Backpacking in Laos Part 1 of 3: Vientiane

Also read:

10 Days in Malaysia & Laos – Budget & Itinerary

A Weekend in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Laos is such a beautiful country and I can’t believe that not so many people don’t know about it. Prior to our trip, I told some friends about where I was going and these were some of the reactions I got:

  1. Are there even good places to see in Laos?
  2. Laos still exists? I thought it was conquered by _____.
  3. Where is Laos? It’s in Asia? Is it a city?
  4. You are the only person I know who’ll take a trip there.

Don’t worry, I tried to respond to these questions/statements to the best of my abilities and to share what I know about Laos. I did my research about where to go and what to expect, but I still learned so much about this country during the trip itself. So I’m sharing my experiences in this blog in hopes that it might convince you to visit Laos too 🙂

A sneak peek of Laos

The Flight: Air Asia

We tried our best to sleep as long as we could at KLIA 2 until it was time to check in for our flight. I wasn’t able to get much sleep maybe because I was too excited.

If you have an early morning international flight from KLIA 2, be informed that there are very limited options for food at the departure terminal. At 5 AM, Gloria Jean’s was the only cafe that was open. Everyone who was hungry and waiting for their flights flocked to the cafe as soon as it opened.

Our flight to Laos wasn’t very pleasant because of the other passengers. I was able to sleep for most of the flight, but I kept waking up every now and then because of the noise. There were some passengers a few rows behind us, who made so much noise. They were talking and laughing so loudly. Some of them even stood at the aisles so they can converse with their companions closely. A flight attendant reminded them not to be so loud and for the people standing in the aisles to sit down because they were blocking the way to the lavatory to no avail. They continued on for like forever. Keep in mind that this was a 6 AM flight, so I’m sure that most passengers would rather sleep during the flight.

Upon arriving at Wattay International Airport, we got immigration cards to fill out and lined up to get our passports stamped. Philippine passport holders do not need a visa to visit Laos.

Before exiting the airport, we bought a taxi coupon from the taxi counter. This is to make sure that the taxi taking us to Vientiane wouldn’t overcharge us. The flat rate from the airport to the city is 7 USD per taxi. It was a bit expensive because the trip only took around 15-20 minutes.

Our Accommodation: Green Box Hotel

The accommodation we chose was located near famous landmarks so we could walk to almost anywhere from the hotel. The location and their affordable cafe are the only thing that I found positive during our overnight stay. I would recommend this hotel with caution. Maybe we were just unfortunate but this was what we experienced:

  1. We availed of capsule beds in the dorm rooms for 9 USD per pax. Karla and Myr were assigned a bed on the lower level, while Jayvee and I were supposed to sleep on the top level. Jayvee climbed up on our bed and she told me the sheets were dusty. So on the pretext of having a hard time climbing up the top bunks (which was also true), we requested to be transferred to beds on the bottom bunk. The staff asked if we were okay to stay in another room and we said okay. We were moved to a clean bed that time.

    Our bed

  2. The rooms itself were not so clean. There were bits of trash on the floor and the rugs looked like they been collecting dust and other particles for some time.

    The dorm rooms at Green Box Hotel

  3. There were mosquitoes in the room which the signs in the hotel warned us about. We had to put on some insect repellent before going to sleep.
  4. Jayvee and I lost our towels. We hung those towels by our beds before leaving the hostel and they were no longer there when we came back a couple of hours later. My towel was rented from the hotel so I kept asking for a replacement. Jayvee lost her personal towel so asked the staff for help in case housekeeping mistakenly included it in the dirty laundry when they cleaned the room. Our requests were not addressed because…
  5. The staff had a hard time communicating in English. I had a feeling they didn’t understand our situation even after explaining several times, so Jayvee and I both gave up. Tak (not sure about the spelling of his name), who was on morning duty when we checked in was so helpful. He was the staff who moved us into another bed when we requested it. The other staff were not so responsive because of the language barrier 😦

To balance things out, I’m listing the things I liked about Green Box Hotel:

  1. The location – it was near the famous landmarks, so we were able to walk for most of our DIY Vientiane City Tour.
  2. Breakfast is included in the room rates. I wasn’t able to take a photo of their breakfast spread, but it consisted of toast, spreads, banana, coffee and tea. Basic but filling.
  3. There were plenty of showers rooms for each floor so we didn’t have to line up for long to wait our turns.
  4. Food at their cafe was so affordable. We ate lunch there just after we checked out and while waiting for the van to take us to Vang Vieng.
  5. The hotel was also near STB Bank where we exchanged our US dollars to Laotian kip. From what I’ve read, you can only exchange your money to Laotian kip once you’re in Laos and it’s best to do it in a bank because they have the best rates. I found the latter part to be true. STB’s exchange rate that time was $1 = 8,268 kip while others were around 8,100-8,200. I feel that this isn’t such a big deal though because the smallest bill they had is 500. The amount I exchanged should have been equal to 1,587,456 kip but the cashier didn’t give me the 456. LOL.

