Laos will always have a special place in my heart for a number of reasons. My first ever solo and spontaneous backpacking trip was in Laos. Back then, I was working in Shanghai, a fast paced, overcrowded, metropolitan city. My days were jam-packed with long hours in the office, followed by long hours at bars and networking events. I had grown accustomed to the big city mentality and swift pace of life, until I went to Laos. That changed everything!
The charm of Laos was irresistible, and I fell in love with its pristine, pure beauty! Something as simple as a breath of fresh air, sunshine, and a genuine smile can reshape how you want to spend the rest of your time here on earth.
Slow, relaxed, and unhurried. No stress, worries, critical self-talk or insecurities either. How do we master this Tao way of life? Go to Laos.
I flew from Shanghai to Kunming, and took the bus down to Northern Laos. The journey was epically the roughest massage I’ve ever had as the cross-country bus made its way down the narrow, winding jungle clad mountains. Although my muscles ached from the bumpy ride, I was revitalized instantly as I looked outside the window. The tranquil mountains clothed in lush vegetation was amazing to see.
Imagine seeing beautiful jungle valleys stretched across clear blue skies and rice fields sporadically mixed with small bamboo huts. With almost no signs of tourism, the countryside of Laos still remains untouched. Travelers of all kinds just love it. My senses were instantly refreshed by the sight of rural Laos.
Laotian women and children at the rural villages remained carefree as they bathed in the river by the bridge. As my bus passed by them, they waved and smiled to me. I was surprised that they didn’t rush to cover themselves or hide in embarrassment. My heart was moved by how natural, oblivious and carefree they were. It brought a smile to my face, and a part of me longed to live in such simplicity and freedom.
Wherever I went, people in general were just the friendliest and most laid-back people you will ever meet. Kids would playfully come up to me and proudly show off the few English words that they knew. I found that Laos people in general would always wave and exchange smiles if you made eye contact with them. There were no dollar signs in their eyes, but rather a curiosity and an eagerness to just be present and go with the flow!
I ended up in Vang Vieng, what used to be a small party town for backpackers. What would take me a few days to unwind and get off work-mode, took me only a few minutes in Laos. This small sleepy town had loads of activities in store.
I went rock climbing in the jungle, played Marco Polo in the caves, swung like Tarzan in the blue lagoon, cliff jumped in the cool river, learned how to start a natural fire for BBQ, and kayaked to the capital, Vientiene. For two weeks, I forgot about my phone and the social media world. It wasn’t hard at all to go on a digital detox in Laos. I was completely living in the moment. There were also days where I did absolutely nothing but enjoy a Beerlao by the river, soaking up the beautiful and laidback ambience. Being in a state of bliss and peace for two whole weeks, was an incredible gift that Laos gave me.
Time went by so slowly, and all the stress of the modern world melted away. It literally felt like time had stopped. The relaxed atmosphere of Laos pervades through the whole country. The same goes for any traveler with a busy mind and restless heart stepping foot into their land. For this reason, this is why Laos PDR stands for Please Don’t Rush.