people are incredibly friendly too and will want to help you if you ask them.

• Our guide told us that many people have successfully walked the route on their own, our guess is that it will become a more popular way to experience this excellent trek as time goes on.

* If you intend to use GPS make sure your battery lasts for the two days or bring a power pack.

* Buy water in the villages as you need it.

* Always bring extra food and money in case you have an emergency.

* Tell your guesthouse in Kalaw that you are going to walk without guide, just in case.

• It might be worth reading our day walks from Kalaw post if you're thinking about walking the whole way from Kalaw to Inle Lake, here it is: Myanmar: Day Walks From Kalaw Without A Guide

 

We hope you find our post useful, if you want to ask any questions please use the comments box at the box at the bottom of the page...

 

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Myanmar - 2-Day Trek From Kalaw To Inle Lake Without A Guide Or Tour, By Studio Mali
 

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Video: Myanmar - Inle Lake & Ngapali Beach

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Laos: The Ultimate 2 Week Travel Itinerary For Backpackers

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Laos, the popular backpackers destination in South East Asia, well trodden since the late 90s.  A country of mountainous jungles, locals in traditional dress and cities so chilled out you may never want to leave.  The country is landlocked, making it slightly more expensive than its neighbours, but it’s still a great place to travel to if you are on a budget. 

Laos

We spent 3 weeks there, covering the 2 main cities Luang Prabang and Vientiane, and then moving onto the hilly countryside in the trekking capital Luang Namtha, the jungles of the Nam Ha National Park, the mountainous Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi village.  We have put this itinerary together for a 2 week trip, but if you have more time then you can definitely space it out over a 3 week trip like we did.  We hope you enjoy our itinerary and let us know if you use it! We would love to hear how it went.

 

Day 1-2

Vientiane 

It’s likely that your flight will come into Vientiane as it’s the capital of Laos.  However, we wouldn’t recommend spending much time there, especially if you are planning to head to Luang Prabang which is a lot more scenic.  Vientiane is known as one of the most chilled out and least populated capital cities in Southeast Asia, and that it is, but it’s also pretty unloved, very touristy and we didn’t find it particularly interesting.  

One of the nicer bits!

One of the nicer bits!

Get your hostel to book your sleeper bus to Luang Prabang on the evening of day 2 so you arrive in the morning of day 3.  Tickets cost around 180,000 kip (£15.50) per person for a VIP bus which is a lot comfier than the regular bus.  There's no point in slumming it when you can go VIP for a couple of pounds more!

 

What To Do There

We have written up the bits that we did enjoy in the article below in case you do find yourself mooching round Vientiane…..

Laos: Top Things To Do In Vientiane

Our favourite things were learning to weave in the Houey Hong Vocational Centre For Women, drinking the delicious Laotian coffee, and exploring the city on bikes.  There are quite a few markets you can visit, with the most famous one for tourists being set up every evening by the Mekong river.  The Mekong River is also known for its stunning sunsets, so make sure you get down there one evening with a beer in hand.

Mark learning to weave at the Houey Hong Vocational Centre For Women

Mark learning to weave at the Houey Hong Vocational Centre For Women

 

Where To Stay

We stayed in Ali Backpackers which was perfectly fine, basic and very cheap compared to other hostels.  The location was where most of the touristy cafes and bars are situated.  It cost 133,000 kip (£11.40) per night with breakfast included.  The staff are friendly and can arrange your onward journey but boat or bus.  It wasn't the most inspiring of hostels, but a cheap find in the capital.

 

Where To Eat

We ate in Phakhao restaurant which specialises in traditional Laotian and Thai food.  All dishes were really tasty and actually the stand-out one was a cooked Laotian sausage served with raw garlic, chilli and ginger slices!  We would never munch on raw garlic at home but when teamed with sausage it really was a dream. There are loads of French-style bakeries to grab a coffee and fresh croissant in, and we stopped off in Le Banneton which did delicious pastries.  For true Laotian coffee, just look out for the condensed milk cans stacked up on the street vendors stalls and you will find yourself a punch-packing cup of sweetened coffee.

