"Is every building here a guesthouse?" Luang Prabang by bpwarne

Luang Prabang Travel Guide: 1,033 reviews and 2,639 photos

following are notes/emails to incorporate:

I am here, arrived about 2 this afternoon. Bus was really crowded, left at 9:00AM. Again, I was the only tourist other than one Russian guy.
LP is nice, however, it is the start of the Laos New Year today and for fun everyone throws water on everyone. Fun for awhile, but after so many hours of constantly being wet....well, I think I will get out of town tomorrow as this goes on for 2 more days. The French and the English seem to be into it though, seems they all bought squirt guns and are joining in. Remember, these are the people who think Jerry Lewis is a genius.
The Kip is the currency, exchange rate is 8.69/1USD. Things are not cheap here. Hard to find a beer for less than a dollar. Food about the same as Saigon, maybe a bit higher. I'm surprised. I paid $15 for a room not near as nice as in the backpacker ghetto of Saigon and does not include breakfast. Again, could not get into the guesthouse I wanted, where she teaches cooking.

Much much better time this morning and afternoon. Changed room, $34, river view, breakfast, two sheets, top AND bottom! Can you believe it? A/C. Spotless new bathroom. Took an incredibly long hot shower and just lied there for an hour. Went up the street and met an Indian/New York guy at one of the food stalls. Fantastic Sandwich on a whole Baguette, vegetables, pork, scrambled egg, chicken, about 4 different sauces, slightly hot and a little sweet tasting. Truly fantastic. 50 cents. Then had a mixed fruit shake, also 50 cents (5000 kip, well maybe 60 cents each, still, one of the best meals ever. Will go to the dock around 4-5pm and see if Phillip the German shows up from Bam Preng or wherever the hell it was. I have two beds so if he does, maybe split room with him. Big party again today for New Year, everybody in streets, not near as much water throwing as yesterday....yet.
I'm thinking Elephant Camp is out. $35 for room is ok. $15 for 1 hour ride ok, but we already did that in Thailand last year so would most likely pass on it anyway. However, $110 to wash elephant!!! I said, no sir, you misunderstand. Ido not wish to buy elephant, only wash. Still, $110. A bit steep by my taste. I was prepared to pay $10-$40, maybe $60 tops. So, I think 'll go to the remote place by the waterfalls, same lady owns it as the place in town w/cooking classes that is so full now. It is $20/night at her out of town place, inc breakfast. No transport there though, so will have to see a tuk tuk driver.
You can not rent motos here any longer. New law passed recently, Locals say you still can rent them in Vientiane though (next stop), this is a huge disappointment as I came here to rent a moto and head into the hills. the city itself does not have much to entertain me. Also: you cant even rent bicycles here anymore! Also against the law...unbelievable!
Anyway, finally feel like I can relax a bit now and feel rested. After traveling so far, you want something more than a bare lightbulb, smelly bath, one sheet bed and noisy fan with a bunch of French people hanging outside your window smoking, blowing cigarette smoke in and yakking,
When I turned on the air conditioner last night about 12, nothing happened. When I told my host this today she says, "oh, yes must pay more if want A/C. You no know? $4 more per night."
People are nice where I am at now, higher class clientele means higher class staff I presume. Speak good English.
it's surprising how good their English is when negotiating a moto or tuk tuk ride, huh? But as soon as you are on the bike or in the tuk tuk, they suddenly know no English, except,"more" maybe. Speaking of tuk tuks...they are outrageous here! $2USD to go to a building a few blocks down the street from here...you can SEE the building, can walk it in less than 5 minutes! They will not negotiate or if so, maybe 20%. I think I am beginning to understand why tourists can no longer rent motos or even bicycles in this town.

