An offbeat journey of an offbeat traveler in an offbeat country
. . .
2019 was here, and I wanted to move to a new country.
I picked Laos, the landlocked country squeezed between Thailand (west border), Vietnam (east border), Cambodia (south border), and China (north border).
Interestingly, Laos is the only landlocked country in South East Asia.
And this doesn't make it boring - at all.
But it helps to get the beach-bum travelers out of the way. And less tourism means more opportunity to go local, go slow, and go offbeat.
P.S. I love beaches too! And since I'd spent a month (Dec 2018) in South Thailand, I was happy to take a short break from them to explore local Laos.
How offbeat is Laos?
Well, talking about 'offbeat', Laos as a destination is pretty much offbeat in itself.
Here are some stats:
"In 2017, total tourist arrivals declined by an annual 10%, for the second consecutive year."
This may not be the best news for the communist state's tourism campaign, but great news for me.
Because I still go by the rule: Everything popular is wrong. If you want a real taste of local culture and life, you have to go where the tourists aren't.
Here's another interesting data point:
35.38 million tourists arrived in Thailand in 2017 compared to only 3.86 million in Laos in the same year. Further, 1.19 million Indians arrived in Thailand in 2016 compared to just 8249 Indians in Laos in the same year.
So, Laos was a clearly offbeat choice considering both my people (Indians) and all my people (Everyone).
I chose to head South.
That being said, the explorer I am, I decided to go even more offbeat and head South as most tourists head to the North.
I had just 3 weeks in Laos (which could sound like a lot of many) and since I travel slow, I wanted to pick one direction.
And as with most of my travels, I picked South.
The sleepiest capital ever.
I landed in the capital of Laos (pronounced Lao), called Vientiane (pronounced Vienchang) which, as I discovered, was the sleepiest capital I've ever been to.
P.S. Blame the French for the different pronunciation and spellings.
I have always felt the 'speed of life' increase when I arrive at any capital but not at this one. Not at all.