On a scooter through Laos

On the scooter through Laos! † The two most popular motorbike loops

From the well-known Asia circle that is mainly visited by backpackers (Thailand, Laos , Cambodia en Vietnam ), Laos has been the underdog for years. You may have heard of Luang Prabang, where everyone is known to go bowling as soon as all the cafes close at midnight. Or Vieng, which is known for 'tubing' (read: drifting down a river in a big car tire), always a guarantee for a great party. But what's the best way to experience this country? With the scooter of course! Go through Laos on a scooter like a real local. An incredibly fun and free way to explore the country.

Plan your holiday to Asia here

About Laos

Laos has a lot to offer with its impressive history. For example, did you know that Laos during the secret war has been attacked by America with 580.000 bombings? That's equivalent to a bomb every 8 minutes, 24/7, for 9 years. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

But before we dive into that further, it's good to know that Laos is a popular holiday destination for backpackers traveling around South East Asia. Most tourists come here for the beautiful nature and culture of the country, and there is an abundance of it!

Also read: Top 10 | What are the best backpacking destinations in Asia?

The viewpoint in Nong Kiau | scooter through laos | Wereldreizigers.nl
The viewpoint in Nong Kiau | Itinerary Laos

Also read: Itinerary Laos in 2, 3 or 4 weeks | All must-sees and travel tips

Buddhism and History

The vast majority of the inhabitants of Laos are Buddhist. There are also many Buddhist temple complexes here, each more beautiful than the other. The first inhabitants of the region where Laos is located were the Hmong people who settled here 10.000 years BC on the banks of the Mekong River. Little is known about the history of Laos from the centuries that followed. In the eighth century AD, Laos was part of the divided kingdom of Chenla. The prince of Chenla Jayavarman II comes to power here and founds the city of Wat Phou. The northern part of Laos is then ruled by Thai kings.

Fourteenth century

In the fourteenth century, Fa Ngum founded the kingdom of Lan Xang here, which will turn out to be the predecessor of present-day Laos. This kingdom lasted for several centuries until it split into three parts in the early eighteenth century. After this comes the Kingdom of Luang Prabang, the Kingdom of Vientiane and the Kingdom of Champassak.

Nineteenth century

At the end of the nineteenth century, the French conquered the area after which it was added to the then Union of Indochina. Before the addition of Laos, Indochina consisted of parts of Vietnam and Cambodia. During World War II, the Japanese occupied the country. After the war, the French took over power here again.

In 1954 the First Indochina War took place here, after which the French were expelled and Laos became an independent Kingdom. After a military coup, the army comes to power here, which together with the United States try to expel the communist guerrilla tropics from the country. This war will later go down in the books as the Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War. Countless bombs were dropped in the border region between Vietnam and Laos during the war. This still makes this region unsafe.

After the Vietnam War, Laos became a communist country with political ties to the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the country became more open and more accessible to tourists.

Safety in Laos

Laos is a fairly safe country to visit as a tourist these days. However, you should at all times keep a close eye on the current political situation. The inhabitants are friendly and hospitable, but in most cases they are very poor.

Especially in the northern part of Laos, adjacent to Myanmar, it is often restless. So always check out the latest travel advice from the Dutch government at this pageso you don't get any surprises.

Motorbike / Scooter loops for Laos

But in this article we present something completely different, namely an activity that will show you more of the country than you can initially imagine: motorbike loops† The concept is simple. You rent a scooter, arrange a map, pack a small bag for a few days and go out. We give you a look at the two most famous adventures this country has to offer.

Thakhek – The Original Loop (3-4 days)

Despite the fact that this tour was invented about 10 years ago by the local celebrity Mr Ku, it is still something many people ignore. Thahkek is the largest city in the Khammouane province, and is about 6 to 8 hours by bus from Vientiane. There is little to nothing to do in Thahkek itself; the only travelers you will encounter here will undoubtedly dive straight into the motorbike adventure.

Our advice: At the start of your scooter through Laos adventure, first go to Thahkek Travel Lodge, the place to be to meet like-minded people and ask them about their experiences. There is also a large book in the dining room that is filled with do's and don'ts from predecessors. Mr Ku owns a garage where you can buy your new best friend, the scooter! You pay about 120.000 kip (12 euros) per day for a vending machine, while a semi-vending machine consumes about 90.000 kip (9 euros) per day from your wallet.

