Laos and Cambodia
48 Hours in Laos
Patuxai arch in Vientiane, Laos. Image: Visualhunt
Welcome to another 48-hours in the ASEAN region. We continue our travels around Southeast Asia, visiting each country for two days before moving onto the next. On this trip of a lifetime, we give you a taste of what it’s like traveling to Asia. We want your summer vacations to be eye-opening, carefully curated, and enjoyable.
Our first stop is the country of Laos. Gaining independence from France in 1953, the country is known for its natural beauty, deep jungle waterfalls, and the metropolitan capital city of Vientiane.
Day 1: Capital City
Though it may sound odd to stay at Wattay International, don’t leave until you’ve lunched at the airport restaurant where you’ll find some of Vientiane’s most refined food.
Try a bowl of Lao khao pun pork, banana blossom, galangal, coconut milk, long bean, garlic, and fresh basil served over gently curled rice noodles. This delicate balance of flavors sets the perfect stage for the rest of your culinary travels into Laotian cuisine.
Cab into town and drop your bags at Moonlight Champa. This quiet, leafy neighborhood just 5 minutes from the Namphu fountain on foot puts you in the heart of Vientiane.
Pha That Luang temple in Vientiane, Laos. Image: Visualhunt
On every street corner, tuk tuk scooters with benches wait to chauffer you around town. Don’t miss the golden spire temple Pha That Luang and Vientiane’s landmark, the Patuxai arch. The Lao National Museum is a must-see for history buffs who want to learn about the country’s revolution in the 1970s.
Chokdee Café Belgian Beer Bar near the river is a good spot to post up for the evening. Have dinner and sample the favorite imported beers of European expats who have settled in Vientiane over the years.
Day 2: Exploring the Laotian Countryside
Start with a sweet, iced Laotian coffee from the roadside stand at the corner of Yonnet Road and Rue Pangkhan. With cups the size of your head, it’s plenty strong.
Buddha Garden. Image: Visualhunt
At nearby Talat Sao station, hop on local bus number 14. Your destination is Buddha Park, a green statue garden that shocks and delights. This “amusement park” represents the afterlife: heaven and hell depicted through statues from Buddhist mythology. One statue located in the park is so large that it houses multiple rooms!
Have lunch on-site and catch the same bus home after exploring. This unique trip 24km out of the capital city offers scenic views of the Laotian countryside at a pace that won’t overwhelm.
Laos countryside. Image: Visualhunt
Have dinner at Pingpet Phouthin, a typical Laotian shop-house specializing in roasted duck. You’ll recognize its bright yellow banners advertising Beer Laos, a favorite amongst beer lovers across Southeast Asia. After 8pm, the restaurant turns on the karaoke machine for lively entertainment.
After a good night’s sleep, it’s time to head to our next 48-hour destination in Southeast Asia. A quick flight or an economical bus ride will take us to neighboring Cambodia.
When traveling to Asia, the transportation options are endless. The countries of ASEAN are geographically close, making travel easy. With each border you cross, you are treated to the sights, sounds, and flavors of an entirely different culture.
48 Hours in Cambodia
Bayon Temple in Angkor, Cambodia. Image: Visualhunt
Independent since 1953, the Kingdom of Cambodia is a peaceful country that has found economic growth despite it’s rough history in the 1970s. The modern economy is boosted by agriculture, textiles, and the tourism industry surrounding its fantastically preserved historical sites. There is no ignoring these monumental temples built during the 600 years of the Khmer Empire. The ruins of Angkor, a World Heritage Site outside the city of Siem Reap, is one of the seven wonders of the world and inspires awe in Cambodians and foreigners alike.
Day 1: Ancient Ruins
Start your day in Siem Reap at Green Home Coffee and enjoy the river view and plenty of breezy fans.
Bike the Angkor ruins. Image: Visualhunt
At less than 5km away, Butterfly Tours bike rental is the perfect way to get to Angor. Ride the ancient road to the famous temples of Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ankor Tom featuring massive, stone-carved faces. With so much to see, don’t forget to rest with refreshing coconut popsicles in the shade. Nothing can compare to a day in this mega-city where the ancients walked thousands of years ago.
Khmer food. Image: Visualhunt
After a long day, go for a typical Khmer dinner at Mlup Jek back in town. They make a mean samlar machuw “morning glory soup” and lok lak “shaking beef” with Kampot pepper and lime dip.
For longer stays, nothing beats Kolyan Apartments north of town. On a short trip, Pages Rooms & Cafe is a locally-owned hotel near downtown, while Jaya House RiverPark shines with Khmer riverside luxury. Off the tourist track, these offer unmatched peace and quiet.
Day 2: Shady Pools
Local market in Cambodia. Image: Visualhunt
Breakfast on your second day is the famous dish nom banh chok rice noodles with fish curry piled high with fresh herbs. Buy a bowl at any local market like Pshar Leu Thom Thmey and browse handmade items for sale.
Grab a coffee from a stall at the market’s edge. Khmer coffee gets its signature flavor from dousing sun-dried beans with local whisky before brewing. Served extra sweet and poured over ice, this drink is sure to keep you cool.
Beng Mealea interior. Image: Visualhunt
If you’re game, arrange a tour to a lesser-known but equally impressive temple site called Prasat Beng Mealea. This 12th century state temple is in excellent condition with entire courtyards, halls, and walkways intact.
To opt for pure relaxation, get poolside and take advantage of the Cambodian sun. Hotel pools in Siem Reap have day use fees. Go fancy at the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor or choose budget elegance at the Damrei Angkor Hotel.
Cocktails at the fancy FCC Angkor before strolling to Rohatt Cafe is a good dinner plan. Find Angkor beer on tap and a balcony where you can enjoy delicacies like banana blossom duck salad and lemongrass beef. Don’t skimp on the icy desserts before leaving Cambodia!
Cambodian family in Siem Reap. Image: Visualhunt
From Buddhist parks to Hindu temples, our trips to Laos and Cambodia were rich with history. After walking the ancient ruins of the ASEAN, we made sure to fit in plenty of relaxation so that your summer vacations leave you refreshed and wanting more. That’s what traveling to Asia is all about.
Whether you have two days or two years, it’s impossible to see everything that these countries have to offer in one trip. We hope that the 48-hour series gives you a small but memorable taste of the adventures waiting for you in Southeast Asia.
Thanks for joining us on our 48-hour tours of the ASEAN region. We can’t wait to see you trekking through Southeast Asia in person.