Laos D5: Vientiane City Tour, Crossing to Thailand

Last night sleep was great and rejuvenating. We woke up slightly late today and headed for breakfast downstairs, next to the hotel lobby. Our accommodation in Vientiane, S Park Design Hotel, is a well-preserved and clean three star hotel with a bar and restaurant next to it. Our room is spacious and overlooking the city, making us feel that we are staying at a 4-star rather than 3-star hotel.

We took our time and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast since our pick up time today is at 9 am. There were lots of Korean teenagers in the lounge, I’m counting 20-25 people, probably heading to Vang Vieng for the adventure. Around 8.45 am, we saw our tour guide already waiting in the lobby, so we met him and began our city tour in Vientiane, the sleepy capital of Laos.

PSX_20190626_051112Wat Sisaket in Vientiane, Laos

The temples we visited in Vientiane are located close to each other, sometimes at a walking distance from each other. The first one was Wat Sisaket, a a yellow brick building surrounded by Buddha statues housed on the four side of the temple. Inside the temple is a large Buddha statue and a mat for prayer. Its inside walls and roof have a beautiful and detailed drawings of the ancient culture. As usual, photography is not allowed inside the temple and we have to put off our shoes when entering the building, so make sure you are wearing a comfortable and easy to wear shoes.

Within two minutes walking distance from Wat Sisaket is Haw Phra Kaew, which serves more as a museum rather than a temple, housing artifacts found across Laos such as Sanskrit writings on a stone dating back over 2000 years ago. Each of the temple we visited took around 10-20 minutes, with longer time if we are interested in learning particular aspect of the history.

PSX_20190626_051150Haw Phra Kaew in Vientiane, Laos

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4729.JPGMe and my mother in front of Haw Phra Kaew, Vientiane

Then we got back to our car and continued our tour to Pha That Luang, a gold-colored temple that was rumored to host a rib of the Buddha and is a national symbol of Laos. Like Wat Sisaket, it is surrounded by a structure housing Buddha statues on the four side of the temple. There were few women walking and chanting around the temple when we came, but other than that, the site was quite empty.

Next to the temple is a monastery where monks live and tourists are welcomed to visit, hosting a giant sleeping Buddha statue inside the complex. There were also statues telling the story of the Buddha with a monkey and elephant, a phase where the Buddha does not reach nirvana on the first meditation, when he went back to eating and was shunned by the people surrounding.

PSX_20190626_051527Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos

The next destination, located 10 minutes drive from Pha That Luang, is Patuxay Monument. Probably this is the best spot for photographer to see the whole cityscape and wait for sunset. Under the giant structure, there are shops selling ice cream and cold drinks, and also two staircases that lead to the top of the monument. On each level of the structure, you will find street vendors selling souvenirs.

PSX_20190626_051314Patuxay Monument in Vientiane, Laos

PSX_20190626_051426The Fountain as seen from the top of Patuxay Monument, Vientiane

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4734.JPGVientiane cityscape from the top of Patuxay Monument

We finished the downtown Vientiane part of the city tour at around 11.30 am, so we headed to Buddha Park that is located 30 minutes away from the city. The name pretty much explain itself. The park is built by a priest-shaman in 1958 and contain 200 Buddha statues, each telling stories of Buddha’s life. The more interesting part of the park is the “demon head”, pictured on the second photograph below. It is a pumpkin-shaped structure where you could enter inside and hike the three levels of the head, each representing hell, earth and heaven.

PSX_20190626_051713Buddha Park from the top of demon’s head structure in Vientiane, Laos

PSX_20190626_051752Buddha statue and the demon head in the background, inside Buddha Park, Vientiane

PSX_20190626_051842The Buddha being a mediator between fighting groups

The Buddha park is located at the Lao-Thailand border, two countries separated by the Mekong river. We had this crazy idea to cross to Thailand and visit the closest city called Nong Khai for two reason: first, for the sake of crossing to Thailand and second, to go to Starbucks. Our tour guide gladly accompany us on our expense and we rented a car and driver on the Laos border for $30 (a mistake we later realized).

