SOUTH EAST ASIA 2013

LUANG PRABANG, LAOS

All photos © Ruud Leeuw

 

 

 

Luang Prabang, Laos
Our departure from Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Luang Prabang saw the only rain in 3 weeks. A quick heavy downpour.

Luang Prabang, Laos
The Vietnam Airlines flight would continue from Luang Prabang to Hanoi, but was far from full.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Included in the air fare was a snack and coffee; these days such service feels like a bonus.

Luang Prabang, Laos
There was quite some intense cloud activity, appeared like a lunar landscape.
We had a comfortable flight though.

It was dark by the time we landed at Luang Prabang airport. Passing immigrations (buying visa, getting stamps) and claiming our luggage was done in less than 15 minutes for the few disembarking passengers (not more than 20 or so).

We handed over our passports, plus a form we had completed during the flight (obtained from cabin crew), had to fill in another form while in the immigrations queue, handed over a photo for the visa and reclaimed our passport at another booth while paying 35 US dollars p.p. and US $1,- p.p. service charge..
They love those US dollars but it isn't commonly used in street transactions such as in Cambodia. We had to get used to the Laotian KIP ('LAK') and recalculate the large numbers back to simple dollars or euro: 100 LAK is a little more than one dollar cent so we had to get used to break down 100.000 figures. One euro will get you 10.000 LAK.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Outside the small terminal (there appeared to be another one, larger, but not in use) it appeared we had three options to get from the airport to town: 1. get a prepaid cab (which amounted to 7 US dollars for a 10 minute ride), 2. a pre-arranged pick up or 3. walk...
We opted for no.1
And soon we were enjoying a cool beer in town, at Rosella Fusion. That Beer Lao comes highly recommended!

 

Luang Prabang, Laos
The next morning we explored the area and found ourselves at a fruit- and vegetables market.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Hot snacks are prepared here; I should have tried some but the breakfast we just had in our hotel, the Lotus Villa, left very little to be desired.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang has several temples and here flowers are arranged for a religious tribute, for use at home or in a public place.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Little warriors.

 

 

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang is located in north central Laos, at the confluence of the Nam Khan river and the Mekong River (about 300 km north of Vientiane).
Until the communist takeover in 1975 (when the Pathet Lao communists seized power with North Vietnamese support and ended the ancient monarchy), it was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos.
It is now listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The main part of the city consists of four main roads located on a peninsula between the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers. This is where I had our hotel booked, the Lotus Villa Hotel.

The fact that one of the noteworthy landmarks in the city is a large steep hill, on which sits Wat Chom Si, shows that it is a quiet town with not a great deal to do. Many take a breather from travelling overland or on the Mekong river. On a seperate webpage I have reported on two excursions.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luang_Prabang
 

 

Luang Prabang, Laos
Ferry across the Mekong River, to Xieng Maen.

Luang Prabang, Laos
The point where the Nam Khan joins the Mekong River. The wet season will see a much, much higher water level.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Plenty of restaurants here in Luang Prabang, here with a nice view on the Nam Khan (Khan River).
We found a meal with a beer and side dishes (e.g. fried spring rolls) would set us back around 15 euro;
restaurants in the main street (Sakkaline Road; the Silver Spoon was good!) were often a little more dressed up, while restaurants along Khem Road (Mekong River side) or Kingkitsarath Rd (Nam Khan side) often were a little cheaper and the beer just as cold.

Luang Prabang, Laos
The Bamboo Bridge.
Walking across the Nam Khan will get you via a fairly steep climb to the Dyen Sabai restaurant, hidden from view here by the trees. A very nice place for some relaxed lounging. Bring a book.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Fishing is mostly done using nets.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Using the bridge will cost you (only one way), about 0.50 euro.
Once a year, after the rainy season, this narrow bamboo bridge is built over the Nam Khan River. When the rains return, the bridge has to be removed otherwise it would be swept away by the strong current; although it looked (and felt!) flimsy, it is actually supposed to be very strong. The fee you pay is in fact a construction fee.

 

 

Luang Prabang, Laos
This is the other side of the river; there wasn't much to see or do except visit that nice restaurant.
Looking at the houses, Luang Prabang reminded me, on both sides of the river, of a Swiss town.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Not exactly a hick town, is it?! Those drinks invariably came in a plastic bag, not in a cup or beaker.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Rushing to the doctor or hospital? She is holding up a drip for the child she has in front of her.

 

 

Luang Prabang, Laos
A Buddhist monk is holding up an umbrella against the fierce sun. And it was hot indeed!

Luang Prabang, Laos
Not sure what these are but I think these are popcorn waffles..? The sun created an outdoor oven.