    Green Box Hotel Cafe

Itinerary: 2D/1N

Day 1 – Vientiane City Tour

We started with the our city tour walk after a late lunch. Along the way, we passed by Lao National Cultural Hall which looked impressive but didn’t interest us enough to explore what it contained.

Lao National Cultural Hall

Our next stop was That Dam or Black Stupa since it was  nearest from Green Box Hotel. The stupa appears neglected and not so grand. Legend says that it was once covered in gold, but it was stolen by the Siamese army when they ransacked Vientiane in the 1820s. There is no entrance fee here.

That Dam

Just across the street, was a stall selling iced coffee. My companions are coffee lovers so they didn’t miss the chance to try Lao coffee for the first time. It was love at first sip for them 🙂

This little stall sold one of the most delicious coffee my companions have tasted according to them

Continue reading


A Weekend in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Also read:

10 Days in Malaysia & Laos – Budget & Itinerary

We decided to stay in Malaysia for the weekend before flying to our intended destination which was Laos. I and my companions have already explored Kuala Lumpur in the past so we discussed where to stay. I originally wanted to explore Melaka but Jayvee has already been there. It was Jayvee who suggested going to Cameron Highlands because she wanted to see the tea plantations there. A quick Google search about Cameron Highlands had all of us agreeing immediately. LOL.

My Companions

Jayvee and Karla have appeared on my blog so many times. However, it was my first time traveling with Myr. This trip became so much more fun and unforgettable because they were with me. I couldn’t count how many times I laughed until my belly ached because of them. I am so happy to have kaladkarin friends like them and who are on the same wavelength as I 🙂

L-R: Jayvee, Myr, Karla, Ruby at the peak of Mossy Forest

The Flight: Cebu Pacific

We could easily have skipped the trip to Cameron Highlands and went straight to Laos if not for the fact that we were flying with Cebu Pacific. This airline is notorious for its delayed flights and we didn’t want to risk missing our flight to Laos in the early morning if we flew to Kuala Lumpur at midnight on the same day.

Surprisingly, our flight wasn’t delayed even though it was one of the last flights to leave NAIA Terminal 3. We arrived past midnight in Kuala Lumpur and decided to wait there until early morning to go straight to Cameron Highlands. It was easy enough to find seats and catch some sleep at the airport.

How to go to Cameron Highlands

Commuting to Cameron Highlands from KLIA 2 was so easy. I was impressed with the transportation system in Kuala Lumpur. Just before exiting KLIA 2, we found ticket counters for shuttle buses bound for different places in Kuala Lumpur. We just approached one of the ticket counters and asked for tickets to TBS-BTS.

Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS): Kuala Lumpur’s Central Bus TerminalThe Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) is the central bus terminal in Kuala Lumpur. It is connected to Bandar Tasik Selatan (TBS) train station, hence the name TBS-BTS. A faster option to go to TBS would be via the KLIA Ekpres. We chose the bus because it was way cheaper and we weren’t in a hurry. We arrived at TBS in under 1 hour.

Bus schedules are posted for everyone’s reference

I was amazed once I arrived at TBS. It looked like an airport terminal. We bought tickets in just under 5 minutes because they had a centralized ticketing system. This meant that we could go to any counter and just tell the agent where we were going. The agent just pulled up all the buses and the scheduled departures going to Cameron Highlands and we chose our preferred time or bus company.

Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS): Kuala Lumpur’s central bus terminal. Ticket counters are located on the second floor

The tickets indicated our gate number where we would wait for our bus to arrive. The screen on our assigned gate indicated that we were ready for boarding 10 minutes before our departure and another agent arrived to scan our tickets. Everything was so efficient and new to me that it got me wishing that we had the same system in Manila.

