Road Tripping – Canada On A Budget

Source

Spring break and summer are around the corner and with the holidays come the plans to hit the road for an adventure somewhere fun, interesting and perhaps wild and free. Heading out on the road is always a must do for many people, groups of friends, couples and families alike, but how to know where to hit the highway for a truly enjoyable getaway? For many people, Canada is a country that beckons from the north, and there’s no better time to visit than the late spring or summer when everything is in bloom. Read ahead for some great tips on road tripping Canada on a budget!

The Year of the Freebie – 2017

There is no better year to visit Canada than this year – the year of Canada’s 150th birthday. The National Parks from coast to coast will be sharing the wealth by providing year-round FREE admission, so get in now! Most of the parks are sometimes in the region of $30-50 per day or more depending on what you’re doing, so this is the perfect time to take advantage of a real money saver especially if you’re a fan of beautiful scenery, nature and camping!

Small Towns, Big Hearts

From coast to coast one thing Canadian towns have in common is their unusually huge hearts and warm welcomes to visitors, especially to people from abroad! You can take advantage of cheaper hotels (if you aren’t renting a camper van or RV) and cheaper roadside “greasy spoon” restaurants in the smaller locales than in the big cities, however this being said, if you’re wanting to spend a night or two in a city, try to find hotels offering one or two night last minute deals. Failing that, there’s usually a motel or hotel chain on most highways just outside of main centres which may have lower rates.

Speaking of renting cars and RV’s….

Gas in Canada and renting cars and RV’s can be pretty expensive, but not if you know how to find a deal. RV’s might be expensive to rent and run, but you will have the added benefit of not having to pay for hotel rooms or dinners out along the way, being able to cook your own. Ask around at car rental companies for vehicles needing to be returned to a specific location – if you don’t really mind where you go, and you’re going one-way, this can be a great way to get a reduced – or even free – rate.

Beware the PST

To keep costs low, beware the Provincial Sales Tax. This is a tax that is in effect on almost all goods and services in almost every province/territory except for Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon, and Alberta. It is in addition to the GST (Goods and Service Tax) which is a federal tax and is on almost everything throughout Canada at a flat rate of 5%. PST is dependent on the province you are in – some provinces have 7% PST while some have as much as 8-9 or even 10% PST where it will be clearly outlined on your receipt the two tax costs. Some provinces have adopted the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) which is a blend of PST and GST into one tax rate and will appear as one tax on your receipts. Saskatchewan has an added tax of 10% on liquor, so it might be worth staying dry in Saskatchewan unless you’re willing to pay a bit more.

Campgrounds

To keep costs low consider stopping at campgrounds that are away from main regions and that are a bit further to get to. You won’t regret it and usually many of these campgrounds have fantastic facilities as well as great lakes, streams and sometimes even sandy beaches. Some campgrounds can be as low as $20 a night per RV or per pitch (for multiple tents) so it can be a really great savings.

So there you have a couple of great ways to keep a road trip in Canada cost effective and easy on the wallet. Grab the sleeping bags and tents – summer is perfect for spreading out under the stars anywhere in Canada, just remember the mosquito spray!

Road Tripping – Sydney To Canberra

Source

Like most things when you travel, the road lesser travelled is often the more enjoyable and adventurous one and nothing could be more true than when you’re driving from Sydney to Canberra. What seems like it could be a lengthy and interesting drive on the highway is in fact fairly unimaginative – unless you take the scenic route that is. This article will look at helping you plan this little journey and what there is to see along the way if you fancy getting out of town with your mates for a bit!

The Road

There are two options when heading out of Sydney depending on the time you have at your disposal. One route is the coastal route down though Wollongong and the second route is down through Campbelltown. The Campbelltown route is more direct, but still offers some great scenery through some beautiful parts of the Highlands, but the coastal road is fantastic. The Campbelltown route can take around 3-3.5 hours and the coast road around 4.5-5, so it depends how fast you want to get there and what you want to see on the way.

For something truly unique, but lengthy you can choose to go all the way down the coast to Bateman’s Bay and then back up through the Monga National Park to Canberra. This is a bit longer – around 6 hours in length depending on where you stop and for how long but lends itself to some truly unique road trip opportunities.

Things to See and Do

Either route will take you through some fantastic natural areas filled with forests, land formations and if you take the coastal road – the coast! Pack a picnic lunch and stop off somewhere new and wonderful – either in the woods in Yerriyong State Forest or on the beach a bit further down the road. The world is your oyster on a road trip between Sydney and Canberra and the only thing stopping you is yourself!

