Ideally positioned bordering five other countries, if you’re heading to Asia during your travels you’ll want to while away some time in Laos during your gap year. With land and river borders you’ll be spoilt for choice for how to get in and out of the country, not to mention what to do while you’re there. With nature, adventure and an old-world charm, the only thing everyone agrees on is that there’s a slower, calmer pace of life, which you’re sure to experience on your gap year in Laos.
Luang Prabang is the undisputed city that draws most people in. With 33 wats (temples), swathes of mustard yellow clad monks and a popular handicraft market, the city is also a proud World Heritage site. However, don’t get so carried away in Luang Prabang that you forget to visit Vientiane, the country’s capital, during your gap year in Laos. The city is small enough to be seen on foot, and a visit to Pha That Luang, the Golden Stupa, should not be passed up.
Apart from visiting the cities, you may well find yourself drawn to the backpacker hub of Vang Vieng, popular for climbing, or in northern Laos for the Gibbon Experience. This unique attraction gives you the opportunity to zipwire through the jungle, even staying overnight if you wish. A gap year in Laos is not complete without a trip on the river around Si Phan Don, ‘4,000 islands’, lazily exploring by boat. And don’t leave without trying as much food as possible; much of it is a hangover from French colonial days, and a perfect melange of Asian and European cuisines.
Working in Laos
Whilst work isn’t the easiest thing to come by on a gap year in Laos, there are opportunities for volunteering. These tend to have long contracts, and you begin volunteering with a government agency before you can hopefully make the jump to an NGO. If you are determined to work in Laos on your gap year, there are a few teaching positions up for grabs in private schools. Alternatively, if you are a professional or have experience as an aid worker, you may be able to find more substantial work.
After you’ve spent some of your gap year in Laos you’ll be well placed to continue in South East Asia. The landlocked country conveniently borders five other nations: Vietnam runs the length of Laos’ east side, with Cambodia to the south, Thailand to the west and smaller borders with China and Myanmar to the north. Bus, boat, or even on foot or cycling are all feasible ways to move on to your next destination. Alternatively you can catch international flights from Vientiane and Luang Prabang.