Sabaidi! | Susadei! Are you planning to go backpacking in Laos and Cambodia with just over 2 weeks to spare? been there!
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Although it may sound too optimistic, or pushing it too much, to explore 2 countries in just over two weeks. It can indeed be exhausting, but not impossible!
So if you want an adventure and still be able to visit lots of places, be prepared to take lots of night buses as backpacking in Laos and Cambodia in 2 weeks can be done! keep reading for the details!
Our trip started in Bangkok which is where we landed coming from London. We arrived at 16:00 and had enough time to find our way to the city centre, get to the bus station and had some Thai street food.
The bus took us to Vientiane where we arrived on the following morning. We walked a little bit and had our first Laotian lunch before taking another bus towards Vang Vieng. Here we finally stopped for a couple of days.
Vang Vieng is a village with plenty of stuff to do, and great places to go for dinner and some drinks by the Nam Song River.
We went tubing in Tham Nam cave, which is cool if you like caves but to be honest you don’t get to see lots of rocks formations as some areas are completely pitch black, still a fun day out!
The tour also included a kayak to go down the river back to Vang Vieng, this can also be done tubing and going from bar to bar. From what I understand, a few years ago there were lots of bars and quite a few death-trap swings but I didn’t see anything like that. People just chilling and having a great time!
From Vang Vieng we took a bus to Luang Prabang.
This beautiful – UNESCO protected – town deserves a good few days to explore! not because of its size but its beauty. It’s full of ancient Buddhist Temples, and some of the younger monks sometimes are willing to share a word or two which is always nice to discover a little bit of their mentality and perspectives about life.
Apart from all the beautiful temples, we took a tuck-tuck to the Kuang Si Waterfalls, here you can have a refreshing swim and even do a little bit of hiking. The market has plenty of options to eat, we loved the Mekong River Fish! We took a Laotian Cooking class at Tamarind and it was brilliant, we had a terrific dinner made by ourselves!
There’s also plenty of night life, whether you’re clubbing or after something a little bit more chilled (our plan). We went one night for drinks at Utopia and really loved balconies overlooking the Mekong River.
From Luang Prabang we took a pretty long bus towards Kong Lor to visit the Kong Lor Cave (a bus change is required in Vientiane).
This remote village is not too popular among tourists, possibly because of its remoteness but we absolutely loved it there! we took a boat to cross the cave, which is about 1.5Km long! and has an illuminated area that enhances the fabulous stalactites and stalagmites!
Apart from this, the village is very small but you can chill and swim in the river and have a walk around. It was good to stop here after piling on the miles for the past few days.
After a couple of days in Kong Lor it was time for another long bus journey, next destination Cambodia and the majestic 9th century ruins of Siem Reap. This journey was done in two stages as we had to stay overnight in Pakse (still in Laos)
I wrote a bit more on detail our journey backpacking in Laos on this post.
Our first leg of our adventure backpacking in Laos and Cambodia was incredible, and we still had another country to explore!
Upon arrival to Siem Reap and getting a dorm room at Top Sky Hostel, we started talking with a tuck tuck driver to organise a tour for the following day around the ruins, you must book a “tour” like this as the temple complex is huge (and they keep finding more ruins!)
We quickly noticed the change in the weather from cool Laos to hot Cambodia, our day at Siem Reap was very hot, luckily there were stalls selling Mango Smoothies in many places, delicious and refreshing!
For me there are no words to describe Siem Reap, it makes me think on how advance was the Khmer Kingdom and the elaborate architecture is simply remarkable. Plan a very long day to explore as much as you can or put a couple of days aside, they will be well spent!
On the following day we went with our official tuck tuck driver Tee that by now was our first ever Cambodian friend. He took us to the floating villages, which are by a river feeding the Tonlé Sap lake, which is pretty big and at times gives you the impression of almost being by the sea. Of course, a swim there is mandatory!
From Siem Reap we took a bus south to Sihanoukville, when we were arriving I feared we were at a resort destination and the beach didn’t look very impressive to be honest, the good thing is that we were there only to catch a boat to go to the island of Koh Rong. I highly recommend to go there!!
We were supposed to spend only a night there and head to Phnom Penh but at the very minute we arrived to the island I told my friends that I was staying there for 3 nights! definitely love at first sight! We stayed at the Sky Bar Guesthouse whch has fantastic views, it’s definitely worth it to climb up the steps!
I also decided that because I had wanted for a while to get a PADI license, and having a dive centre in Koh Rong was a million times more exciting than getting the license in the UK. I spent 3 days by the sea with fantastic people and enjoying the evenings in the island.
I couldn’t ask for more for the last leg of the trip! In Koh Rong you can also do a lot more than diving, you can hike around the island, go fishing or simply relax! it’s a stunning place!
The only thing that made us move on was the date of our return flight approaching really fast. So we headed to the capital, after so much nature, temples, and simple life, it felt a bit strange to be back in a big city.
We spent a night walking out and about, and on the following day immersed ourselves in one of the darkest remains of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in the late seventies.
I’m personally not a fan of these places, but the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum taught me (or reminded me) of how poisonous human beings can get because of politics.
This place will bring your energy to the very bottom but I always think it’s good to learn something from the places you visit and can only hope that never again such a brutal massacre can happen in any country (I know, I need to keep dreaming as this is still sadly happening across the globe)
It was time to go back to London. After just over two weeks, we managed to see a lot! would I have wanted to stay longer in places? yes of course, but if you’re tight in time and you look for night buses, it’s more than manageable to do this itinerary.
This is the route we did:
Bangkok > Vientiane > Van Vieng > Luang Prabang > Kong Lor (via Vientiane) > Pakse > Siem Reap > Koh Rong > Phnom Pehn > Bangkok
Feel free to ask any questions if you’re planning to go backpacking in Laos and Cambodia for 2 weeks!
Check out the rest of my backpacking adventures around the world for more ideas on your next trip!