The Wine Region

As you approach Canberra you will enter the wine region. This is a perfect opportunity for you and your travelling companions to head to a vineyard for a tour or some wine tasting. Perhaps pick up a bottle or two to enjoy once you reach your destination. The wine region stretches all around the city, so it’s easy to find a vineyard that hosts tourists and wine connoisseurs.

Canberra

The city of Canberra is surrounded by hills and is separated by a lake which makes it an enjoyable city to wander around in for those of an outdoor nature. With interesting buildings, the city centre lake and great walking trails around the city, it’s a great place to just hang out and take a stroll. Have a coffee and people watch on one of the outdoor terraces or check out some of the historic buildings that date back to the early part of the territory. Lake Burley hosts boats for hire, making it an ideal place to take families for various lakeside activities, and there are a number of mountain biking tails around for those who like to get out and moving. Head to Mount Ainslie for a truly commanding view of Canberra and the area, and don’t forget to catch some kangaroos in the wild – the Pinnacle Nature Reserve – 10km west of the city centre – is the best place to view large mobs of Kangaroos for free.

There you have a couple of great suggestions to consider for your road trip from Sydney to Canberra. Depending on what you like to do, there’s just as much to see and do on the way there as there is once you get to your destination – so make sure you take the time to enjoy the journey as much as the end result!

How To Enjoy Sydney At Night

Source

With any trip to a foreign city or location you want to maximise your time on the ground – taking advantage of every waking minute, especially if you are there for only a short period of time. Sydney, Australia is no different, especially when you consider how long it takes people to get to Australia and what a time investment it can be. If you’re interested in getting out after dark during your time in Sydney (and why wouldn’t you be, it can still be daytime highs in your home country at midnight in Oz!) read ahead to check out how best to see Sydney by night.

Darling Harbour

Ideally situated, Darling Harbour makes a perfect place to come any time of day but at night it really comes alive – the lights of the surrounding buildings reflect off the water to create a beautifully lit up area. The harbour front makes for a great strolling spot and with the area’s lively bars and restaurants it will be easy to find the perfect spot to kick back and relax over a local wine or two.

Newtown

Perhaps the most unique, hip and eclectic neighbourhood, Newtown is awash with kitschy bars and restaurants as well as music venues and a chilled out but entertaining vibe. Featuring a mixture of all the foods you can find in the region – from Malay, Thai, Indian, Chinese and traditional western pub food, Newtown has something for everyone.

The Rocks

This area of Sydney comes alive after dark and is one of the city’s most historic areas with its old buildings and cobbled lanes. Come for a drink at one of the traditional pubs in the area or get some dinner at one of the local restaurants that line the streets. This particular area of Sydney has a lively, traditional air to it, so you won’t be disappointed.

Chinatown

A real taste of the Orient right in central Sydney, Chinatown is home to not just trendy sake bars and kitschy yet traditional Chinese restaurants but also is the home of traditional night markets boasting all kinds of cheap street food and snacks. Check out the other items on offer in the night market and take advantage of it all within its close proximity to other areas around Chinatown, such as George Street which is only a few blocks away.

So there you have a couple of great suggestions on how to see Sydney at night. Being such a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, there is something on offer for everyone here. Book your next holiday to Sydney – you really won’t regret it!

A Mini-Guide To Cape Town, South Africa

Source

If you’re thinking about where to go on your next vacation, you might not have considered South Africa. With a number of cities that bring their own flavour to the game as well as several beautiful national parks that feature the standard African wild animals that can be seen on safari, South Africa has a little bit of everything for everyone. Check out this quick mini guide for a trip specific to Cape Town.

Cape Town – A City

Cape Town, aptly named for its location is the capital city of South Africa and is near the Cape of Good Hope with a number of fantastic attractions and sights nearby. The Cape of Good Hope itself is one such attraction, as is the world famous Table Mountain, named for its flat topped appearance akin to a table top. Visitors that head up the mountain are rewarded with stunning views of both Cape Town and the surrounding area including a few of the wine regions to the north. The Mountain can either be climbed in the old fashioned way or you can also take a cable car up to the top for those not up to the fairly lengthy hike.