The border is full of middleman and drivers offering their service for a day trip, many of them with malicious intent, including the one in contact with our tour guide. Don’t get it wrong, our tour guide is a nice guy, but he is just prone to the scam. After the border control, our middleman escort us to one of the driver on the Thailand side and extract kickback money of $10-15 from the driver with the promise that we will pay $30 later on for a two hours trip. Our driver, trying to recoup more money, tried to scam us to pay THB 120 for crossing the Thailand border, when none should be paid. We didn’t fall to his scam and got our stamp on the border by paying THB 20/person to the immigration officer, a payment which legality we questioned, but was demanded nevertheless.

PSX_20190626_044728Crossing the Lao-Thailand Friendship Bridge

Once in Nong Khai, we drove to the shopping mall hosting Starbucks and got our fix. We went around the mall to look around and study the type of store available. Unlike in Laos, there are international fast-food chain such as KFC. Then we drove to Nong Thin public park, a green space in the city with giant lake in the middle. we walked around for 40 minutes and took some pictures before heading back to Vientiane.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4749.JPGMe and my mother with our fix in Nong Thin Public Park, Nong Khai, Thailand

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4755.JPGBeautiful day in Nong Thin Public Park, Thailand

After crossing back, we met our driver and drove back to the city after having lunch on the road in between. We asked to be dropped at Hard Rock Cafe Vientiane, since we almost always visited Hard Rock at every city we have been through. It was just 3.30 pm when we finished our city tour and all of our itinerary in Laos! We headed back to hotel by tuk-tuk and took a shower afterwards.

Around 7 pm we went to Musso, a restaurant/bar next to our S Park Hotel, which turned out to be one of the best bar in Vientiane. I had a steak and my mother had a tom yum soup, both of which were good. There is also live music playing songs in the 80/90s and soon after a large group of Vientiane social-elite came to celebrate one of their birthday. An fan of luxury goods ourselves, we noticed thousand of dollars Hermes bag and fancy watches, things we thought we would not encounter on our trip here. Overall, I would recommend going to Musso for their live music and having a dinner in Vientiane, a perfect way to end our journey in Laos.

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Laos D4: Hot Air Balloon in Vang Vieng, Road Trip to Vientiane

PSX_20190624_214311Vang Vieng from a hot air balloon ride during the sunrise

 

This morning I woke up at 5 am to catch the sunrise on a hot air balloon. It has been my dream, for quite a while, to go for a sunrise or sunset on top of hot air balloon. My first opportunity to do so was in Cappadocia, Turkey back in 2012. However, the weather was not supportive at the time that I missed the window. The same goes on my trip to Bagan, Myanmar in 2016. So when I learned that there is a window of opportunity opening in Vang Vieng, I quickly seized it.

The ride itself cost US$90 and took around 30 minutes of flight. At 5.30 am, a pick up car stopped in front of my hotel gate with two Russian couples in it. I gave the ticket, given to me the day before during the reservation, to the driver and he told me to joined others on the back of the car. We were supposed to be picking up another passenger at other hotel, but after we waited over 10 minutes the driver decided to left her and called another backup car to pick her up separately.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4662.JPGPreparing for a liftoff in Vang Vieng, Laos

The hot air balloon ride started at an old airstrip in the city, where a giant balloon was laid on the ground connected to the basket where we would later stand on. It was quite interesting to learn how they pump the balloon from completely flat to as big as a house. First they use a giant fan connected to a generator to blow inside the balloon, a process that took about 5-10 minutes. Then they use the fire thrower, which looks more like a stove, to float the balloon. In less than 15 minutes, we were told to step up on the balloon and our journey began.

The liftoff was smooth and I felt that the whole process was taken care of in a professional manner. As we gain altitude, all of us started to taking photos and switching spots to get a better angle. I suggest to stick on one corner, as the balloon will eventually rotate itself, covering 360 degrees view even if you stick only on one side of the basket. To avoid the heat from the stove, I chose the corner near the door, which is the farthest one from the heat.

PSX_20190624_213824Downtown Vang Vieng during the liftoff

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4695.JPGGaining altitude in Vang Vieng, Laos

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4692.JPGMe and the others during the flight

The weather was cloudy, but when the sun rose, its ray still penetrates the clouds, giving a soft, orange light across the landscape. It was an amazing experience, to feel the cold air on your face and see the sunrise in the more exotic part of the world. We saw kids waving to us from the ground, herd of cattle running across a farm and clouds moving slowly in the sky.