Croissants in Le Banneton French cafe

Croissants in Le Banneton French cafe

 

Take a look at our travel-inspired design shop!

Day 3

Luang Prabang

Take an overnight sleeper bus from Vientiane to Luang Prabang on day 2 so you arrive in the morning of day 3.  The overnight bus takes around 10-12 hours.  The journey is pretty tough for those prone to travel sickness, the roads are incredibly windy and we had a driver that was heavy on the accelerator and break pedals.  If you opt for the VIP bus then you get your own sleeping chair/pod and it’s 3 people spaced out across the width of the bus.  Check out the neon lights on this bus!

The jazzy VIP sleeper bus from Vientiane to Luang Prabang

The jazzy VIP sleeper bus from Vientiane to Luang Prabang

Have a hostel booked for when you arrive in Luang Prabang so you can head straight there early in the morning.  There are lots of tuk tuks outside of the bus station ferrying people into town, but we decided to walk because it was only a few kilometres away from our hostel.  Remember to haggle if you choose to catch a ride.  Before you leave the bus station, try to book a minibus for the next morning going to Luang Namtha.

Luang Prabang is a really popular city with expats and tourists and it’s easy to see why.  It’s chilled out vibe and location next to the scenic Mekong river is a clear pull for lots of travellers, and it has something for everyone.  Those wanting to enjoy a bucket or two will find lots of cool hang-out bars tucked away in the side streets, and for the more adventurous it’s possible to trek straight into the jungle from the city.  Although we thought Luang Prabang had a nice feel to it, we found it very touristy and in places it was difficult to see any local culture because it’s so developed with western-style bars.  We would still recommend going though, and it’s a much nicer place to be over it’s ugly sister city Vientiane.  For now just spend one night in Luang Prabang because you will be coming back here at the end of the trip.  If you weren’t able to book a mini van to Luang Namtha whilst you were at the bus station then get your hostel to book it for you. They will take a bit of a commission but a tuk tuk will be included to get you to the bus station.

View of Luang Prabang

View of Luang Prabang

 

What To Do

There are loads of things to do in and around Luang Prabang depending on what your interests are and how much time you have.  We were happy not to do much when we were there other than to just soak up the atmosphere and wonder around a bit.  You can do jungle trekking from here on organised tours, trips down the Mekong river by kayak or boat, cookery classes, visit numerous exquisite Buddhist temples, mountain biking, a trip over the rickety bamboo bridge, visiting the handicraft night market.  You could easily spend a week there exploring what it has to offer and relaxing.  There is also the nearby Kuang Si waterfalls which is a lovely trip for a morning or afternoon.  The turquoise coloured waters are absolutely stunning and if you bring your costume you can go for a dip!  Again your hostel should be able to arrange transport for you, expect to pay around 40,000 kip (£3.40) for a minivan return journey.  Entry to the waterfall is an additional 20,000 kip (£1.70).

The stunning Kuang Si waterfalls

The stunning Kuang Si waterfalls

 

Where To Stay

We stayed in ThaViSouk hostel which was ok.  The staff are really friendly and helpful, but our dorm room wasn’t the most comfortable because it was baking hot at night.  It cost 54,000 kip (£4.65) for a dorm bed per person per night, and that seemed to be the cheapest we could find online, and double rooms in Luang Prabang were generally much more expensive.  When we came back to Luang Prabang later on in the trip, we opted to splash out for a few nights over Christmas in a place called Frangipani.  This guesthouse is wonderful, the staff are really sweet and the room we stayed in was very pimping with its own balcony and view of the Mekong.  This set us back 332,000 kip (£28.50) per night, but that was an inflated price over the festive period.  We would 100% recommend staying there!