The Castle of Good Hope is South Africa’s oldest surviving building and is worth a look for those who are into military memorabilia and history. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is perhaps the world’s most spectacular botanical garden, teeming with various species of plants and flowers all set against the impressive Table Mountain, almost overhead.

For those interested in the history of Cape Town and area, check out Robben Island – home to political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela – tours available. You can also check out the District Six museum which highlights the struggles of the area during apartheid.

Wine Regions and Floral Tours

South Africa is known around the world for being the growing and producing region for a multitude of wine varieties. Throughout the country there are numerous vineyards all with their own unique takes on wine making and featuring different flavours, blends and vintages and the Cape region is no exception. Wine tasting and vineyard tours are available throughout the area and many can be booked from your hotel or other accommodation in Cape Town itself. Some of the well known towns and cities for wine making and tours include Somerset West, Paarl and Franschhoek. Picnic tours can also be enjoyed for a romantic twist.

Safari Options

Not only is South Africa awash with wine and vineyards, but it’s likewise well stocked with safari companies and options for those looking to go out on safari to catch some of Africa’s big game in their natural habitats. Safaris can be booked direct in Cape Town if desired, or those looking for something special can head to almost any of the National Parks in the vicinity to book safaris that might be more luxurious or have specific aspects that the traveller is looking for. One popular option near to Cape Town is Tankwa Karoo National Park, with a number of safari options for all budgets. Kruger National Park is another option, but being on the other side of the country, this would be a good option for those who are perhaps planning a trip into neighbouring Mozambique or planning to spend some time in Johannesburg as well as Cape Town.

So there you have a quick run down on Cape Town and all it has to offer to help you plan your next (or first!) visit to the area. With so much history as well as nature around, it’s easy to see why this is a favourite amongst travellers the world over.

Choosing The Best Travel Backpack For You

Source

If you’re planning on heading out on an adventure sometime in the next couple of weeks or months, you might be wondering what kind of luggage is best for you an your needs. Depending on where you’re going, what you’re doing, etc it can be a daunting task trying to choose the right backpack. There are literally dozens of makes, sizes and style on the market and never mind colours either! So how do you pick the perfect one for you? Read ahead for a couple of things to keep in mind when choosing the right backpack for you!

Consider The Length Of Your Trip

The first thing to consider when planning a trip is how long you want to go for – as well as where you want to go. The time of year can be an important consideration as well – all of these will determine how much you need to take and what – are you going to both summer and winter climates? Only summer? Travelling in monsoon season? These are important things to think of and then plan to take the appropriate gear, including a waterproof backpack.

What Do You Need To Take?

Sandals, hiking boots, waterproofs, sweaters, tank tops, jackets and the like are all considerations to think of when packing. If you’re an outdoor loving person and you want to go hiking, camping, walking, but also like to kick back on the beach, knowing what you will need to take will help you determine the size of the bag you will need. The more things you need to take, the bigger a bag you will require.

What’s Your Size?

Backpacks can come in all shapes and sizes and can either hinder or help your trip. Buying a backpack that is too big for you to comfortably carry can be a hindrance to moving around on the road. When you’re looking around for the cheapest room options and needing to carry all your stuff with you or similar activities, an oversized and overloaded bag can be a huge pain.

For day trips or trips away from your main pack (such as to one overnight location where you don’t need to take your huge backpack) consider getting a day pack that can fit water, some food, a change of clothes or two and other necessities like towels so you have an option to taking your big pack if you can leave it somewhere safe.

Consider Your Budget

Finally, consider your budget. You don’t want to go broke getting a backpack for your trip. The standard backpacks around 60L in size are between $75-100 depending where you shop. It’s always good to go with a trusted brand that has a proven track record in providing quality outdoor products as you don’t want a cheap knock off brand backpack ripping apart three months into a nine month trip. So in this sense it’s good to set some money aside specifically for a good quality travelling backpack.

In all, purchasing a backpack for your trip doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t have to be stressful. The best option is to go to the shop itself and try a few out – see how they feel and what the straps are like. You might find that you can get cheaper bags online which isn’t a bad idea, but buying online is always risky in that you can’t feel the quality of the bag in advance – unless it’s from a reputable seller, so it is always a better plan to stick with shop based bags that you can inspect before buying. Good luck!

