To the north of Singapore, just above Thailand is Laos. It is one of the less frequented South East Asian countries for Singaporeans, and direct flights are hence few, and limited to the capital city of Vientiane. If you embark on a trip to Luang Prabang, en-route to Huay Xai, you will likely find yourself on one of these small propeller aeroplanes. For someone standing at 1.6m, my head has for the first time crossed beyond the overhead cabins. Depending on your transit location, the total flight timing could be around 4 hours.
Luang Prabang is a Unesco World Heritage City. A tradition you can witness and participate in here is the Buddhist alms giving ceremony. You would need to be up before sunrise though, and the common alms given to the monks who go on these daily walkabouts include rice and fruit. These alms make up the one meal the monks have for the day.
If you are worried about whether you can adjust to food in Laos, Laos used to be a colony of the French, and the influence continues to be seen. Baguette shops line the streets. Strong coffee, no less fragrant than our kopis, are easily accessible, and at a fraction of the price. There is also western cuisine, as well as the typical seafood and meat grills we have at our local hawker centres. Getting around is easy, and you just need a little haggling to get the price right for your tuk tuk ride.
Just an overnight bus ride away is Huay Xai, where you can embark on an out of the world experience. Otherwise, you can also take the slow boat for 1.5 days, and enjoy the scenic view as you coast along.
Here in Huay Xai, you can live in the world’s tallest tree houses, and experience the exhilaration of fast zip lines, where the tall trees are beneath your feet. The longest zip line here is a lengthy 600 metres! Known as the gibbon experience, if you are lucky as I was, you would not only hear the beautiful singing of these elusive creatures but also sight them from your tree house. You can recognize the males from the black fur, and females are blonde.
The 3-day gibbon experience tour has an easy hike of about an hour to the tree house. There is a solar panel on the tree, charging up the bulb that lights up your tree at night. There is also a water system for drinking, as well as showering and the toilet, which is one level down from the sleeping area.
The design is smart, with water pressure provided from the water flow down from the hill area to the tree. I’m afraid there is, however, no refrigerator for your Lao beer. Although the sleeping area is common, you can let down the privacy curtains to have your own space.
Laos is undeniably a wonderful mix of both nature and culture experiences. It’s time to start planning a trip there and get your luggage ready for a memorable time.