This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Laos guide provides a selection of literature to get you in the mood for your trip.
The classic travellers’ account of Laos is Norman Lewis’ A Dragon Apparent: Travels In Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, written after the author’s 1952 trip through French Indochina. It contains this passage on Laos: ‘Europeans who come here to live, soon acquire a certain recognisable manner. They develop quiet voices, and gentle, rapt expressions’.
One Foot in Laos (1999) by Dervla Murphy is the veteran Irish writer’s account of her lone bicycle trip through off-the-beaten-track Laos, written with passion for the local people. It includes some stinging assessments of travellers and modern ways.
Another Quiet American (2003), Brett Dakin’s account of two years working at the National Tourism Authority of Laos, reveals a lot about what drives (or not) people working in Laos, both local and falang.
Foodies will appreciate Ant Egg Soup (2004), Natacha Du Pont De Bie’s culinary-based travelogue that also includes recipes and illustrations.
More recent is In the Naga’s Wake (2006) by Mick O’Shea, the Lao-based adventurer who details his epic kayaking trip down the Mekong River from source to sea.
Several classic travel narratives by 19th-century French visitors to Laos have been translated into English, including Henri Mouhot’s Travels in Siam, Cambodia, and Laos. The book covers the 1858 to 1860 trip which resulted in the explorer’s death – he’s buried near Luang Prabang.
More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.