A Guide To Climbing Japan’s Mount Fuji

Source

For any visitor to Japan there are a few things that are absolute must do activities and one of these is climbing the famed and beautiful Mount Fuji. For those who are not physically able to climb this mountain, which stretches to a very high 3,776 metres above sea level, just seeing it is still high on the priority list. Fuji in all its splendour seems to almost perfectly encapsulate Japan – that is to say seeing a picture of Fuji seems to represent Japan almost in its entirety though many other things do a hefty job as well. For those interested in braving the slopes of this mountain, read ahead for a climber’s guide to conquering Mount Fuji.

When To Climb?

While it may be tempting to tackle Mount Fuji at any time of year there are some times of year where it’s plain just not accessible – such as in winter and in late autumn and early spring. In fact if you try to climb it during these times you will find nothing on the mountain open to the public and al trails closed. Trails open early July through to mid-September and this is the official climbing season. The mountain is at its peak in August when all the climbers seem to descend onto its slopes and you will find yourself in queues in some parts to traverse the paths. In this sense, if time is not a factor for you consider timing your climb for either early or late in the season.

Late June and late September will find snow on many portions of the mountain with some huts available. Only experienced mountaineers with proper equipment should consider the climb in these shoulder seasons. Climbing in October is perilous as heavy snows at higher elevations pose risks of avalanches and the weather is unpredictable at best.

Explore

Climbing Fuji lends itself to being great for the outdoor lovers among us and the region includes the Fuji Five Lakes. Lake Kawaguchiko is the most well developed to welcome foreign tourists and this region is ideal for viewing the mountain at close range – perfect for photos! – and is a great base for climbing the mountain as well. There are also many hot springs and options for catching a quick bite to eat before tackling Mount Fuji around the area, so be sure to take advantage of the amenities, even if you aren’t climbing Fuji.

Fujinomiya

This region on the slopes of the mountain is home to the Fujinomiya Sengen Shrine as well as the Shiraito Falls – Japan’s most beautiful waterfalls. This is the traditional starting point for climbing Mount Fuji and is still used today as one of the most popular routes for climbers.

Trails

A quick rundown on the trails is as follows:

  • Yoshida Trail: Ascent 5-7 hours; descent 3-5 hours.

  • Subashiri Trail: Ascent 5-8 hours; descent 3-5 hours.

  • Gotemba Trail: Ascent 7-10 hours; descent 3-6 hours.

  • Fujinomiya Trail: Ascent 4-7 hours; descent 2-4 hours.

It’s not advisable to try to summit and descend in one day and instead is advised to overnight at one of the mountain huts along the trails that offer sleeping spots as well as food.

Guides

It’s not necessary to hire a guide, however if you don’t want to leave anything to chance and prefer a professional to plan your climb for you there are a number of professional guiding companies that will provide guides for a fee.

Costs and Miscellaneous

Costs to climb Fuji depend on whether you eat at the mountain huts, but at the trail heads expect to contribute around 1000 yen (about $10USD) to go toward various mountain upkeep. Mountain huts average around 7000 yen for an overnight stay plus two meals (5000 without meals). Camping is not allowed on the mountain and any garbage that you create must be taken with you as there are no garbage facilities.

There you have a couple of tips and information on climbing the highest mountain in Japan. Climbing Fuji is one of the most exhilarating things you could do in the area and is definitely worth doing for the sunrise if you’re up to the task. So pack your hiking boots – the mountain won’t climb itself!

Gift Ideas For Adventurers

Source

Inevitably throughout your shopping excursions for things like birthdays or Christmas you will come across the need to purchase a gift for the adventurer or traveller in your life. While some travellers are easy to buy for – what’s another travel journal? – others can be more difficult. Especially for those who seem to be jetting off again every few months. Read ahead for some great suggestions on the perfect gift for the traveller/adventurer in your life.

Scratch Off World Map

A must! Any traveller or adventurer loves to have a reminder of the places they have been and what better way to help them remember the time they traversed South America, or that dodgy border crossing in South East Asia than through a scratch off world map? It does what it says on the tin – in that you scratch off the countries you have been to to unveil the coloured world map beneath. A perfect adornment for any traveller’s bedroom.

Passport Holder

Now, a passport holder might sound like a super boring gift, but you can get some really unique ones that highlight the holder’s personality or loves in life. From kitten faces to world maps to slogans and all sorts of patterns and colours, there is a passport holder out there for everyone. Check online and in the shops around March or April when it seems most new stock comes out and is out on the shelves in time for summer holidays.