 

Where to Eat

There is honestly hundreds of restaurants and cafes you can eat in, so choosing a good one would not be so difficult.  We opted for quite a few meals in local Laotian noodles kitchens, and other outdoor eateries where you can pick up a Thai curry with rice for as little as 25,000 kip (£2.15).  At the west end of the night market, there are lots of food stalls selling pre-plated dishes for the bargain price of 10,000 kip (85p) each, and you can choose from fried rice, noodles, spring rolls and also bbq’ed goods on sticks which cost a bit more.  There are lots of fresh juice and smoothy stalls for 10,000 kip (85p) a drink, and the Redbull Bar (sports bar) offers 2 draught beers for 15,000 kip (£1.50) which was the cheapest we saw.  Our favourite cheap eat however was a Chinese noodle kitchen we found on Khem Khonsu road at the Kitsalat road crossover where you could get a delicious tasting bowl of noodles, meat and fresh vegetables for only 20,000 kip (£1.70).  We must say that the Chinese noodles are a lot tastier than the Laotian equivalent! For a bit of a splash out meal, we would recommend the local Riverside BBQ Restaurant on Khem Khong road which is an all you can eat buffet and cook it yourself restaurant.  The food was incredibly fresh and you could opt for a whole array of ingredients from fresh prawns to 4 types of mushroom. It was 65,000 kip £5.60 per person which is an amazing price when you think about it!

All you can eat BBQ for 65,000 kyat!

All you can eat BBQ for 65,000 kyat!

 

Day 4

Luang Namtha

On the morning of day 4 take a minibus out of Luang Prabang and head for Luang Namtha, the trekking capital of Laos.  Again the roads are pretty tough, winding round hills and the surface can be pretty bad.  It takes approx 8 hours with a fast driver and costs 130,000 kip (£11.15) when booked through a hostel.

Luang Namtha has just one main strip of shops, hotels and tour operators, so when you arrive late afternoon just head to one of the tour operators to look into treks. 

 

What To Do

Luang Namtha itself isn’t anything special, but it is the gateway to jungle treks in the stunning Nam Ha National Park and lots of other outdoorsy activities such as kayaking, zip lining, mountain biking etc.  Depending on how many days you want to trek for and what your budget is, you will be able to find a tour that suits you.  After doing some research online we heard that you really get what you pay for and it’s not worth going dirt cheap.  We chose to do a 3 day tour with Laos Forest Retreat because their reviews were the best on Trip Advisor and we would say from experience that they did deliver.  On signing up for the tour, we didn’t know if anyone else would be joining us, but luckily another 3 people signed on and we were ready to go the next morning with 5 people.  It cost $105 each for 3 days including everything from food to kayaking, to guides and accommodation.  There are definitely tours cheaper than this available with other companies, and the more people that sign up the cheaper it is.  A good thing to do is to visit each of the operators and find out what tours people have already signed up for.

Jungle trekking in the Nam Ha National Park

Jungle trekking in the Nam Ha National Park

 

Where To Stay

There are loads of places to stay in Luang Namtha and we would advise just turning up and booking it there and then for the best deal.  Prices of rooms can be negotiated down and we managed to get a double room with our own bathroom and aircon for 60,000 kip (£5.15) per night down from the first price of 80,000 kip (£6.85).

 

Where To Eat

The best place we found to eat for budget travellers was at the night market, where you can find a bowl of Laotian noodles for 10,000 kip (85p).  The eateries at the front closest by the entrance seem to be the most expensive and the cheaper ones are at the back.  They also have stalls for bbq’ed banana with coconut inside and crepes, but we found both of them dry and a bit disappointing!  The food however on the jungle trek was so amazing, fresh and tasty.  It was probably some of the best food we ate in Laos!

Jungle food on our 3 day trek

Jungle food on our 3 day trek

Hand-crafted pieces, delivered to your door… 

Day 5-8

Nam Ha National Park

We opted for a 3 day trek through the national park with a morning of kayaking through one of the rivers.  On the morning of day 5, we headed to our tour operators office first thing for breakfast and then they drove us an hour out to start our trek in the national park. Trekking in the jungle is amazing and is very different to all the other treks we have done previously in mountainous regions and countryside.  It feels really wild and is a lot of fun! 

