Archive for the ‘Laos Travel Story’ Category

Luang Prabang Journey

Feeling abit rough from the night before and still tired from the Gibbons experience we set off early down the Mekong river on yet another slowboat, this time for 2 days with a 1 night stop over in a shady port called Pak-beng. Jan was feeling particually bad because on of her rare but painful cluster head ache had kicked in.
Day 1
The boat was very over crowded but we expected this so got up extra early to make sure that wed get a seat.Six of the backpackers that we met were also on the boat so all sat together which was good,but also meant that by about 1pm the beers had started flowing, while taking in the views,playing cards and chatting, but Jan was still suffering bless her so she tried her best to curl up and sleep on the edge of the boat.
We stopped constantly all day at different villages along the river, while the locals came aboard trying to sell crisps beers and clothes. One woman was swinging around a stuffed otter which she didnt manage to get rid of ,cant think why.
We arrived at the small port of Pak-beng which had nothing more to offer than some run down guest houses.It was about 5pm ish and was quickly starting to get dark,so imagine this a crammed boat full of travellers that had been stuck on the boat all day scambling about in the dark trying to find there bags.Then after fighting our way though to find our bags we had to climb over another 2 boats to get to land,then charge up the hill past all the locals trying to sell rooms to get a room for a better price before all the cheap ones were taken.This was abit of a challenge but not too bad.
Day 2
We were up early again to get a decent place on the boat,this ended up pretty much the same as the first day sitting together with our friends drinking beer and playing cards.When we arrived in Luang prabang the same thing happened all the backpackers were up and off the boat in a flash marching about to get the cheapest rooms.
Luang prabang is a small village that has its own character and alot of French influence.We spent afew days here just wondering about.We visited 2 of the many temples and spent most of our time spending all our bloody money at the fairly large night market.Nearly everything that is sold on the market is hand made, so Jan and myself were having a field day buying afew bits for the house that we haven’t got yet.It is also quite small so we kept bumping into all the other backpackers that we’d met, which meant we were forced to drink more beer with them(yeh right).We forced ourselves to get up at 5.45 one morning to watch what they call in Laos as giving arms.This basiclly is when up to 300 monks awake early every morning to recieve food food locals and tourists(mainly sticky rice) this is because they are not allowed to beg for or buy there food.The morning that we watched them there was about 150 or so it doesn’t last that long (which meant we got another hour in bed)but it was good to see.We left the same day to go to Viang Vieng our next stop.
(written by Hamsouth traveller)
Advertisements

Travel Around Vientiane

That Luang Temple

I have done the itinerary described below four times if I recall it well. On two occasions I just went to travel to Laos. On two other occasions I needed to go to the Thai consulate in Vientiane for a visa, and used the occasion to also revisit Luang Prabang.

The most economic way to reach Vientiane from Bangkok is to take a domestic flight from Bangkok to Udon Thani. This costs less than 2,000 baht. From the Udon Thani airport you can take a minibus to the Friendship bridge for 100 baht. The busride takes about one hour and will drop you off at a small bus station close to the border. There you can pay 10 baht to get on another bus that will take you to Thai immigration, and over the bridge to the Laos immigration. You will usually be told to put your luggage in the luggage compartment of the bus, so if you are worried about that, keep at least all your valuables with you while you are going though Thai immigration procedures. It will take about 5-10 minutes to do that. Immigration procedures, getting a visa on arrival at the Laos side, will take about 5-20 minutes. Do not forget you passport sized photographs, and 30 US$ cash for the visa on arrival. The last time I visited there was no local bank branch anymore at the site, so you will have to change some money at the banks in Vientiane to get the local currency (kip).

After going through immigration, you can take a taxi or soongthaew to Vientiane. It should cost you no more than 100 baht. Thai baht seems to be the accepted currency for this trip. The trip to Vientiane will take about 30-40 minutes. If you did not book a hotel in advance, Thanon Saam Seen Thai, is a good area to head for. There are many smaller and at least one big hotel in that area. I used to stay at Asian Pavillion hotel, about 20-30 US$ per night, but unfortunately the hotel has seen better days. A very good choice I think would be the Day Inn hotel. It is located at 059/3 Ban Sisakhet (behind the huge tourist hotel, I think it is called Lao Plaza). E-mail of the Day Inn :dayinn@laotelcom Prices are around 25 US$ a night.

To get around Vientiane, it is useful to rent a bicycle for about 10,000 kip per day. To keep it simple, 1 US$ is about 10,000 kip. You can change money at a local bank. You will need kip for the smaller purchases like food and drinks. Hotel bills can be settled in US$ and Thai baht likewise. Credit cards will be surcharged 3-4%.

Pha That Luang is about 3-4 km east out of town from central Vientiane. Pha That Luang is located on a vast open space. The gilded Pha is utterly beautiful in the full sunshine. During my last visit, lots of people were fixing tiles and repairing roof on all the surrounding temple buildings. A huge new temple building was being erected at the time of my last visit.

To get around Vientiane, it is useful to rent a bicycle for about 10,000 kip per day. To keep it simple, 1 US$ is about 10,000 kip. You can change money at a local bank. You will need kip for the smaller purchases like food and drinks. Hotel bills can be settled in US$ and Thai baht likewise. Credit cards will be surcharged 3-4%.

Pha That Luang is about 3-4 km east out of town from central Vientiane. Pha That Luang is located on a vast open space. The gilded Pha is utterly beautiful in the full sunshine. During my last visit, lots of people were fixing tiles and repairing roof on all the surrounding temple buildings. A huge new temple building was being erected at the time of my last visit.

On the way from and to Pha That Luang you will pass Pratuxaimonument. It resembles a famous building in Paris, at least from a distance. It is quite difficult to call it a beautiful monument, but it definitively has character. It is a good place to sit around for an hour in the late afternoon and observe what is going on. A lot of traffic on bicycles, cars and motorcycles pass around the place, but it still preserves some quietness. A lot of photographers seem to earn a living there, and some Laos peoples seem to date at the site.

In central Vientiane there are numerous other temples. Some older ones include Wat Si Saket (lots of Buddha images there) and Wat Prakaew, on which location once the Emerald Buddha has resided. Temples with active worshippers include Wat Si Muang and Wat In Paeng, both easily reached by bicycle.

About 20 km out of town(you actually pass close to the friendship bridge when going there) is Xieng Khuan, a ‘Buddha park’, with lots of weird sculptures of Hindu gods and Buddhas.

Strangely enough, I have to admit I do not have a lot of experience with Laos food, except for ‘laab kay’, minced chicken meat, preferably with sticky rice. The reason is that in the evening I usually head to theCentral Fountain, which is surrounded by a few French and one Italian restaurant. Food is expensive by local standards, but still quite reasonable in the 5-10US$ range for a whole meal. This area is also quite good to sit around in the evening and enjoy a good Beer Lao. The recently refurbished fountain seems to be popular with locals alike, so lots of people strolling around till about 10 P.M. Shortly thereafter, the restaurants will close, and everybody will head home.

At the fountain, you will also find the Scandinavian bakery, very popular with travellers. Lots of people there to enjoy breakfast in the morning and pastries throughout the day. You can get a lot of coffee refills there is you need it.