Difference between revisions of "Luang Prabang"
Revision as of 16:10, 26 December 2006
The main road, Xiang Thong, of Luang Prabang is a wonderful patchwork of traditional Lao wooden houses and hints of European architecture - reminders of when Laos was part of the French colony of Indochine. Golden-roofed wats, decorated with mosaics and murals of the life of Buddha sit under the gaze of wrap-around balconies and 19th century shuttered windows.
A tourist trail is forming between the capital city of Vientiane, the small riverside village of Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, and Huay Xai at the Thai border to the west. This loop can easily be covered by combination of road and river in a week, but 10-15 days is best to fully appreciate the lush countryside, magnificent temples, and friendly people. The boat ride between Luang Prabang and Huay Xai is considered by some the high point of their tour of South-East Asia.
The airport is just north of town and has sheduled flights from/to Vientiane, Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Siem Reap. Visa-on-Arrival (good for a 15 day entry permit stamp only) is available at the airport - price is USD31 (payable in USD). Thai nationals do not need a Visa to enter Laos.
Highway 13 connects Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng and Vientiane in the south and via Highway 1 to the north. Highway 13 is sealed and in good shape all the way to Vientiane. There were some shootings along this road (between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang) some years ago, including one incident in which two foreign cyclists died in crossfire, but at the moment it appears to be safe.
There are three bus stations, each a little bit out of town, who serve different directions. Tickets can be bought at every travel agent in town for a little surcharge, or at the bus station, or when boarding the bus.
The air-conditioned so-called VIP bus costs 70k Kip to Vang Vieng and 80k Kip to Vientiane, more if booked through an agent (2006 February). Note that the VIP bus has poor suspension, is crowded and sometimes breaks down. Nevertheless, it's still better than the public bus. Also the road is winding and mountainous, and the driver typically of the ying (break) and yang (accelerator) school of driving, considering the middle way to use both the break and the accelerator simultaneously.
The bus ride to Muang Xay (Oudomxai) is done by public minibus only. Big backpacks are carried on the roof. Price for the ride is about 40 kiloKip and it lasts 5 hours on normal conditions. From there you can catch the bus to Luang Namtha, which takes about the same amount of time and money. No need to have a reservation usually, just take care to go early in order to secure a good seat.
I found a 1 day delux boat trip from Huay Xai they help me with my visa, transfer and with nice seat on the boat you guys can check it out at chiang mai. travel agency offered us 2 kinds of boat trip. 1. 2 days 1 nites at Pak Bank another is 1 day trip in Chiang Rai 1 nite at Chiang Saen and one day boat to Luang Phabang. We took 1 day boat trip to Luang Phabang it was 2,500 baht chiang rai vey nice very attractive. golden triangle was very beautiful. The hotel we stayed was very nice hotel and convenient called chiang saen river somthing i forgot. the next day we have a van picked us up to chiang kong and then cross boarder to laos and finnally Luang Phabang. The boat was really nice comfortable big seat btter than i expected. I got to LUang Phabang at alomost 6 in the evening. guest houses were everywhere. you should check it out the view along makong river was incredible.
Boats ply the Mekong to and from Huay Xai at the Thai border, stopping in Pakbeng where you can connect with bus and truck heading towards the north-east and the border with China. Slow boats leave several days a week, usually around 08:00. Expect to spend the night in Pakbeng if you're taking a slow boat (the safest option), or to arrive in Huay Xai deaf, shaken and either exhausted or exhilerated from three hours in a speedboat.
To travel on the speedboat (a light canoe with a very powerful engine), a crash helmet and life-jacket are usually provided. The pilot requires a good knowledge of the river, particularly in the dry season, as there are many rapids and rocks. One tall Danish guy found that he could not squeeze up into the position for the ride.
The slow-boat is absolutely packed with tourists (2006 February) - so much so that there are not enough seats to go round. It can be quite uncomfortable. It costs about 85k Kip to Pak Beng, more if booked through an agent.
Long distance ferries to Vientiane stopped running when Highway 13 was sealed a few years ago, but it may be possible to do the trip by private tourist boat when the water levels are high enough. Read more about fast and slow boats in the section about Laos.
Wander around town in a bicycle. These are availble for rental for $1-3 per day, depending on the dealer and whether or not you get it through your hostel (usually cheaper). Luang Prabang is a pretty compact place, but with a bike you'll be able to cover more ground and make to some of the lovely hills and temples outside the center. Plus, it's easy to make it back to the river in time for lunch!
A night market (on Sisavangvong Road) caters for the tourists with every kind of souvenir you could want. Day markets are along Setthathirat Road.
Restaurants line Sisavangvong Road and the road along the Mekong. Food runs the line from standard Southeast Asian backpacker fare to more traditional Lao dishes, including buffalo sausage. There are several pizza restaurants -- although they aren't really that good -- as well as
For more upscale options, try near the end of Sisavangvong Road (end of the Night Market) in a little Alley (Local Buffet for 5000 Kip). There are several boutique restaurants which serve quite nice fusion Asian food.
There are a number of places to drink around Luang Prabang, although the club scene isn't really existent. "The Hive Bar" or the "Laos Beer Garden" are the places to go at night and to meet people, if everything closes (at about 12pm) you can go to the "Vientnam Bar".
Most other restaurants also have tables outside where you can sit back with a beer or two.
Another place would be the Bookstore "Books and Tea" next to the "Hive Bar". They show Movies everyday at 7pm and its really nice their also.
There's an abundance of hotels and guesthouses in town and touts will find you when you arrive. On the extreme budget end of things, you might be able to spend $2-3 per night. For a hostel near the center of town, expect this to jump up to $4-7.
The town, with its direct flights from Bangkok, also attracts a fair number of upmarket tourists for which this will be their only destination in Laos. Although facilities are somewhat limited, a number of upscale places have sprung up to cater to the market. Some of these places, especially those with mixtures of colonial and traditional Lao architecture, are quite stunning. And for what you get - it's a steal.
Less expensive places