Tag Archives: Thailand

Luang Prabang in Laos

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Girl's shoes abandoned at the night market

Luang Prabang definitely shows off it’s French influences. The quaint Laotian town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so it has a certain look to obtain. Most of the restaurant and guesthouse signs have yellow-gold raised wooden lettering on a brown wooden background. There is a never ending supply of cute restaurants and cafes to tickle your fancy.

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The night market

Luang Prabang Night Market
Having come from eye-level markets in Thailand with each vendor having their own upright stall space, the low tents with produce displayed on the ground at Luang Prabang were a new, somewhat unusual sight for my eyes. At first glance it seemed quite a drab place but once I entered the long tunnel of tents, I was emersed. Clothes and bags were in their plenty, as well as jewellery made out of used bullets. It was easier to bargain for a good price here than in Thailand. So much so that I had bargained and agreed a good price for a bag for my friend before she’d even seen it. Thank goodness she liked it and bought it!

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Veggie food (apologies about the blur)

Street food
A few alleys filled with street vendors lay just off the night market. There was barbecued meat on sticks, and veggies galore. I filled a bowl full of vegetarian delights–noodles, rice, spring rolls, and prawn crackers. It cost 1 euro 50 cent. Definitely worth it!

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One of the pools at the falls


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Kuang Si waterfall


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A quiet reverie

Kuang Si Falls
Kuang Si waterfall was a spectacular sight of clear turquoise water. It’s about a forty-five minute tuk tuk/sawngteaw ride outside of Luang Prabang. The price we paid included the driver waiting for us until we returned at a premeditated time. Perfectly clean turquoise pools sit at the bottom of the waterfall with thick branches to jump off. A bridge at the bottom was the perfect spot for photo opportunities and to see the water cascading down the cliff face. Myself and a slew of others followed two Irish friends who had been at the falls a few days previous. We trekked up the left side of the waterfall and when we reached the top we began to make our ascent down it (yes, down the actual watery waterfall, full of it’s rocks and water). At first a little gate led the way, then as we went further down, short metal rods stuck out of the rocks to guide us down to a private pool where we jumped off rocks a few metres high. Of course we had great fun and many GoPro videos of energetic jumps were shot.

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Hilltop view

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Young girls selling at the bottom; Orna's temple outfit, aka my scarf; view from the top

Hilltop view at Wat Com Si Temple
We climbed a couple of hundred steps up to the banjaxed-looking temple in the centre of Luang Prabang to get a view of the city and Mekong river. It was a few kip to get up there. The view was nice, but probably better to go at sunset. We bought little doll keyrings off two girls at the bottom. They told us we were beautiful with gorgeous smiles. Sometimes I’m not sure if they actually mean it or are just reaming off something they have been thought or thought to believe.

I didn’t quite make it up at the crack of dawn to watch the daily Alms Giving Ceremony where monks get donations of food from the public. Monks rely on getting food from the local people and Luang Prabang has become famous for tourists to ogle them in their daily activity. Part of me was glad I didn’t go to watch.

A night on the town
A few of us decided to do as the tourists do and go to Utopia bar. It’s a cool, chilled venue with good music to dance to. Which I did. It also has a beach volleyball court. That I didn’t do. After a dance and a few gin and tonics, we went on the Luang Prabang Rite of Passage–the bowling alley. It’s the only place that stays open after 12pm in the town so it was an absolute must. A bunch of drunk tourists bowling and drinking more beer was exactly what it was, with those more intoxicated playing atrociously!

Relax, Relax, Relax
One day I only left our room to eat dinner downstairs. I was feeling a little ‘off’ and probably getting worn out from the hectic travel plans. My lovely, dear friend Orna was kind enough to bring me breakfast in bed, snacks for our movie afternoon, and a takeaway dinner. It was definitely a much-needed pyjama day. I think when you’re travelling you can get caught up in the adventure of it all and forget that a day of rest can be just as good.

Getting lost
For quite a small town I found it difficult to find my way around. If it wasn’t for the three others I was with I would have been constantly lost. My confusion was a combination of water bordering three sides of the town and the identical signage. Thanks guys!

If in Laos, this town is definitely worth a trip.

Where I stayed:
We wandered around to try find somewhere with a reasonable price. We eventually followed a guy on a motorbike that had two beds in a room for 5 euro each so we went with it. I wouldn’t recommend it though. The toilets were smelly and we had to scale the gates when we got back from our late night out.

Getting from Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand into Laos via land border and onwards to slow boat towards Luang Prabang

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I made the decision for myself and my travel buddy that we wouldn’t use the cushy way to get into Laos. We could have paid 1550 baht (41.86 euro) to a travel agent who would collect us from our hotel and organise all our transport along the way, including helping fill out our visa forms and handing in all our documents at the border. Basically being spoon fed.

Instead, I got talking to a older Australian man at our guesthouse, accompanied by Thai girlfriend of course, and decided to join them on their journey. I figured a Thai-speaker and a man who’d been to Laos many times were just as good as a tourist organised operation. I wanted the challenge rather than the easy option.

This is how the journey to the slow boat panned out:

Local bus from Chiang Rai to border town Chiang Khong – 65 baht (1.76 euro)
We were told at our guesthouse that we needed to catch the first local bus at 6 am to be sure that we’d make the slow boat at 10 am in Huay Xai. It was a five minute walk in the dark with odd sounds coming from buildings around us. In the words of my friend, the bus was quite ‘Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry’. It was a rackety old thing with no leg room and enough space for 1.5 people on the bench type seats. 

It took two hours to get to Chiang Khong, the border town.

Tuk tuk to border control – 50 baht (1.35 euro)
We got dropped off on the middle of a highway where a line of tuk tuks were waiting to bring us to the border to get stamped out of Thailand. We saw a Tuk tuk handing some money to the bus driver (probably as a way of thank you for dropping us off at their Tuk tuk establishment).

It was a few minutes journey and not worth the money but it’s how it’s done.

Bus over bridge into Laos – 25 baht (0.68 euro)
After border control there were buses waiting outside to bring us across the bridge that divides Thailand and Laos. Apparently it used to be easier a few years ago when you crossed by boat over the border further north.

Apply for Laos visa – 35 US dollars (30.80 euro)
We got into the building, rushed to get a form to fill out the ‘Arrivals’ section along with about two other similar forms and handed them into a guy at a hatch. We waited as our visas were processed by a person who never saw our faces. We had to wait for our names to be called with a fresh visa inside. It can be the luck of the draw if your passport gets to the top or bottom of the pile to process.

As far as I saw visas cost either 30 or 35 euro depending on nationality. They only took one passport photo, not two. But I’m sure this could change from day to day. I think scamming can also happen at times but I’ve found being there early in the morning helps rather than late afternoon. 

Tuk tuk to slow boat – 100 baht (2.70 euro)
The tuk tuks were lined up and waiting to take us to where we wanted. We waited a few minutes to let it fill up. We heard him quote us something different until some locals got in and the price went up.

Slow boat ticket – 950 baht (25.70 euro)
As it’s a well-used border area, bahts are still used and accepted. We thought the time for the slow boat was 10 am. It had a sign up stating 11 am and we left after 12 pm. 

Total:
1190 baht = 32.18 euro

Total saving:
360 baht = 9.83 euro

Note:
These transportation prices in baht were true as of 19 November 2014 and the euro exchange prices were correct as of 27 February 2015. The visa price was for an Irish individual travelling by land from Thailand into Laos on 19 November 2014.