Laos Travel Part 3 Luang Prabang
The mini-van ride from Phonsavan to Luang Prabang was a bit over 6 hours. To say the road is curvy, is an understatement. There were 5 passengers in the van and we had enough space to “rock and roll.” During our trip, we had glimpses of how very beautiful Laos is.!!!
It was around 3 PM on Monday, November 7,2011 that we were dropped at the South Bus Station and as unfresh as we were, negotiated a tuk-tuk over to RIVERSIDE GUESTHOUSE at the Nam Khan River. This was “home” for 7 nights. Originally, we were going to spend a night at Nong Kiaw and return by boat, but respiratory problems that began in China just would not disappear and it was prudent to not make the trip. I was so sad to cancel at the Nong Kiaw Riverside.
We reserved the upstairs double, with a river view and a balcony! The in-season cost was $60/night. I thought it was pricey, but the location is a definite 10. Please read my review”Good, but Really a 3.5” 4/5. It took no time to “settle in” and begin walking the town. The adjectives that immediately came to mind were: enchanting and quaint. Over our 7 days of wandering and enjoying the natural pace and aura of this Unesco World Heritage Site we knew we would savor the serenity of the former royal capital of Laos before heading to the faster paced environment of Siem Reap.
Breakfasts at the Riverside were at tables overlooking the river and we enjoyed conversations w/several other guests. Aside from powdered coffee(OMG),the omelets and toast and bacon or sausage were filling and usually good. Lunches on our balcony consisted of yogurt,fruit and tea.
We became GREAT fans of SAFFRON and either morning or afternoon would pop in for coffee and……. Please read my review” Truly Outstanding Coffee”. 5/5. Restaurants we thoroughly enjoyed: LANG SUAN TROPICAL GARDEN….across the street from Coconut Garden. We spent $13US and had an excellent first night meal. COCONUT GARDEN. I did a review”Definitely a Winner” 5/5. TUM TUM CHENG. Also reviewed”Really a 3.5” 4/5. INDO CHINA SPIRIT “Good food and the price is right”4/5. Please read the review. We did have the Korean BBQ Hot Pot one night and it was just OK. At $7.50 one can’t complain. TAMNAK LAO was the “Perfect Last Night Dinner”.5/5 Read the review.
We know the night we ate at VIEW KHAEM KHONG ….we did NOT end up at the correct restaurant. TAMARIND was just not meant to be for us. It was either filled at the time we wanted to dine or it was closed.(sigh).
SO……..what did we do for seven days?????????
WAT XIENG THONG was a definite button pusher. The magnificent mosaics throughout will remain in my “data bank” forever.
The ROYAL PALACE MUSEUM is definitely gorgeous and a worthwhile stop. Take note that at the time we were there it is closed on Tuesdays.
The WAT PA HUAK MUSEUM is a short stop to admire the 19th century murals that have not been restored.
WAT SOUVANNA POURMARAN: stopped and enjoyed along with MANY others temples during the course of our galavanting.
BAN THAT LUANG was a destination on November 10…..but the festivities were beginning too late for these 2 “old folks”.
Yes, we got up early for the BUDDHIST ALMS PROCESSION and I certainly remained discreet, but the hoardes of tourists that arrived in mini-vans certainly made me uncomfortable.
MT. PHOUSI @ SUNSET was more than underwhelming for us. DH humored me and so we climbed the hill (great exercise), but the crowds,haze, shrubs and trees had us walking down almost as quickly as we arrived at the top. Perhaps early AM…..without the crowds….is the best time to go.
Our RAMBLE AROUND THE PENINSULA was another button pusher. We did it more than once and discovered something new each time.
I was not successful in finding a local barber for a haircut in Vientiane,but on our walk to Ban That Luang I zeroed in on one and a day or two later I waited my turn. In Asia, the land of long hair, I literally caused an audience to form as here was woman getting a man’s buzz. After my LOCAL HAIRCUT we had a memorable conversation with a 64 year old Lao male who worked in France for 30 years and came home to retire in LP, because it is cheaper than France.
Our BIKE RENTAL at Riverside Guesthouse was $2/each/day. In the AM we biked over to PHOUSI MARKET,having lots of fun. Since this was still considered the beginning of our 63 day trip this local market was refreshing for its food,clothes,tools etc. By the end of our trip, we were “marketed out”. I certainly was not as relaxed on our afternoon ride, when we found ourselves BIKING ACROSS THE NARROW WOODEN BRIDGE. I thought this was THE END for me. I never concentrated so hard in my life. After making it across and biking around……we had to go back. YIKES……another concentration event. We had some other bike destinations….never found them….but it didn’t matter. IT”S THE EXPERIENCE that counts. Do rent a bike. You’ll love it.
TEAC: Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center. Yes, we walked over, but only I explored it. DH was a happy camper talking with the ticket taker. The exhibition space is small, but well done. The costume displays show exceptionally fine quality. This is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the cultural resources of Laos. While the adjoining café enjoys kudos, we did not stop there. You may want to.
We had a sunny day when we went to the PAK OU CAVES. We purchased our boat tickets the night before at Treasure Travel Laos. ($20 for the both of us). The boat ride was another button pusher . It was a glorious day on the water. We stopped at Whiskey Village first and then got to THAM TING after 11 AM. Lots of turistas, especially the lower cave. I walked to the upper cave. DH did not. He asked”Was it worthwhile?” My answer: EVERYTHING’S AN EXPERIENCE. Our round trip boat ride, with 2 other interesting couples, was memorable for its mountain scenery & visually interesting boat traffic. Do you realize the Pak Ou Caves is a cemetery for discarded Buddha images?
We never tired of walking the LATERN LIT NIGHT MARKET with it’s low pressure vendors. Since at this stage of our lives we are shedding, we consider the markets a local handcraft museum and enjoy immensely.
We supported the economy by enjoying great FOOT MASSAGES and a manicure and pedicure were totally irresistible.
BIG BROTHER MOUSE was on our agenda and so one morning we walked over and each worked one on one with a high school student practicing English. This turned out to be an intense 2+ hours. It was extremely interactive with many questions being asked along with interpretation requests. There were many volunteers and many students that AM. When I questioned why all males, the answer was “ the girls have to stay home and help with the housework and cooking.”
I’m sure there are items I have unintentionally left out. But you get the gist of this wonderful and beautiful destination. We are glad we gave it ample time….because the one thing we have IS TIME.
On Monday,November 14 2011 we were sad to leave Laos but also eager to spend 2 weeks in Cambodia,another first for us. Thank you to ALL, who put up with my forum questions and PM’s. You ARE the best.
HAPPY NEW YEAR !