Day 1 one of the tour was mostly trekking and eating some delicious food our guides had prepared.  That night we stayed in a homestay at a village in the middle of the jungle and got a glimpse into jungle life.  

Day 2 of the tour was a morning of kayaking down a river, tackling a few rapids and stopping off at some remote villages along the way.  We would thoroughly recommend a bit of kayaking in your tour package.  The afternoon was spent trekking up to a viewpoint and then back down to our next village for a nights rest. We watched the guides cook some food on the fire including frogs they had caught from the river! 

A froggy breakfast in the Nam Ha National Park

A froggy breakfast in the Nam Ha National Park

Day 3 was the most challenging of treks and we walked for quite a few hours until we got to picked up and taken back to Luang Namtha by our guides.  We have written up our experience of the jungle which you may helpful...

Laos: 3 Wild Days In The Nam Ha Jungle, by Studio Mali

When you get back from the tour, spend one more night in Luang Namtha before heading to Nong Khiaw the next morning.  You can book your minibus ticket to Nong Khiaw from one of the tour operators on the high street.  It costs around 65,000 kip (£5.60) per person with a transfer to the bus station included.

Kayaking in the Nam Ha National Park

Kayaking in the Nam Ha National Park

 

Day 9-10

Nong Khiaw

On day 9, take a minibus early to Nong Khiaw which is 6 hours drive away.  Nong Khiaw is a beautiful sleepy town set on the Nam Ou River with the backdrop of the lusciously green limestone mountains.  It is the perfect place to unwind for a few days, with the option of exploring the area by boat or foot.  It doesn’t feel as touristy as Luang Prabang or Vientiane, but there are enough small restaurants and cafes that cater to western tastes.

The relaxing Nong Khiaw

The relaxing Nong Khiaw

 

What To Do

There are many organised treks that you can do from here including the popular 100 Waterfalls Trek which is a day trip.  We booked this through Tiger Trail for 200,000 kip (£17.20) per person and there was 6 people in our group.  We had a fun time doing the 100 Waterfalls trek, and ended up facing some fears after getting a bit piddled on jungle juice.  Read about our experience here...

Laos - Jungle Juice, Waterfalls And Facing Fears In Nong Khiaw, By Studio Mali

Our personal highlight in Nong Khiaw was climbing up to the 360 degree viewpoint which overlooks the town and landscape.  It’s a 40 minute accent if you are fit and used to trekking, and we would highly recommend heading there for sunset.  We heard that the steam room and massage place on the way to the viewpoint was good, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit, maybe next time!  You can also do a trip out by boat to another small town called Muang Ngoi which we will chat about later.

The viewpoint in Nong Khiaw

The viewpoint in Nong Khiaw

 

Where To Stay

There is loads of accommodation in Nong Khiaw and some can be found at very good prices.  We would say just turn up and find something there and then.  We chose to stay about a ten minute walk from the station in our first guesthouse which was nice because we got a river view bamboo hut overlooking the town on the other side of the water.  The hut had its own balcony which caught the afternoon rays. The second place we stayed at was on the other side of the bridge, again close to the water but the view wasn’t quite as good and it didn’t get the afternoon sun.  Both rooms cost 60,000 kip (£5.15) per night and were basic bamboo huts with WiFi and a hot shower.

 

Where To Eat

You must eat at Delilah’s for breakfast.  They have an incredible menu to choose from of pancakes, porridge, cooked breakfasts, baguettes, granola and nearly everything is homemade including the bread.  Breakfast range from 20,000 kip (£1.70) to 35,000 kip (£3.00).  They also have some very tasty homemade cakes that are served all day till 11pm including apple crumble with coconut ice cream and banoffee pie.  For dinner, we would recommend eating at Coco’s, the food is fresh and tasty and the setting is nice.  We opted for river weed, river fish and yellow curry all of which were very good, but the stand out dishes were the papaya salad and mango coconut sticky rice for pudding.  There is also a tasty Indian restaurant on the other side of the bridge on the left hand side which is worth a visit.  

