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Laos – Luang Prabang – 25th-1st March

We opted for a minivan to take us to Luang Prabang, it cost 110,000 kip as opposed to the 90,000 kip fee for a VIP bus, we’d heard that the roads are very windy indeed from Vang Vieng and we figured it would be quicker option for us too. Corrinne was still in tow so we all travelled together to the north. The roads were very up and down, perhaps more up than down but the views were amazing, anyone who get’s to do this journey in their own time is in for a real treat as we would have loved to stop along the way to take photographs. We did get one chance at a food stop area high up in the mountains, and yes this time we mean mountains.

The mini van got into Luang Prabang at around 4pm and we stopped at a bus station just outside of town so we had the customary bartering for a tuk-tuk to take us into town. We roughly knew where we wanted to stay so when we were dropped off it was a case of seeing watt was available. Accommodation does cost more in Luang Prabang unless you’re prepared to stay in the dingiest guesthouses, which to be fair we’re not. So we had a look around and found a place where we could all get a room for 100,000 kip/room. The guesthouse we wanted to stay at The Oudomphone Guesthouse was full and there outside sat Floss enjoying a beer, we knew there would be a room free the next day as she was checking out so later on we went to arrange a room for 80,000 kip per night. We enjoyed the local night market and some reasonably priced food on the river front along with Floss and Corrinne, followed by a trip to one of the bars where there was an Asian fashion show taking place.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

Over the next few days our stay in Luang Prabang saw us take in the world heritage site over and over again, it can’t be helped as temples and old French colonial buildings are everywhere. There are several temples and monasteries throughout town, along with a few up on top of hills looking out over the landscape. We opted for this one later in the day for sunset along with lots of other tourists so we didn’t stay for too long. We ate tuna and salad baguettes, freshly prepared on the street stalls, we drank many a cheap fruit shake and enjoyed the cheap 10,000 kip all you can eat street style buffet. As well as going cheap we ate at a very fancy western restaurant at the opposite end of town from the market heading out towards the older temples, the greek salad and pizza was some of the best western food we’ve eaten yet. The Joma bakery also did us proud in providing very good bagels which we bought for breakfast most days.

We got up at 5.30am one morning to watch the monks take their alms from locals and tourists offering food. This is a very traditional and important part of the monks day, and we do appreciate the history and significance of the offerings. However here it has become a huge tourist attraction with many a person shoving cameras and flashes into their faces. We were really surprised by this as are told over and over again about the etiquette involved in this particular ceremony, we don’t doubt that some of the offerings are genuine but it really does appear on the surface to be more of a tourist event now than anything else. Okay so we went to have a look and took some of our own photographs but we kept our distance and observed the tourist onslaught, of which some are also monks!!

We shopped at the slightly touristy night market, and people watched as they bargained for their goods. We strolled the streets looking for charms to photograph of which we were presented with many. One day wasn’t quite so successful and saw Helen come off her bicycle, boo!! She manages to take the skin off her toes, bash her left knee and right ribs, she was a little upset and worse for wear for a few days with good bandaging to show the extent of her wounds!! Silly bikes with no gears and cycling in flip flops on hilly roads, a lesson to be learned by us all!

So with a wounded soldier in tow, we managed to take a tuk-tuk to the most famous waterfall in the area along with Corrinne. We paid 150,000 kip between us to leave when we wanted to (this can be done cheaper the more people there are). The waterfalls are very nice indeed, clear turquoise and green water, big drops and pools to swim in, the main drawback is that everyone goes there, but it is a beautiful place to spend a few hours so we still recommend it if you can get there early enough. We also used the time to catch up on the blog and use the time to fully relax, taking in a few more cafes around town and crossed over to a little shack opposite the top end of Luang Prabang, where we looked out over the Mekong on onto our last sunset in Laos.

We booked a flight with Treasure Travel based on the main street in the centre of town moving away from the night market and towards the older monasteries. They did us a nice deal and included a taxi pick up to the airport and the flight ticket with taxes for $140 each. After asking around a lot this was the best price we got and were happy to pay this amount, it also mean’t we would get a 30 day visa upon entry into Thailand with less faffing and expense on the other side to arrange visa runs. We did miss the epic Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai 2 day boat journey which we’ve heard is a great travelling experience, but we were more than happy to get to Chiang Mai at a quicker pace after many a long bus, boat and train journey on our travels so far.

We enjoyed our time in Laos and were surprised at how developed the country is compared to Cambodia, we got the impression that Thailand has a large influence over here in terms of trade and business. Cost of living is going up and the cities are very well maintained and not over crowded whatsoever.

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