On a scooter through Laos
On a scooter through Laos

When renting the scooter you get a map with all important routes. The loop is a circle of about 450 km and can be done in 3 days, but we recommend doing it in 4 days. So you can take your rest and you don't have to rush to avoid driving in the dark. You don't want the latter; you cross roads where people don't pay much attention to traffic rules and where they are not yet familiar with the concept of 'street lighting'. Riding a scooter through Laos is really cool, but safety goes first!

Kong Lorcave

The 450 km consists of the most diverse sensations. From various caves (Tham Pha Fa, Xieng Liab) where they are only too happy to charge you three times entrance to an enchanting lake (Tha Lang) where you can go for a refreshing swim. The modern asphalt in the beginning is gone as you end up on gritty and dusty roads where you can expect a pothole or hill every two meters. Good to do, as long as you don't decide to go in the rainy season. In every 'big' town (Lak Sao, Tha Bak, Nahin) you can find guesthouses that cater to the driving adventurers. You drive from humid forest hills to quaint villages and from empty lakes with bare trees to endless straight roads.

v2osk eBn5g UkwHY unsplash scaled | scooter through laos | Wereldreizigers.nl
On the scooter through Laos! | The two most popular motorbike loops 9

The highlight of the loop is the Kong Lor cave. This is a cave through which the Nam Him Bun River of 7 km runs. Armed with a life jacket and main flashlight, you will be transported through the cave by two local men via a longtail boat. The only light you can see is from the flashlights, but it is enough to see the impressive immensity of this cave. Stalagmites, stalactites and if you're lucky a spider the size of your hand. The trip takes about 3 hours. Then you return to Thakhek, where you can give your butt some rest after driving quite a few miles.

Pakse – Bolaven plateau (2-4 days)

If you take the bus in Thahkek, you are within 5 hours in Pakse, the next town that is really only visited for two reasons: the 'motorbike loop' through the Bolaven plateau and the easy connection to 4000 Islands. This city cannot be missed on your tour through Laos by scooter. The town and the Bolaven plateau are located in the Champasak province. The area was used by farmers during the time of the French settlers, so the soil has remained fertile over the years. It developed into the place for coffee, tea, rubber and cardamom plantations.

Scooters are a lot cheaper in Pakse, for 85.000 kip a day you have a vending machine, while you can get a semi-vending machine for about 60.000 kip a day. On the card you have two options: the small loop and the big loop. The small loop will take you about 2 days, the big loop will take you about 4 days.

Pak Laos
Pakse – Bolaven Plateau, Laos

Tat Lo

The Bolaven plateau is a unique area where, despite the high temperatures in the interior, you will soon have to get used to about 20 to 28 degrees. Because the altitude also means that rapid wind changes occur, rain showers are no stranger to visitors to this beautiful area. The tour takes you through forests, hills and past many enthusiastic children on the side of the road. It is really a beautiful region in Laos to explore by scooter. Around the Bolaven plateau, different ethnic tribes live with their own customs. It is definitely worth stopping at one of the coffee or tea plantations. The owners who explain to you in poor (ie none) English what they do and serve you a cup of stew is really part of the experience.

Ride a scooter through Laos for panoramic treats
Ride a scooter through Laos for panoramic treats

A well-known stop in the Bolaven Plateau is Tat Lo, a cute village surrounded by waterfalls and temples. At around 4pm you can watch the mahoots wash the local elephants in the lake while hordes of local children swim around it. Travelers are also thought of in this village. There are about 5 to 6 homestays where you can sleep and eat. The prices are considerably low: you pay 10.000 kip (yes, about 1 euro) for a double mattress in a homestay. For about the same money you can also buy a fried rice with chicken. If you choose the big loop you will also pass Attapeu and Ban Beng. A beautiful region where you will find even more plantations and waterfalls (Tad Fane, Tat Champi).

Also read: On a scooter through Africa!

Tad Fane Laos
Tad Fane Laos

Maybe after one of these two motorbike loops you can no longer see caves, waterfalls, plantations and scooters and your derrière needs a week of rest. But trust me, riding a scooter through Laos is an unforgettable experience!

Plan your holiday to Asia here

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