A Delilah's breakfast - porridge with banana, milk, maple syrup, sugar and cinnamon

A Delilah's breakfast - porridge with banana, milk, maple syrup, sugar and cinnamon

 

Day 11

Muang Ngoi

Catch the 10.30am boat to Muang Ngoi from Nong Khiaw boat station.  The trip takes about 1 hour 20 mins on a local boat and costs 25,000 kip (£2.15).  The boat ride isn’t so comfortable, but the views make up for it.  Mango Ngoi is a scenic little town further along the river, and is much less developed than Nong Khiaw.  There aren’t any cars there, only bikes, and so it’s a very peaceful place to walk around.  Again, it’s set against the backdrop of the stunning limestone cliffs, and the dirt roads running through the village make you feel as though you’re stepping back in time.  We stayed for only one night here, but really it is probably better to stay for 2, because you only really get a half day to explore the surrounding area.  When you awake the next morning, you need to get down to the boat station for 8am sharp to make sure you book your tickets that morning for the return boat to Nong Khiaw.  It was really busy at 8am when it opens and you don’t want to risk getting stuck in Muang Ngoi.  The boat leaves at 9.30am, and is 1 hour 20 mins back to Nong Khiaw.

Muang Ngoi

Muang Ngoi

 

What To Do

There are plenty of walks to do from the village.  A popular one is to head towards Tham Kang Cave which takes 40 minutes, and then onto a much more remote village called Bana where you will be greeted by smiling locals (a further 30 minutes).  The walk takes around 3 hours total there and back with some time spent in the cave and village, so will take up most of the afternoon.  There is a viewpoint you can ascend which is a sweaty 1.5 hours up, we didn’t get a chance to do it but we heard it was a stunner.  You can also hire bikes to explore more of the surrounding villages, including Bana, Huay Bo and Huay Sen.  Muang Ngoi is a quiet village, but there are plenty of restaurants and bars catering to westerners, so if you are happy to relax in a bar for a few hows enjoying the sunshine then you will have a great time here.  The locals are a little unfriendly but hey, you can’t have everything!

 

Where To Sleep

As soon as you get off the boat you will be approached by many locals trying to offer you a room for the night.  You can either follow one of them, or you can continue walking straight ahead into town to try and find your own place to stay.  We weren’t really that fussed where we were sleeping (as long as it was cheap) so we followed one of the local ladies to Aloune Guesthouse where we stayed in a wooden bungalow for 60,000 kip (£5.15) per night with a river view.  You can’t get much better than that!  We also read online that if you are after an even cheaper room for the night then if you ask around to the owners of restaurants then sometimes you can bag yourself a double room for 20,000 kip (£1.70). When looking for a room, you just need to find out if they have hot showers, electricity, a mosquito net and wifi if you want it.

Chilling in a hammock at Aloune Guesthouse

Chilling in a hammock at Aloune Guesthouse

 

Where To Eat

The Bee Tree Restaurant at the very end of the highstreet does amazing food and cocktails, and every day from 5pm they do a happy hour.  The setting is really lovely, they have a cool hang out space in the garden and they get a fire going later on when it gets a bit chilly.  We opted for the Laos Laos Sours, which were 2 for 25,000 kip (£2.15), and a few hours down the line we had gotten through 5 each, recorded a Christmas quiz for our friends at home, and had munched on some Laotian curries which went done a bit too well!  We wish every town had a Bee Tree restaurant.  We also saw a place on the main strip that did wood fired pizzas but it wasn’t open that evening for whatever reason.  Breakfast in Riverside Bar and Restaurant was also nice, we opted for a fruit porridge made of rice, pineapple, banana and coconut, and we think condensed milk because it tasted so naughty!  We saw there was an all you can eat breakfast for 20,000 kip (£1.83) if you book the night before just on the main strip, but didn’t get a chance to visit.

 

 

Unique designs, that you can’t find on the highstreet….

Day 12

Nong Khiaw 

Take the 9.30am boat back to Nong Khiaw which will take around 1 hour 20 mins.  Enjoy the last boat ride down the very scenic Nam Ou river, it’s very James Bond in places.  If you want to at this point, you can head straight to the bus station and take a minivan or tuk tuk back to Luang Prabang, but we chose to stay another day in the chilled out Nong Khiaw.