Personalised Maps or Destination Prints

Another wall adornment perfect for the person who seems to have it all. Personalise a map of a country or the world with a highlight of the persons favourite spot or go one step further and get a printed list of all their favourite locations – which comes in various styles and colours and can be found online easily.

Something Useful

If someone you know is planning that next big trip, purchasing something that they will need or could use is usually a great port of call. Anything from a backpack, luggage, a voucher for a shop where they can pick up those new hiking boots they’ll need etc. This is a great idea for people who have a budding adventurer in their midst.

So there you have a couple of great suggestions on things to get the adventurers you know. From helping them to reminisce about their past adventures or helping them plan for future ones and be prepared for their next trip, the things that you can buy travellers are growing in popularity as more people get on the bandwagon that is travelling.

6 Reasons To Visit Singapore Now!

Source

If you are trying to choose a country in South East Asia to head to but you aren’t sure exactly where you’re interested in, why not consider the great city nation of Singapore? Featuring beautiful gardens, a mix of western modernity and ancient Asian culture, Singapore is an ideal place to either start a holiday in the region or is great as a stand alone holiday to introduce you to the area. Read ahead for six reasons to go to Singapore now!

Food

Singapore was founded as a British trading colony in the 1800s and as a result enjoyed a number of influences from across the Empire in terms of food. Likewise the surrounding area of Malaysia and nearby China have added to the almost literal melting pot of food choices here with authentic Malay, Chinese and Indian food on offer as well as western options like burgers, chips and the like. Some Singaporean specific dishes (such as Singaporean noodles) enjoy prominence as well, but ultimately this is the place to try a bit of everything, making it ideal for people who are finicky eaters.

Shopping

With huge shopping malls, authentic local bazaars and other markets to choose from, Singapore enjoys vast shopping that draws people from around the region and abroad for some of the deals to be had regardless of whether it’s in the street side bazaars or the glistening malls.

Vibrant Nightlife and Lifestyle

Across the city state, bars, nightclubs and restaurants are prominent, with many options playing host to live music, DJs from around the area as well as abroad and fantastic opportunities to kick back with a drink or two and get your groove on on some of the quirky and colourful dance floors.

East Meets West Meets East Again

Singapore is a true conglomerate of regional cultures as well as those from further afield. Mandalay, Mandarin, Tamil and English are the official languages of Singapore along with the religions of Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism and Confucianism showing just how culturally and ethnically diverse this country is. With Little India, Chinatown, and other regions of the city playing host to travellers it’s easy to see why this is such a great nation to travel to for a truly unique experience.

Getting Out

For those who are interested in getting away and exploring more of the region at large, Singapore is perfectly connected internationally to welcome travellers from around the glove while simultaneously allowing travellers multiple options for getting out of the country by sea, air, or road. Situated on the very southern tip of Malaysia, Singapore is an ideal place to start your South East Asian adventure, with train, boat and bus links into neighbouring Malaysia or Indonesia and further north to Thailand and the rest of the area.

So hopefully these top six reasons to hit up Singapore will help you make the decision to head to this unique, bustling and vibrant city full of welcoming, friendly people and delicious varied food. So pack your bags – Singapore and Asia at large await your arrival!

Food World – What To Try When You Visit Mauritius

Source

Visiting any foreign country is always a great time to give new things a try. Whether it’s an activity you haven’t tried, a local beer you’ve been itching to taste, or most commonly (and perhaps importantly!) the food! Food is one thing that every country on Earth has their own variation on dependent on what’s available to them. Countries that are large swathes of land may focus more on agriculture and farming based foods such as grains and beef, poultry or pork with regional variations on spice while island nations will have a more fish-based diet. Here we look at the top foods to try in Mauritius – an island nation off the coast of eastern Africa so you can be prepared for when you finally set foot there!

The first thing to know about Mauritian food is that it has a huge variety of influences due to its location – Creole, Indian, Chinese and French influences mean Mauritian fare is filled with variety of not just style but taste as well. Here are some of the best:

Dholl Puri (or Dholl Pori)

This is considered to be the dish in Mauritius. Sold throughout the nation by street vendors, this Indian inspired dish is made of fried flatbread stuffed with ground up yellow split peas, chutney, atchar and curries.

