I’ve been playing a game with my travels – looking back at places I have visited and forcing myself to decide whether I think they are underrated or overrated. Even if I think they are completely deserving of the reputation they have, I must decide whether they slip just above or below the line. I’ve already done this with Thailand so now I’ll move on to my second round – Hong Kong and Laos.
So, looking at where I visited in Laos (and Hong Kong separately) here’s whether I think each place is underrated or overrated.
Hong Kong is one of the most famous cities on the globe and one of a handful which has been given the title “world city.” Is it deserving of this reputation? In my opinion, yes. I will never forget landing in Hong Kong following a 14 hour flight to begin our epic trip around the world, being whisked through the city from the airport in a taxi at night and glancing out the window at the neon skyline and dark alleyways; I felt like I’d been transported into the movie Blade Runner. It was my first taste of East Asia and I was completely overwhelmed for the entire week. Hong Kong is a dazzling city of towering skyscrapers, neon lights, bustling markets, and clear blue ocean. Aside from its frantic metropolis side, Hong Kong also has a number of peaceful and scenic islands which you can travel to on a ferry. Despite its reputation as one of the best cities in the world, there’s no way I can say Hong Kong is overrated so I’m going to say it’s….
I had high hopes for Luang Prabang as every description of it sounded idyllic; the guidebooks and websites waxed lyrical of a tranquil gem nestled in the mountains. I was looking forward to relaxing, learning about the local culture, and observing life in an authentic Laos town. However, this turned out not to be what happened at all – what the guidebooks and articles didn’t say was that Luang Prabang is very touristy. It is nice enough place but authentic Laos town it is not; the main street is lined with restaurants heaving with tourists and as it is small its entire identity feels shaped by the tourism. For these reasons, and because of all the praise that is heaped upon it, I think Luang Prabang is…
Vang Vieng is a Laos town famous for tubing (floating down its river in a big rubber ring), a blue lagoon which you can swim in, and its caves. It is nice, the scenery of the surrounding mountains are particularly nice, but it’s nothing special and it gets a lot tourists so for those reasons I am going to say it’s…
Vientiane is the capital of Laos and its largest city. Unlike Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, it doesn’t get many tourists, probably because there isn’t a whole lot for tourists to do. As Laos was colonised by France, Vientiane has lots of French architecture, like tree lined boulevards and buildings with shutters and red tiled roofs. It even has its own Arc De Triomphe in the Patuxai, an arch shaped war memorial which was designed to mimic the actual Arc de Triomphe. Vientiane felt like the most authentic Laos place we visited and it doesn’t get many tourists, so for these reasons I’m going to say it’s….
When I’ve spoken to people who have travelled around South East Asia many of them have told me Laos was their favourite country. I have to admit, I don’t understand this and I can’t help but think it’s because it’s the least known country in the region so they subconsciously believe it is more exciting than it actually is. In my opinion Laos is not as interesting a place to visit as its neighbouring countries. It doesn’t have the stunning beaches and islands of Thailand, the fascinating historic memorials and museums of Vietnam and Cambodia, the variety of destinations as Malaysia, and the uncharted intrigue of Indonesia. But yet, tourists continue to flock there and continue to say they love it. For for these reasons, I think Laos is…