Mark chilling on a boat ride from Nong Khiaw

Mark chilling on a boat ride from Nong Khiaw

 

Day 13-14

Luang Prabang

First thing in the morning, make your way over to the bus station in Nong Khiaw.  Your options are to either get a 4 hour ride crammed in a tuk tuk back to Luang Prabang (which sounds like our idea of hell), or to get one of the mini vans which take only 3 hours in much more comfortable seats.  The first minivan starts at around 7.30am, and everything gets booked up pretty fast! As soon as a tuk tuk or van gets filled, it will just leave regardless of what time it was scheduled in for.  So the last minivan for the day was scheduled in for 1.30pm, but actually it left at 11.30am!  Both cost between 40,000/50,000 kip (£3.66-£4.57) and sometimes they may make you pay for empty seats if you want to leave earlier then the scheduled time.  

Whatever you fancy doing on your last couple of days in Laos you will be able to find it in the chilled out traveller haven of Luang Prabang.  

A Luang Prabang sunset

A Luang Prabang sunset

 

Other Things To Note:

Chilly Nights

It can get really cold in Laos at night times, especially out in the countryside, so make sure you take some warm clothing and maybe a sleeping bag if you tend to get very cold at night.  Many nights it was around 3 degrees when we were sleeping in bamboo huts and in the jungle, so make sure you aren’t freezing like we were!

 

Land Mines

Laos is surprisingly the most bombed country in the world and there are still thousands of unexploded land mines scattered across the landscape.  It’s not necessarily something to worry about but something that you should be aware of.  Just make sure that you always stick to the trekking paths and always go with a local guide.

It's fine to trek, just always make sure you are with a local guide

It's fine to trek, just always make sure you are with a local guide

 

Grub

We wouldn’t say that the Laotian food is the tastiest ever but there are plenty of authentic Thai dishes to choose from at tourists restaurants.  You can’t go wrong with a Thai curry!

 

Tourist Central

If you are looking for somewhere to travel to that is quiet of tourists then this isn’t the place for you.  There is such a traveller hub in the cities that sometimes it can be hard to see the local way of life.  Although we liked Laos and thought that the countryside was very stunning, we have preferred travelling around other neighbouring countries such as China and Thailand. It sometimes feels as though the Laotian way of life has stopped for the tourists, which is a bit sad.  

 

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Laos - The Ultimate 2 Week Travel Itinerary For Backpackers, by Studio Mali
 

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Laos: Jungle Juice, Waterfalls And Facing Fears In Nong Khiaw

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Chewing The Fat

When you’re travelling you have a lot of time to chew the fat so we have spent many hours discussing silly made up scenarios such as: how much we would be willing to spend on our favourite takeaway from home, especially when we've been eating pot noodles for days and long for a Yardsale. Or to lift the spirit on a tiring walk, we create challenges such as how would we spend 10k in cash in the next hour in that very place? Just imagine spending 10k in the jungle... there's only so much bamboo you can buy for 10k! One day our discussions turned to fears, namely our biggest fears, where Ali divulged her worse scenario is being left out in the middle of the ocean. Mark's nightmare is being lost inside a cave.

The tropical paradise of Nong Khiaw

The tropical paradise of Nong Khiaw

A few days before Christmas we booked a tour from Nong Khiaw to a famous local attraction called the 100 waterfalls. The day included boat rides, trekking, lunch on a mountain, chilling in a village and then back to town. A fun filled afternoon that would be a pleasure rather than a chore. Indeed, much of the day was pretty pedestrian but in the last few hours.... fears were faced.

“Do something everyday that scares you”

An Australian we met proclaimed this well known phrase and it does hold some truth. Why live life in a protective bubble? Much of world survives pretty easily in places where safety is rarely considered, climate and environment temperamental and meat is left out in the sun for days. No one but the tourists seem to get ill from the meat in these countries! Asians have stomachs of steel conditioned to all the germs, dirt and the occasional nibbles of rats (we’ve lost count of the amount of rats spotted around the restaurants we eat it in).  