After 25-30 minutes flight, the pilot started to descend the altitude and prepare for landing at a different spot from where we departed. When we were about 10 meters above the ground our basket hit a branch of a tree, but continued to move on and landed safely. The pick up car was waiting for us in the ground, along with 5-6 crews that will pull our balloon to the ground.

PSX_20190624_214829Observing Vang Vieng landscape from the air

PSX_20190624_215139Vang Vieng, Laos

PSX_20190624_215428Herds of cattle running in Vang Vieng, Laos

At 6.30 am, I was already back in the hotel and prepare for breakfast. Since the breakfast in our hotel, Riverside Boutique Villa, wasn’t ready and we felt like having a fancy one, we headed to the nicer hotel across our’s, at Riverside Boutique hotel. It was located on the same restaurant we had our dinner the day before and cost us $15/person. Variety and quality of food were decent, but the main attraction really was the location of the breakfast, which is at a patio overlooking the river.

We spent over three hours there, slowly digesting food and talking, not to mention checking our emails and social medias using the free wifi. The environment was pleasant and the weather was really nice, neither too hot nor humid in the morning. Closer to 10 am we headed back to our hotel and took a shower before our pick up time at 11 am.

PSX_20190624_215456Riverside Boutique Hotel in Vang Vieng, Laos

Our first site to visit today was Tham Jang Cave, located ten minutes away from downtown Vang Vieng. In order to get inside the cave, we have to walk inside a park and hike quite a lot of staircases (around 300). If you have ever been to Flute Cave in Guilin (China), you would see the similarities, except that this cave is smaller and without all the lights displayed in Guilin. There wasn’t anything particularly interesting other than the view from the top and its history; the cave was used by the locals to hide from the military back in the day.

Other than the places we visited yesterday, that was all we had planned for Vang Vieng! We continued our trip to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The landscape along the way from Vang Vieng to Vientiane was flat and not as interesting as the one from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng, so I spent most of my time listening to music and daydreaming for the next trip.

We had our lunch at a quite nice gas station, with a minimarket and a relatively clean restaurants, before arriving in Vientiane at around 4 pm. Our driver and tour guide dropped us at our hotel, S Park Design Hotel, and leaving us for the day. Since we weren’t tired yet and had plenty of time before the sunset, we decided to take a walk on the riverside, 30-40 minutes walking distance from our hotel.

PSX_20190626_050040.jpgTuk-tuk ride in Vientiane, Laos

We were rather disappointed, however, by the riverside. There were only few shops along the road and several not-yet-ready-to-open restaurants with an “ok” view. Luckily on the walk there, we saw one restaurant chain that we recognized, a Thailand hot pot restaurant called MK. We bargained for a tuk-tuk ride there for 20.000 Kip ($1.5) and had our early dinner before heading back to our nice hotel for rest.

 

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Laos D3: Vang Vieng, Nam Xay, Blue Lagoon, Tara Hotel

PSX_20190624_013231On the road to Vang Vieng, Laos

Today we started our day 9.30am, driving toward Vang Vieng from Luang Prabang. Vang Vieng was the “party capital” of SE Asia up until 2010 when the authorities cleaned up the city image.  Having done my research on the landscape, Vang Vieng gave high expectation for photographer like me. And as usual, we started our day with a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, then a shower.

The journey from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng took between 3-4 hours, a combination of mountainous terrain and a straight road afterward. Once we were driving up the mountains, the landscape became more gorgeous and the air were fresher. We opened the window and turned off our AC to profit from the nice weather, stopping on our way few times to take some pictures.

PSX_20190624_013405Cows blocking the road to Vang Vieng

There is a rest area on the top of the mountain (we couldn’t find the name) where technically we could see the landscape, however it was very foggy that we barely could see ten meters ahead. Once we descended the mountain, the fog was so thick that our driver had to drive very slowly and carefully to avoid cars going uphill from the other direction. It took around 20 minutes of slow drive from the top to finally have a clear view on the road again.

