Travel to Laos – Episode 199

categories: asia travel


The Amateur Traveler talks to Sam Oppenheim about travel to Laos.

Sam Visited Laos as part of a year spent traveling around the world when he traveled extensively in Asia.

Sam’s itinerary included the capital of Vientiane as well as Luang Prabang, trekking in the hill villages around Luang Namtha and cruising on the Mekong River near Nong Khiaw. Along the way, Sam photographed monks, children and little bottles of alcohol with snakes in them. Discover this beautiful country through Sam’s stories and through his lens.

Sam has previously been on the show talking about trekking in the Himalayas and traveling to Cuba.

right click here to download (mp3)
right click here to download (iTunes enhanced)

Show Notes

Sam Oppenheim’s blog
Sam’s Lao travelogue
Previous Amateur Traveler episodes with Sam:
Trekking in the Himalayas in Northern India – Episode 63
Travel to Cuba – Episode 170

Vang Vieng
Vietnam War


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Internet Resources

Parisien D’un Jour


Steve (and Sara-Jane), getting ready to depart the UK
Lot’s of great comments on Travel to Sicily in Italy – Episode 197 including one from Ira Berstein who was our guest for Travel to Venice and the Veneto – Episode 182
To leave a greeting for show #200 go to the contact section

Traveling Soon? These useful links will help you prepare for your trip.
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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

5 Responses to “Travel to Laos – Episode 199”



Great episode!

He’s right about the authenticity of Laos. The people didn’t seem to be as into getting attention from visitors, or “becoming Western” as much as Thai people do. I went to Vientiane to get a visa for teaching in Thailand, and I was pleasantly surprised. I would have loved to have stayed longer if I hadn’t already had plans to live in Thailand.

I also love the diversity of Vientiane. There were Koreans, Chinese, Thai people–it seemed like a melting pot. I hope to visit again some day.

Thanks for your great show!



Thanks for your podcast – I am a new listener and really enjoy the show. Thanks especially for the episode on Laos. I was actually going to email you a few days before this episode came out to ask when you were going to do one on Laos – good timing.

I totally agree Sam’s sentiments about about Laos. I went there back in 2007 and totally fell in love with this country. It is a beautiful and slow paced country and still has a pure feel to it, probably due to it being closed to outsiders for so long. Luang Prabang is one of my most favorite cities in the world. We could have stayed there for a long time. It is magical and very charming. It sits in a valley between two rivers, with mountains all around it. Once you get there, you don’t want to leave. There are dozens of temples and hundreds of monks in this town so no matter what religion you practice, you still get a sense of the spirituality that resides here. On my next trip to Laos, I would love to head north of Luang Prabang and get up in to the mountains to visit some of the minority villages. I hear that that is an amazing experience too.

Tourists have discovered Laos. My fear is that it will become like Thailand so I agree with Sam in that I want people to go there and see it but I also don’t, because I don’t want it to lose that magical quality and become a tourist-haven. Evidence of this is already happening in Luang Prabang where in the early morning hours, the monks walk through the town to receive morning alms from the residents and unfortunately this has become a major photo opportunity for tourists, who were very disruptive wanting to get the perfect shot. I saw several of them walk right up to the monks and put their cameras in their face to take a picture. Others walked through their lines and bumped into the monks. This is all very taboo in Lao culture. I think tourists need to learn about the places they visit before they go and respect the culture. Pictures are fine (I am an avid photographer too) but please keep your distance during this age-old tradition. I think the Lao people will be grateful if you learn to respect their traditions and simply observe them.

Thanks again for the episode!



Anyway I love listening to these pod casts , but as I listened to your Laos podcast I felt that Sam misrepresented bus travel in Laos. I realize this is not his fault he was pressed for time and could not take any long bus ride any where. I have to tell you my favorite times in Laos where when I was on long bus rides. The locals are great they often could not communicate with words but food was used as a medium and people on the bus love to eat. Especially on long trips with kids and they will often share this food with you. This is how I got to taste allot of the local fruits and some other foods I had not eaten in other parts of South East Asia. I remember I was on this long Bus ride from the capital to the Southern city of Pakse and it was at least 20 hours. During the trip I had some locals tour me around a fresh fruit market, I tried some street meats and sweet dishes. But my favorite memory had to be that on the bus I was on they where showing a series of Thai horror movies which I watched at breaks from my book. Though at one stop the driver disappeared he came back with food and a new movie, looks at me and smiles. He went to get a bollywood movie that had English subtitles. It was hilarious here I am the only foreigner on the bus watching this bollywood flick with English sub titles as everyone on the bus is looking at me and smiling…even though it must of been in hindi no one complained so I could watch something with english.

Another great experience is if you continue further south you get to this great Khmer temple called Wat Phu. But once again the bus ride is a unique experience because they use the bus for cargo. So as you travel the bus stops at numerous markets and slowly the bus fills up with rice, live chickens, and beer it is a crazy experience as this part cargo/part passenger bus is ferried to the island of the temple. So like i said this is not to put down Sam, he just chose a different path I had 3 weeks to explore and no money so I had to bus it. But I’m glad that I did, since it is one of the only times you are the sole traveler, get to eat great food and really connect with the locals. I would say that Laos could not be my favorite country if it was not for the bus rides.



Re: Busses in Asia – Hi Michael,

Regarding bus rides, each ride is a unique experience, depending on the roads, seats, people, driver, etc etc. I have ridden busses in nearly every country in Asia, including Laos, and I agree – busses give you an unparalleled local experience including people, food, livestock, etc etc.

However, one of my bus trips in Laos was one of the worst bus trips I have been on (well, some in the Indian himalayas were worse) – the bus had no floor between the horn under the hood and the driver, so as he “drove with the horn” it irritated everyone, the road was twisty, the seats uncomfortable, and the videos shown were laos and thai language karaoke played at full volume to cover the horn. It was half tourists and half locals, and the only cargo was 2×4 lumber all along the floor and making us have less leg room. The stops were great to try local food and get fresh air, but the bus ride was HORRIBLE. Thats not to say great bus trips cant be found in Laos and other countries, but i wanted to make certain people knew it could be a challenging time! (Also the people I was traveling with were uncomfortable and that made the ride less enjoyable – had I been traveling alone and sat next to a local I would have enjoyed it more)

In China I made new friends on many bus trips, and in India i have a love/hate relationship with busses. In general I much prefer trains and cars…



i was in Thailand, Koh pangan, and other islands on the south, but i have feeling that the western civilization influenced to this part of the world too much, friend told me that Laos, Vietnam are totally different story, but i don’t know.

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