Luang Prabang, Laos
You can see her thinking: "why don't you buy an icecream instead of taking pictures..?"

Luang Prabang, Laos
A very nice bookstore, Monument Books; came across one book ('Mékong', by Philippe Franchini and Lam Duc Hien) I really liked and considered buying, photos taken along the Mekong river - but the text was entirely in French. Will have to await an English edition.

Luang Prabang, Laos
The only Laotian word I managed to remember and use: "Kopchai!"

 

Laos traces its history to the kingdom of Lan Xang, which existed from the 14th to the 18th century when it split into three separate kingdoms. In 1893, it became a French protectorate, with the three kingdoms, Luang Phrabang, Vientiane and Champasak, uniting to form what is now known as Laos.
It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but returned to French rule until it was granted autonomy in 1949.
Laos became independent in 1953, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. Shortly after independence, a long civil war ended the monarchy, when the Communist Pathet Lao movement came to power in 1975.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laos

 

 

 

Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang has a number of temples too, but I felt I had seen all the temples I wanted to see, had my fill.
I did try to visit this large temple inside the Royal Palace complex, but found I could not take pictures anywhere inside so I went back and asked for a refund (which I was given) of my ticket. It did not feel like a great loss.

Luang Prabang, Laos
This was at another, smaller temple. Didn't go inside though, did not even look inside.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Kids playing on the steps at yet another temple.

 

 

Luang Prabang, Laos
Now this is what I enjoyed: the local library! Young Buddhist monks were studying behind computers in the next room, while this part had a selection of books and magazines available.

Luang Prabang, Laos
This I found fascinating: the 'Book Bag' boat trip. For 3 US dollars one could buy a book which you'd put in the large bag just visible on the left; when the bag was full it would be put on a boat and delivered to a community. I hope some kids there will enjoy the books I bought and selected. A very nice cause.

 

 

Luang Prabang, Laos
Across the Royal Palace complex is a 'nightmarket' (starts around 17:00) and they had the nicest souvenirs I'd come across this trip.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos
Sunset from Wat Chom Si.
Half way the stairs you'll be confronted with a ticket booth; either you climbed those for nothing (not a great view from that point) or you'll pay (roughly 2 euro p.p.) and continue upwards and onwards.
It was too cloudy to have much of a sunset, but it was reasonably nice to get to a point where you could see a large area of sprawling Luang Prabang. It was less nice to see Asian tourists (Koreans?, Chinese?) here dump litter (wrappers, empty plastic bottles) where they stood; they showed very little awareness for the environment.

 

 

Luang Prabang, Laos
We stayed here for four days (5 nights) and found Luang Prabang very relaxing, maybe a little too much even.
The streetscnene I never grew tired of.

Luang Prabang, Laos
I like that kid's frown!

Luang Prabang, Laos
Now how safe is that?!

Luang Prabang, Laos
I think he is making crêpes, the French influence.

Luang Prabang, Laos
A little shop, minimarket, where we often bought our bottled water or fruit juice. The girl collected our money but was too involved in her game to put it away, left it there and continued playing.

 

 


Luang Prabang is a nice place to restore energy after tiresome overland travel or by boat (e.g. 2 days from Thai border). Lots of travel agencies offer fares for bus travel (e.g. onward to Vang Vieng or Vientiane) or air fares. And they change money. There were more ATM's then I'd read about but some weren't working and most were restricted to credit cards such as Visa, but not Maestro.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Then it was time to leave, for Bangkok.

We paid 50.000 LAK (about 5 euro) for a tuk-tuk to the airport (20 minutes) through our hotel reception desk. There were no facilities at the airport to change LAK to Thai Baht (I had done that in town, what remained I could change in Bangkok). There was Wifi at the gate but for the access code one had to pay and for this one had to go back through security, which I didn't bother about.
Just like at Siem Reap we left ahead of schedule, in fact on the time we had printed as boarding time the aircraft closed its doors and taxied out.
And again we were treated on a full service on board this flight; we enjoyed a very pleasant flight with a courteous crew.
Bangkok, here we come again!


(Don't forget to visit my page on EXCURSIONS FROM LUANG PRABANG before joining me in Bangkok!)


 

 

External LINKS:
LAOS on Wikipedia
Luang Prabang on Wikipedia

 

 

 

BANGKOK 3-2013, a start
PHNOM PENH, CAPITAL OF CAMBODIA
ROYAL PALACE & SILVER PAGODA
STREETS of PHNOM PENH
CAMBODIA'S KILLING FIELDS
SIEM REAP
THE ANGKOR TEMPLES
EXCURSIONS FROM LUANG PRABANG
BANGKOK 3-2013, the end


 


 

 

 

Page compiled/updated: 23-Jun-2013 / 18-Jul-2013