PSX_20190624_013933Landscape on the way to Vang Vieng

It was around 1 pm and we have completed 70% of our road trip when we stopped for lunch. Since there was no decent restaurant along the way, we had to have our lunch at a small shop next to a farm whose hygiene was questioned. We ordered for a hot bowl of noodle, thinking that the boiling water will kill any bacteria inside the meal. Fortunately, we have no problem with diarrhea for the rest of the day and the next.

Our tummy half filled, we continued our journey to Vang Vieng and arrived at 3 pm. The day before, I had asked our tour guide to visit Nam Xay Top,  a vantage point on the top of mountain overlooking Vang Vieng. Passing our hotel, Riverside Boutique Villa, we drove crossing a bridge where we have to pay 20.000 Kip ($1.5) for a car and advanced toward the outer part of the city.

PSX_20190624_071948Vang Vieng landscape from Nam Xay Top

In less than 15 minutes drive, we arrived at the foothill of the mountain we have to climb to reach the viewpoint. And boy, it was completely out of my expectation. You have to be completely fit and agile to hike to the top, and I would suggest wearing shorts and dark-colored shoes so that it’s easier to clean the mud afterward. It was raining the night before, so everything is slippery, making it harder to climb.

My mother joined the hike in the first 5-10 minutes, but then we decided it’s best that she waited on the foothill due to the difficulty of the hike. It turned to be a good decision because the path become even more challenging closer to the top. There are bamboos on the left and right of the hiking path, but sometimes they are so far apart that I have to hold on the rock on the ground to move forward. It was a good 30-35 minutes hike before we arrived, completely wet by our own sweat, at the top. The landscape is simply stunning.

PSX_20190624_073044Nam Xay Viewpoint

PSX_20190624_072622Me posing on Nam Xay Top

Once on the top, I unpacked my backpack and pulled my camera out. Since the viewpoint offers 360 degrees panoramic view of Vang Vieng, it took quite a while for me to decide on the best angle to photograph. I imagine that the landscape would be even better in October, when the rice harvesting season occurs and all the fields would be covered in green. I took so many pictures on the top that I ran out of my first 16 GB memory card (for a 1-2 weeks trip shooting RAW and JPEG, I find it sufficient to bring 96 GB UHS III SD card plus 48 GB SD backup). I knew that later on, I will have to spend time on deleting repetitive pictures.

PSX_20190624_073318Vang Vieng from Nam Xay Top

The way down felt faster but not easier, as it is more slippery to step down than to step up.  I saw several worms on the way, and tried to avoid touching them when holding the bamboo rail. Overall, I almost slipped 4-5 times on the way down but each time found something to grasp and avoid the accident. I was thinking to myself that if it is time for me to die, this would probably be one of those moment.

On the foothill, my mom and the driver were waiting, looking relaxed but suffering from the heat. I, on the other hand, were not relaxed at all and literally washed out by my own sweat. My white-sole shoes were covered by mud and will have to be washed, a problem as I only bring one shoes and one slipper for the trip. In the car, I opened my clothes and enjoyed the AC full blasting toward me, a poor decision that caused me catching bit of flu the next day.

Our next destination was the Blue Lagoon, a turquoise-colored natural pool where many Koreans and Chinese were swimming. It is located 10 minutes away from the Nam Xay Top and hosts few restaurants and ice-cream shops. We didn’t spend much time there, as we do not want to swim and had to catch the sunset at one of the nicer hotel in the city, Tara Hotel Vang Vieng.

PSX_20190624_073457Bungalows at Tara Hotel Vang Vieng, Laos

PSX_20190624_073621Rice fields alongside the wooden bridge at Tara Hotel Vang Vieng

PSX_20190624_073747Couple walking at the wooden bridge in Tara Hotel Vang Vieng

I found the hotel from one of the top image of Vang Vieng in Instagram and the view doesn’t disappoint. The site is well taken care of and the landscape is gorgeous. There is only one drawback: you have to be the hotel guest to take picture on the bridge. Fortunately, there is a cafe/restaurant facing the rice fields where we were able to order some drinks and waited for the sunset.