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100 Waterfalls

The 100 waterfalls was a pretty memorable experience as we clambered up the hundred mini waterfalls in our trainers, sun glistening through the trees. Later we climbed to the top of the waterfall via the track to the side and dined on sticky rice with vegetables gazing down at the landscape below. Our guide then took us back to the boat passing grazing buffalos in a field, wow these beast are huge. Upon entering the village our boat was docked and the villages chief beckoned us across to sit in a circle on rickety wooden stools. A slight nod was made to our village guide who brandished a clear unlabelled bottle filled with what looked like water, a nagging feeling told us it probably wasn’t! The guide took a swig and passed it to me, “Laos Laos” he said. Historically we’ve been game for a day drink and we knew the tour was over so what harm would an afternoon tipple do? Laos Laos is home-brewed whisky made from rice and the Laotions can be seen drinking it everywhere, it’s taste can only be described as a strong tasting vodka.

Climbing one of the 100 waterfalls

Climbing one of the 100 waterfalls

Jungle Juice

The next 30 minutes passed and the 5 tourists, guides and the chief take turns to knock back the jungle juice, which is becoming more sickly with every sip. The booze combined with the hot sun is making everyone a little drunk, tired and giggly, these jungle villages definitely know how to have a good time. Gradually the people in the circle start to decline the Laos Laos until its just the chief, our guide and Mark still drinking. Bottle finished we start to wobble our way down to boat and enjoy a pleasant voyage in the afternoon sun. You can see how relaxed Mark was in this photograph:

This is what you'll look like after an afternoon drinking Laos Laos

This is what you'll look like after an afternoon drinking Laos Laos

The Surprise

In the midst of heady daydreaming, the boat driver pulls in at a random restaurant and we are all handed head torches. What are we doing now? We are drunk, sleepy and we’ve been handed a head torch, Mark begins to expect the worst and best of all there aren’t enough head torches for him. The guide leads us up to a huge opening to a cave (oh no!), this is the first mention of a cave all day! We start to enter the dark opening and quickly the light fades, Mark has to share Ali’s head torch beam. The cave is quite large to start with but soon starts to taper and eventually bottlenecks. What's more, as the space gets smaller it gets hotter and we all start to sweat out the boozy Laos Laos from the village. Mark finds himself drunk, sweating profusely, without a headlight heading into his worse fear.

 
A massive cave near Nong Khiaw

A massive cave near Nong Khiaw

 

The Belly Of The Beast

During the Vietnam war the cave was used as a hideaway and there are still artefacts from the 1960s in the cave like vintage 50 year old tin packaging and the remnants of fire pits. Trying to remember that people once lived here, we ventured in for a few minutes until we reached a tiny bottleneck where the guide decides to squeezes himself through with the promise of a huge open space on the other side. We deliberate, our German friend Daniel doesn’t fancy it and turns back whilst the French and other German guys decide to squeeze themselves through (they're both just over 5ft) Ali can just about fit too. Drunk and whoozy from the heat, Mark decides to face his fear and squeeze through the impossible space which he just about does but with cuts and grazes on his legs. On the other side it’s hotter still and the ceiling lower, the guide says we need to crawl now so we are down on our hands and feet in press-up position physically pulling ourselves forward. The experience is more like pot holing and the sound of 5 people in the cave echoing causes Mark to hit breaking point. Brought on by the sweaty jungle juice induced agoraphobia, Mark decides he must leave. He’s faced his fear and crawls back through the tiny hole scraping up his legs again as he pulls himself out back to freedom.

This is the hole we had to squeeze through...

This is the hole we had to squeeze through...

Life is is for living and doing something everyday that scares you might help you to do new things.  But remember you might need to get inadvertently drunk on jungle juice to do so!

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Laos - Jungle Juice, Waterfalls And Facing Fears In Nong Khiaw, By Studio Mali
 

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