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We investigate both theoretically and experimentally the stochastic switching between two counter-propagating lasing modes of a semiconductor ring laser. Experimentally, the residence time distribution cannot be described by a simple one parameter Arrhenius exponential law and reveals the presence of two different mode-hop scenarios with distinct time scales. In order to elucidate the origin of these two time scales, we propose a topological approach based on a two-dimensional dynamical system.doi:10.1103/physrevlett.101.093903 pmid:18851614 fatcat:o5plq5d4gbe5bjcn7lps2z43fm