Another highlight of the trip, other than Nam Xay Top and Tara Hotel, was a hot air balloon ride at the sunrise in Vang Vieng. Compared to the price in Cambodia, Myanmar and Turkey, the one in Laos is relatively cheap at US$90. The reservation could be done at Tara Hotel, which I did while waiting for the sunset.

PSX_20190625_083813Sunset at Tara Hotel Vang Vieng, Laos

PSX_20190625_083928Sunset at Tara Hotel Vang Vieng

Once the sky turned dark enough, around 7 pm, we left the hotel and walked to one of the best restaurant in Vang Vieng called Crab d’or, located at Riverside Boutique Hotel (not villa, which is in a poorer condition and located across the hotel). Here’s my review on Tripadvisor:

Located in one of the more expensive hotel in Vang Vieng, this restaurant provides a white glove service when we visited. We visited after a tiring roadtrip from Luang Prabang and were looking for a mix of European and Laotian food.

We were not staying in the hotel, but were welcomed warmly on the visit. The food was 4.5/5 and the price is not ridiculously expensive either (we spent $25-30 for 2 person meal). There are indoor seats with air condition (which was nice considering the 30°+ weather) and outdoor seats facing the river and swimming pool.

We met Kid, a very nice gentlemen serving us during the dinner, who constantly look for our needs. Surprisingly, he also speak few words in Bahasa Indonesia, our native languange! We exchanged stories of how he acquired the skill, an oddity in Laos. Moreover, he spoke with an excellent English! The service provided was excellent that we came back the next morning for a breakfast.

Overall, a recommended place to go if you are looking for an upscale service restaurant in Vang Vieng.

We headed back to our hotel after the dinner and rest early, to prepare for the hot air balloon ride the next morning.

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Laos D2: Luang Prabang City Tour, Pak Ou Caves, Sunset

PSX_20190623_012012Giving alms to the monks in Luang Prabang, Laos
Today we started our day early at 6.15am to see the monks receiving alms from the locals (and few tourists). Our tour guide, Mr Southone, asks us whether we want to see the the ritual in downtown, where it is more crowded and packed by tourists, or the relatively less popular one on outskirt of the city. We choose the latter.

We arrived just on time, two buses were dropping off the monks and soon after they started marching from one end of the road to the other. Alongside the pedestrian walkway, locals and few tourists are lining up on a carpet with bowl of sticky rice to donate. The whole process completed in less than fifteen minutes and toward the end of the line, we were giggling in private because some of the locals were overestimating the amount of rice they have and underestimating the number of monks. However, we later learned that all the alms would be collected together before being shared back to the monks for the breakfast.

Then we headed back to the Sanctuary Hotel, where we 90 minutes to leisurely enjoy our breakfast. There were the usual international breakfast menu being served, e.g. eggs, pancakes, juices, and few local taste such as fried noodles and fried rice. Although the weather was humid and hot, it was a pleasant way to start the day.

PSX_20190623_041939Mekong River (Luang Prabang) in the morning

We started our city tour at Royal Palace Museum, which is open only from 8.30-11.30 and 13.30-16.00. There, we learned the previous Kings reigning the country and the history of French occupation in the country. Pictures are not allowed inside the museum and you have to leave your bags in the office nearby, so do prepare a small clutch to store your passport and money. It is also not allowed to enter the museum wearing shorts above the knee and teared-jeans. However, they provide a sarong to borrow for 5000 Kip ($3).

In the same complex Wat Mai temple is located, a sacred temple that is currently hosting the golden statue of Prabang. We then move to the Arts and Ethnology Centre, a very small site displaying the traditional clothes of few tribes in Laos, their musical instruments and the weaving tools they are using to create fabric. There is not much to see, but the place is close to Wat Sene, Wat Visoun and Wat Aham, our next destination.

DCIM100GOPROG0104588.JPGA pond in Royal Palace Museum, Luang Prabang

It was about 11 am and we only have two more destination in the city, so our tour guide asked if we wanted to sit and relax for a while (we do!). Our driver dropped us at Mekong Viewpoint Café, an outdoor patio on the side of Mekong River, where we have a refreshing bottle of coca-cola under the sun. Recharged, we continued our tour to Wat Xiengthong, a temple located within five-minutes walk distance from the cafe.