Think I will go check on a ride for tomorrow and celebrate with another shower and A/C spell!
Life is good....today anyway

Went to the Kuangsi waterfalls by van. 40000 kip or about $4.50 roundtrip. Then must pay 20000 kip to get in. Twice what Lao people have to pay. Was a big joke. Waterfall very nice but zillions of people. There were not hundreds there, there were thousands there. There was no real place to swim as advertised. It was really developed though with lots of stalls to buy all the usual Asia crap that we tourists must have. So, after spending 10 minutes at falls, sat with German guy (Rudy) and his Malaysian wife I met in the van. Real nice people, living in Tanzania. Had beer, chips, huge smoked fish. Very disapointed w/Luang Prabang. Cant get around easily and cant really explore the surrounding area due to the "Tourists Without Wheels' program they have enacted here. Most frustrating. Went back to hotel , picked up laundry. $55000!!! Thats almost $7!!! Told them there was no way it weighed 5.5 kilos!! Then a conversation ensued between her and another girl she called in. After they went back and forth (I stayed out of it), one of them gave me back 25000. No explanation, she didnt appear mad or upset. Tried to book a bus for tomorrow and was told by two different travel cafes I must go directly to the bus station as they are not allowed to book anything til April 20. No explanation as to why, just said government said so. So, this means I must packup tonight and leave the hotel at about 7AM to go to the bus station in hopes of getting a ticket. It seems like transportation is a real hassle this trip. It has been nothing like last year. Also, no seats available on any planes out of here tomorrow (sound familiar?)
Went for a massage, place advertised Thai. Was 40000 kip, or $4.50. Was pretty good, used her legs and the like. Not as good as in Thailand but better than Vietnam last year. Why are massages so cheap here?
Met a guy from Iceland....He had been to India and said it was dangerous, especially for women. Did not like it. Then when we got back to the van a woman said she had been to Calcutta and said it was like a bomb had gone off and no one was bothering to clean it up. So, here she is in this third world country they call Laos, telling us how bad India is. At this point the German fellow and his wife chime in about how much they agreed with her. Whats with all this bad press on India?
Today I have a sore throat...so I went to the pharmacy this evening and got some Ampicillan. Cost $1000 kip or about $1.15 for a 3 day supply, which is what they recommended. I dont feel sick except for the raw throat. Guess it may be the flu or a cold coming on, hope not.

A real nice young Lao guy at the hotel drove me to the bus station this morning and refused to take any money. Really a kind nice guy. He was really upset at how much the tuk tuk mafia (as the russians call them) were demanding from me when I was negotiating with them on the street in front of the hotel. He came over and told me to not bother, he would take me.

Speaking of buses. I find it rather amusing that I have come across quite a few 'ecotourism' tour agents and guest houses touting 'ectourism' tours in Laos at very high prices. But, I have yet to be on a long haul bus here that made rest stops where there actually is a bathroom of any sorts. They all stop at the side of the road, sometimes actually right in the road. Everyone piles out and does their business, most at the side of the road, a few actually do not even bother walking that far, just do it on the road. I guess there are few toilets in the countryside in Laos. So, if you wish to be ecologically correct...dont ride the busses!

Didnt do much yesterday, stayed in town and was pretty relaxing. Met this Indian feelow living in New York, he says dont bother with India. Lots of thievery, no good infrastructure, etc. I have decided to go to these water falls today and spend one more night here. tomorrow i will go to Vientiane. Still unsure how to get to BKK from there but have at least 2 options.
This place is actually much larger than i had thought and sooo full of Europeans.
You can no longer rent a moto here or even a bicycle. Tuk tuks are VERY expensive. The price to get to the waterfall on your own is $30- $35 one way! This computes to $1 per kilometer, a rediculous price. So, I will go w/a group. Yet the tuk tuks sit empty...figure that. Also, you can not ride on the back of a motobike. Everyone must have a guide license to give u a ride.
They say it is different in Vientiane. We shall see.
Never did find Phillip. Ran into the Russians last night. They did not appear happy. They did part of the river ride, but most by bus due to water level on the mon noi or whatever river.
Never saw the Englishman and Swede again either. They have been traveling since early January.
Had another street sandwich for dinner and a fruit shake, then went back to my hotel and had a beer.
Laos is different in that they do not seem to bargain at all. They are friendly but you must usually approach them first. Not much English language here. They do not harrass you to buy. No one approaches you to hire a tuk tuk. So, that is very nice, a lot less hassle, no u buy, u buy for me?, u go where now?
Looks like rain. Big winds and lightning last night but little rain

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Little cafes overlooking the Mekong River
  • Cons:Really, really, really overrun with tourists
  • In a nutshell:A mixed bag of nuts
  • Last visit to Luang Prabang: Apr 2008
  • Intro Updated Jun 10, 2008
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bpwarne

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