Curry

Of course! But Mauritian curry is different to your traditional Channa Masala or Masala Dosa you’d get in India – or even in other parts of the world. Here there are a number of other influences at play – such as Creole. Creole curry isn’t typically overly hot as the chillies are served on the side, letting the eater control the heat (thankfully!) and it is tomato based. Lentils and chickpeas are the usual culprits in most of the curries – both Mauritian and Indian. If you aren’t brave enough to try a new curry, you can always stick with your favourite Indian ones that you can find as well, served with rice or Mauritian breads.

A Taste of the Sea

Being an island nation, inevitably Mauritian cuisine has a number of fish based dishes featuring almost every seafood you can imagine. For something unique, give the octopus curry a try!

Gajak

A typical street food/snack, these fried delights are great to stave off the hunger pangs after swimming. You can find them sold in most places, usually off carts or the backs of motorbikes. Some of the examples include eggplant fritters, cassava chips and potato fritters.

Mithai

A variation of the Indian sweets, the Mithai are buttery and sugary goodness wrapped up in weight gain waiting to happen! Delicious and sweet, these are almost indsescribably good and if you hit up one of the local shops – such as Bombay Sweets Mart in Port Louis – chances are you will get to sample a few before committing to any one flavour!

Mine Frites

A variation on the traditional Chinese fried noodles, Mine Frites are another food you will likely find on the streets of Mauritius. The best place to get these is unsurprisingly Chinatown, but mix with a bit of regional Mazavaroo chilli paste to give it a real Mauritian island feel.

So there are a few examples of the great varieties of Mauritian food you can find throughout the island. Don’t forget to try some of the Victoria pineapple – sweeter than other varieties and available right on the beach after a swim, or the fresh coconuts for a real island treat.

Things To Do In Laos – Aside From Getting Drunk

Source

Inevitably these days if you’re heading to South East Asia you will end up in more than one of the countries in the region. With ease of movement and cheap options through airlines such as Air Asia, it’s relatively pointless going for only one country when you could see two or three in your time there. One country that is becoming the next big tourist hot spot aside from Thailand is its quiet neighbour to the north – Laos. There are a few things you should know about Laos before you go, so here they are, before we get into what there is to do aside from getting drunk.

A Quick Note To Say…

Laos is not Thailand. In that sense, it’s a lot stricter than Thailand with regards to partying and all night shindigs. While some places such as Vang Vieng used to be known for having island parties on the river that stretched into the wee hours, this is no longer the case thanks to the influx of backpackers who made too much of a good thing an inherently bad thing and so all the parties were shut down – along with most of the bars in the town.

A curfew is in effect throughout the country. Yes, you read that right – a curfew is in effect throughout the country. This is partially due to the communist government still in place (but trust me, you can’t really tell), and partially due to the Laotian way of life – getting up at the crack of dawn to give alms to the monks. You might get away with staying out past curfew (around 11pm in most places) in the countryside villages, but to be honest you won’t really want to as you will likely be one of, if not the only, person out.

What’s There To Do Then?

In a word, tons. There are two main strips of Laos depending on what your preferences are and what you’re after: the north route from Vientiane to Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang and further north if you’re so inclined to Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi; or the South route from Vientiane to Kong Lor (if you’re so inclined) to Savannahket to Pakse, and then the Bolaven Loop/further south to the 4000 Islands and the Cambodian border. For informative purposes I will tell you what there is to see and do on both of these loops to help you gauge whether it’s the loop for you.

The Northern Route

From the capital Vientiane you can easily get a shuttle bus to take you up to Vang Vieng, former party town, now mostly quiet village with a few 18 year old backpackers determined to keep the party alive. These days it’s a quiet place, ideal for relaxing, checking out some nearby caves and waterfalls and renting a motorbike to go exploring the valley of beautiful karst limestone mountains. A few bars cater to specific musical preferences such as psy-trance (again, perhaps in an effort to keep the party alive), but on the whole this place has more of a homey, village, family feel to it these days with quiet evenings spent stargazing on the riverbank.

Heading further north to Luang Prabang – a UNESCO World Heritage city thanks in part to its numerous temple complexes and fantastic French Quarter with its beautiful colonial structures set amid the lush jungle greenery and dusty roads filled with passers by. This is a hot spot for travellers of all kind – from backpackers to luxury travellers, Luang Prabang has become a bit of a Laotian mecca for everyone. Check out the night market in the city centre for some truly unique finds. There are likewise street stalls selling fruit shakes and baguette sandwiches throughout as well as the full blown food market that serves all manner of delicious items from fish on sticks, chicken on sticks, to various noodle side dishes and fresh vegetable spring rolls. You can get a banquet for 2 people for around $5 here.