PSX_20190623_041842Mekong River from the Viewpoint Cafe, Luang Prabang

We have our lunch at The Belle Rive Terrace, an open-air restaurant facing the river and located next to the boat dock for Mekong River cruise. We tried Orlam, a coconut milk based dish similar to a mild curry. With our tummy filled, we walked down the stairs to go for the Mekong River cruise with final destination to Pak Ou Cave.

It took 90 minutes to arrived at Pak Ou and another 90 to go back to the city. During the journey, we saw local activities in the river, the construction of a railway bridge by a Chinese company (one of One Belt One Road project) and simply the beautiful landscape. We also stopped at several villages selling liquor and textile products, called Ban Xiengkhong,Ban Xiengklek and Ban Xanghai

PSX_20190623_042632Local fisherman in the Mekong River

PSX_20190623_042445Children playing in the Mekong River

PSX_20190623_042527Land reclamation in the Mekong River

Once we arrived at the Pak Ou Cave, young children were swarming toward us selling completely random things: small fishes inside a plastic bag and crackers. There were stairways to hike before arriving at the cave, where thousands of small Buddha statue is installed facing the mouth of the cave. The site itself is actually quite small, so we do not stay for long. The view from the cave, however, is amazing.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4628.JPGOur Boat docking at Pak Ou Cave, Laos

PSX_20190623_042346Our Boat docking at Pak Ou Cave, Laos

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4629.JPGPak Ou Cave in Laos

We headed back to the city around 3 pm from Pak Ou Cave. I spent most of the time sleeping on the boat, feeling tired after half day of city tour. On the way back, I was reminiscing of my past travel and listened to my favorite, go-to travel song by Jo Stafford, “You Belong To Me”. Here’s the lyrics:

See the pyramids along the Nile
Watch the sun rise on a tropic isle
Just remember, darling, all the while
You belong to me.
See the marketplace in old Algiers
Send me photographs and souvenirs
Just remember when a dream appears
You belong to me.
I’ll be so alone without you
Maybe you’ll be lonesome too, and blue
Fly the ocean in a silver plane
See the jungle when it’s wet with rain
Just remember till you’re home again
You belong to me.
I’ll be so alone without you
Maybe you’ll be lonesome too, and blue
Fly the ocean in a silver plane
See the jungle when it’s wet with rain
But remember, darling, till you’re home again
You belong to me.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4611.JPGMe on the Mekong River cruisePSX_20190623_042617Mekong River Landscape, Laos

We arrived at our hotel around 5pm, leaving us little less than two hours to prepare for the sunset. After the whole day soaking under the sun, we decided that a shower is overdue, especially if we wanted to have our dinner at fancy restaurant. For the sunset, we went to the only 4-story building in Luang Prabang that happened to be a rooftop bar. I could say that there weren’t many people on the top, with only two other tourist drinking beside us.

The sunset was beautiful. It was very… ugh, tropical. We waited until it was dark, so that I could take photograph of the night market with all its lights turned on. Initially, we were planing to go to La Belle Epoque, one of the top fancy restaurant in the city. But we were so tired to go far away from the downtown area (although tuk-tuk is widely available) that we went across the street and dined at Avani+ Main Street Bar & Grill. I had a pork chop and my mom had a spring roll and noodle, both of which was decent and fairly priced. Tomorrow, we are heading to another city called Vang Vieng, 3-4 hours drive away from Luang Prabang, which is the highlight of this Laos trip for me.

PSX_20190623_105941Luang Prabang during the sunset from Indigo Cafe Rooftop Bar

PSX_20190623_181527Luang Prabang night market from Indigo Cafe Rooftop Bar

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Laos D1: Luang Prabang, Kuang Si Waterfalls, Mount Phousi

PSX_20190622_061351Kuang Si Waterfalls in Luang Prabang, Laos
This morning we took a flight from Singapore to Luang Prabang with Scoot airlines, one of the budget airlines serving a more exotic destination in SE Asia. Our flight took about 3 hours, afterwhich we arrived at the relatively small airport of Luang Prabang.