Waiting area for passengers at the ground floor

This wasn’t our bus, but this was the gate where we had to wait. Our bus arrived after 10 minutes.

I was asleep for most of the trip, but woke up when we were traversing the zigzag roads going up to Cameron Highlands. I have to mention that our driver was so careful and didn’t go over the speed limit while driving.

It took around 4 hours with 2 stopovers to arrive in Cameron Highlands. We alighted at the bus terminal, immediately looked for lunch, and went to find our guesthouse which was walking distance away from the town.

Our Accommodation: Mentigi Guesthouse

Our guesthouse was really walking distance away from the town, but what we didn’t know was that it was an uphill walk. LOL. They provided free shuttle to and from the terminal, but their shuttle wasn’t there when we arrived and I forgot to inform the guesthouse our estimated time of arrival. So we decided to walk.

We chose Mentigi Guesthouse because it was the cheapest guesthouse with good reviews in Agoda. I didn’t notice that there was no air conditioning when I booked, but it wasn’t really a concern when we were finally able to feel the cold weather of Cameron Highlands. It also helped that Allaine and Ver who took turns manning the reception area were Filipino. They were so friendly with all the guests and we felt at home because of them.


We reserved the room that could accommodate 4 people and it was more than enough for us. My favorite part was the bed and the blankets. It was so hard to leave their warmth every morning when confronted with the cold and rainy weather. LOL.

Mentigi Guesthouse’s room for 4. It was a lot neater before we arrived and made a mess of things. LOL.

Our room had a veranda, coffee making facilities, hair dryer and a water heater in the bathroom – all of which, we thoroughly enjoyed.

The guesthouse also had a garden area which we only enjoyed during our last day because it finally stopped raining!

Breakfast wasn’t included in the room, but there were snacks for sale at the reception.

Itinerary: 3D/2N

Day 1: Night Market

We arrived in Cameron Highlands around noon. Our original plan was to drop our bags at the guesthouse and immediately explore the town of Tanah Rata. The rain made that impossible since we were only planning to walk around the town. So we napped the afternoon away until it was time to leave for the Night Market.

Pasar Malam

The Night Market or locally called “Pasar Malam” is a famous tourist attraction in Cameron Highlands. The bazaar only takes place on weekends and during holidays. There is a wide array of products sold here: native products, food, merchandise, vegetables, plants and souvenirs. It was a 10-15 minute drive away from Mentigi Guesthouse. There is no public transportation in Cameron Highlands so taxis are always the answer when you want to go somewhere.

Fresh vegetables

Lovely flowers from the highlands ❤

There were only a few people when we arrived at the Night Market because it was still raining. Luckily, we had umbrellas and raincoats with us. We had the best time trying out all the local foods there. Our favorite find was a stick of strawberries already coated in hardened chocolate. The first bite of chocolate and the juice suddenly oozing from the strawberry was heavenly.

Chocolate & strawberries are always a good idea ❤

Our dinner that night for only MYR 6!

We wanted to explore more but the rains were getting heavier and we were getting wetter despite our umbrella and raincoats. We decided to go back to the guesthouse and rest because we had an early start the next day. Continue reading

10 Days in Malaysia & Laos – Budget & Itinerary

I was able to book affordable roundtrip tickets to Laos through one of AirAsia‘s seat sales. Laos has long been on my travel bucketlist primarily because of Kuang Si Falls. I was finally able to realize that dream. The only problem was that the flight to Laos would be from Malaysia as there are no flights to Laos from the Philippines. And so we booked roundtrip tickets to Kuala Lumpur from Manila and decided to spend a couple of days in Malaysia before flying to Laos. Since I and my companions have already explored Kuala Lumpur, we chose Cameron Highlands as our destination this time.

We spent 3 days in Malaysia and 7 days in Laos. I was able to record all of my expenses throughout the 10 days and thought to share it here. There are 3 different currencies you will see on the table below: expenses in Laotian kip (lak) while in Laos, expenses in Malaysian ringgit (Myr) while in Malaysia and expenses in Philippine peso (Php) for all the reservations and pre-bookings we did before the trip. I converted the overall total in USD at the bottom of the image.

The itinerary includes ALL expenses: accommodation, flights, food, shopping, snacks, laundry, etc. I hope this helps you out when planning for a similar trip 🙂

I’ll be writing about our trip in more detail in the upcoming weeks!

Please click on the picture to view the details more clearly 🙂