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Long and winding road to Luang Prabang

Phonsavan to Luang Prabang

It would take us 10 hours to get from Phonsavan to Luang Prabang. As Kong and his family seemed to own or be involved in most of the businesses in town we got our ticket cheaper from him directly than from the shop on the main street and it included the tuk to to the bus station.

The night before Kongs brother had taken us to see some Laos gambling in a warehouse across the street. We had heard lots of commotion and were interested to see what it was all about. It was a simple game made of 6 animal pictures with 3 matching dice that you bet on, if the dice face shows the same animal picture or combination of pictures you bet on, then you win...so simple even a child could do it. We all got quite into it with shouts of "chicken! chicken!" "no not the shrimp!" etc... When we mentioned this to Kong he told us that actually there was a real problem with children getting addicted and spending their lunch money on gambling as there are no age restrictions in Laos on gambling but he hoped that this would change. In the morning his brother admitted he was down 50,000 kip, when we had left he had been up.

At the bus station there were about 7 minibuses waiting to be loaded up and fortunately we were allocated to one of the larger more 'comfortable' ones. It was still a bit of a squeeze with all of our bags but soon we were off on what would turn out to be one of the worst bus journeys of our trip so far! Having suffered from travel sickness as a kid, not helped by my brother finding it funny to sway in front of me whenever we were on a ferry (thanks Jez!) I had hoped I had grown out of it but the roads we were going on had more bends in it than a bent corkscrew!! The only way to cope with it was to close your eyes and plug into some music and hope to sleep through it! On the few occasions I risked looking out the window the twisting mountain pass had some great views and also an insight into life on the side of the road as on many occasions houses lined the road on seemingly impossible stilts that went down the side of the mountain to keep the house level with the roadside. Also there was the occasional near miss when another bus/truck came round the corner from the opposite direction. Sometimes we saw cyclists trying to take on the steep inclines which looked so tough. Just keep peddling!

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We were more than a bit relieved when we finally pulled into the bus station at Luang Prabang.

Drained from the journey we decided to go with the tuk tuk driver to the guesthouse he recommended, however when we got there it was further out from the centre than we wanted and a bit dreary so we hauled on our backpacks and after getting orientated with the map we walked into town. We found a side road near Joma cafe that headed down to the Mekong and was full of guesthouses. After going to the first two to check out prices we definitely realised we were no longer in southern Laos as the costs of rooms where more than double what we had been paying. Leaving Dan with the bags I continued down the street trying to find something we could afford that was worth the extra cost. Finally after being quoted some ridiculous costs for rooms right next to reception or with a shared bathroom we found a great room at the Phonemaly guesthouse. We were going to be in Luang Prabang for about a week as we waited for the book party I was trying to sponsor with Big Brother Mouse to be confirmed (more on that to come in later blog) and the friendly service made it easy for us to decide to stay here than try to look around further.

As we were going to have some time in the city we decided to slowly explore, it was nice to stop in one place and started the next morning with a cheese and chive scone and a cup of tea :)

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Luang Prabang is definitely a charming place and very pretty to walk around and explore however it is very touristy with the main road full of restaurants, bars, cafes and tour company after tour company selling trips in and around the area. Although there are handicraft stores it seems detached and different from the Laos we had been travelling through.

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Wondering around we ended up down by the Mekong and just kept on walking until we had gone round the peninsular and come full circle. Here are some of the sights.

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We found Tamnak restaurant and booked ourselves on a Laos cooking course for the next day.

Luang Prabang is famous for its night market which starts to set up about 4.30pm. It is quite a feat watching the market come to life and out of nothing suddenly the street is full as far as you can see with stall upon stall of local handicrafts from silk scarves to paintings and jewellery. Multicoloured lamps glow as the sun goes down and it is almost hypnotic so you could spend ages going up and down looking at all the things on sale and maybe buying a few things too!

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We were soon hungry and were keen to find somewhere a bit cheaper for dinner. Following our noses we found a hidden alleyway we had not noticed the night before that was rammed with food stalls and benches with plastic chairs. For 10,000 kip you could make up a plate of what ever noodles, rice and veg you wanted. You had to pay a bit extra for some meat. It was buzzing with other backpackers and locals shouting over steaming dishes and vying for the next free chair to sit and eat at. It was a great atmosphere and we met a nice French couple who gave us some tips on where to go diving in Malaysia and Indonesia.

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We definitely were looking forward to learning more about Laos cooking the next day.

Sxx

Posted by doyledan 01:38 Archived in Laos

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