The airport could accomodate up to three aircraft connected to the building, and it gives a pleasant view of the surrounding. First thing we noticed arriving in Laos is the weather! We visited in June and the air is very hot and humid. During the queue for immigration, there was a funny incident where a cockroach suddenly appears and scared bunch of Singaporean girls. I guess they’ll have more of such incident during their stay.

The immigration process is quite slow in the airport, but all is orderly. Laos exempted visa for tourists from several countries, including Indonesia. Visa on arrival is available for US$30 and you have to bring a 4×6 photo with a white background. Our tour guide, Mr. Southone, has been waiting for us in the pick-up point with a large banner of my name printed. We introduced ourselves and proceed outside to our car, under the humid 39 degree Celcius weather, heading to the Sanctuary Hotel for check-in. It is a nice, bungalow type hotel in the downtown area of Luang Prabang.

PSX_20190622_061510Kuang Si Waterfalls in Luang Prabang, Laos

We have our lunch in a small restaurant within 5 minutes walking distance from the hotel called Lotus. Food price is decent, meal for two cost us 89.000 Kip (US$ 10), which would not even be enough even for a regular meal in Montreal! Our guide, Mr. ST as we would call him, suggested that we shifts some schedule to accomodate with the weather and first visit Kuang Si Waterfalls today, which we happily obliged.

PSX_20190622_061612Kuang Si Waterfalls in Luang Prabang, Laos

We started the drive from downtown to the waterfall at 13.30, which took around one hour, passing through farms, school, Pullman Hotel, etc. There were local restaurants in front of the entrance gate, selling both soft drinks and ice cream. Kuang Si Waterfall is a complex which also includes a small bear conservation site. To go through all the site, you could trek uphill to the waterfall and then walk down following the wooden bridge path. I was coming on Saturday, hence there were also some locals populating the site. Most of the guests are either swimming or simply dipping inside the cold and crystal clear water, which was a bliss under such weather.

PSX_20190622_061710Kuang Si Waterfalls in Luang Prabang, Laos

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4544.JPGMe and my mom at Kuang Si Waterfalls in Luang Prabang, Laos

We went back to our hotel for a 90 minutes break afterwards, where we took a shower and lighten our backpack to hike Mount Phousi to see the sunset. The sunset in Luang Prabang is at 6.48pm in June, giving us plenty of time to walk up the staircases up the hill. For those not used to exercising, like my mother, you may want to jog for a week before traveling to avoid muscle sore during the trip.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4555.JPGMe and my mom at Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang, Laos

PSX_20190622_085026Cityscape from Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang, Laos

PSX_20190622_085350Little cat at Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang, Laos

We spent around 90 minutes on the top of the hill, taking 360 degrees photo of the city and the mountains surrounding it. You want to be early to have a good spot for taking photos during the sunset, however using a tripod is nearly impossible. There is also an open section on the Southern part of the terrace where you could stand on a rock facing the river for a self portrait, which is the most crowded part of the terrace.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4559.JPGThe top of Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang, Laos

PSX_20190622_084852Waiting for Sunset at Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang, Laos

PSX_20190622_085249Mekong River from Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang, Laos

Climbing down the staircases after the dusk, we arrived at Luang Prabang’s Night Market, populated mostly by vendors selling souvenirs. To be frank, it is rather uninteresting due to all of them selling similar goods. It was almost 8pm and we were tired and full of sweat, so we decided to head for dinner at the Blue Lagoon, one of the top restaurant in the city according to TripAdvisor. The restaurant is located in an alley nearby the night market, decorated by Western books and is air conditioned. We have a duck wrapped by banana leaves and fried vegetables, costing us US$20 for two person.

PSX_20190622_085408Wat Mai in Luang Prabang, Laos

PSX_20190622_092909Night Market in front of Wat Mai in Luang Prabang

For the whole day, we have been surviving without Kip, using small denomination of USD along the way. However, we have been on disadvantage since the exchange rate was not very favorable in shops and restaurant. Across Avani+ hotel, there is a money changer with very favorable rate (1$=8750 Kip), above those of the spot rate in google, so we exchange our dollar there and headed back to hotel.

 

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