If you’re a bit adventurous and don’t mind going a bit further, you can go to Nong Khiaw and then further onto Muang Ngoi, which is a village set in a valley similar to that of Vang Vieng, surrounded by beautiful karst limestone mountains. For the truly adventurous and travel hardened, you can try getting to Hanoi, Vietnam from Luang Prabang – but be warned that it’s around 30 hours on winding country mountain roads and has been dubbed the “nightmare journey”. You’re probably best to split it up into chunks, or just fly – Luang Prabang has a well serviced, well connected international airport.

There are a lot of other really interesting things to do up in the northern parts of the country, such as Vang Xai – an intricate cave city that was used for shelter during the Vietnam war to protect residents from the bombings and also the Gibbon Experience – where you can spend a few days in the tree tops like the Gibbons, an experience which has been coined as being “living like an Ewok”.

There are a lot of bars and potential party spots along the way – particularly these days in Luang Prabang you will find more bars that cater to a party kind of atmosphere, but also cater to quieter laid back atmospheres as well. If you want a bit more in the way of excitement restaurants, bars, music wise this is probably the route for you.

The Southern Route

From Vientiane you can opt to take a bus to the village of Kong Lor, home of one of the longest underground rivers in the world. The village is a dusty, very remote little thing, everything you could imagine from rural Laos. The best guest house in town is Chantha House – on the edge of the village, right on top of rice paddies. Most of the accommodation in town is in the form of home stays with locals, and there are only a handful of places to eat – if even. Chantha house almost operates as the local restaurant and watering hole – best food in town by far.

If you’re feeling adventurous you can head to Thakek and rent a motorbike, doing the “Kong Lor Loop” which takes you around several of the small backwaters and to the village of Kong Lor eventually – a great experience for anyone in the area.

Further south is the city of Savannahket. Admittedly, there is not much in the way of things to do in Savannahket and it’s more a stopping off point to break up the journey between Kong Lor and Pakse – 12 to 14 hours by bus, but with a stop in Savannahket it breaks it up into a larger portion of about 8 and a smaller portion of 3-4. Great for a night, but not really much more, Savannahket features a French colonial quarter which is missing out on some much needed TLC, featuring nearly derelict buildings and some even riddled with bullet holes – a prominent, yet unfortunate feature reminder of the Vietnam war. Savannahket is also home to a strange but beautiful combination of Buddhist and Taoist temples as well as Christian churches.

Further south you come to the municipality of Pakse – a well equipped city with many fantastic amenities including tours available, motorbike rentals, supermarkets, cafes with great internet, and numerous guesthouses. It’s also where you can renew your Laos visa if you want to extend your stay. Here you can rent a motorbike as well and do the Bolaven Plateau Loop – a favourite amongst travellers to the region which again takes you around the many backwater villages of the loop and eventually back to Pakse.

The loop also takes you through fertile coffee plantations, tea plantations, and alongside beautiful waterfalls and tribal villages where children run after you waving hello. One village along the loop, a beautiful little village called Tad Lo is a perfect place to set down for a couple of days and take a load off – only recently having gotten power and internet, connection to the outside world here is still confined to few guest houses. Most of the accommodation here is likewise in the form of home stays, some even home stay dorms (such as at Mama &Pap’s). Regardless, you won’t struggle to find a place to stay here – there’s even a resort on top of the large waterfall a bit away from the main strip.

Further south from Tad Lo and Pakse you will find the Mekong River begins to widen and towards the border with Cambodia is a number of islands on which you can stay – generally referred to as the Four Thousand Islands. Don Det is the typical backpacker haunt here, but other great islands offer a quieter more relaxed locale in which to stay. Don Khong is perfect – with motorbike rentals available to head out and bike around the island. We recommend Kong View Guest house – it has a balcony that overlooks the Mekong out back with commanding views and is a great place to relax with a Beer Lao and watch afternoon thunderstorms roll in.

So there you have the numerous things to do throughout Laos aside from partying and drinking. After the relative hectic atmosphere that can be had in Thailand, Laos will seem like a welcome break – so pick your route – travel adventure or slightly more party hardy – the choice is yours although it doesn’t have to be. Overnight buses are available from Pakse to Luang Prabang, so you could have it all.