Well….I’m alive !

I bought a dinner ticket to go with a group from the hotel here to Utopia bar for a New Year Eve celebration dinner……….then got the crud! Bad stomach, sore throat.

I arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos by boat,  in the company of an international group of fun young folks, on the the 20th of December 2014. I stayed 5 days at Nammavong Guesthouse. I paid $15 dollars a day for a private corner room with ensuite bath on the second floor.

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Nammavong

I stayed there and chatted with Put & La & Li and roamed the peninsula on the Mekong that holds Dara market and a large part of the tourist area that makes Luang Prabang tick.

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There are too many hotels and hostels and guesthouses (roughly 250) and the whole thing is tricked out to be this big tourist trap with shops and a Night Bazaar with gazillion stalls that appear every afternoon at 5 and disappear before daylight. 

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And there are food alleys and jewelry shops and tour pimps and restaurants and bakeries and coffee shops and everybody has their hand out and the westerners and Chinese and everyone who visits spends and spends and spends.

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The fact that it can be very cheap at times gets lost in the rush to buy more…………. S T U F F ! Some of the accommodations are right up there with that magic number that some tourists must pay to consider themselves having an expensively good time. Prostitution…illegal in Laos….is replaced by the pushers who will sell you weed or Opium or whatever and lurk in alleys or behind parked cars or ride by on bicycles whispering their offers of dream chasers and widow makers. The crowds during peak season are at times ridiculously congested and the smart locals wear surgical masks because colds and flu are rampant and the shoving and pushing and general stampede to be first, to be buying before someone else gets copy number 12,497,642 out of an infinite number of duplicates in a warehouse in China, gets frantic. But there are some real treasures at times. LOL.

Now that I’ve convinced you that Hell and Luang Prabang have a lot in common, let me downshift into a more reasonable gear.

I came to Laos because I heard it was like Thailand 40 years ago. I heard it was beautiful. I heard it was inexpensive. I heard it was welcoming. I heard it was worthy of a look.

As far as being like Thailand forty years ago….I never saw Thailand then. I hope the Thais were cleaner then than the Lao folks are now.

It is a gorgeous country so far. Here are some views from my lens.

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Laos can be as inexpensive….or as stupidly expensive as you care to make it. A meal can easily be had for $1.25. Not a great meal by western standards but enough to carry you forward. A beer is anywhere from .75 to $1.25. It depends on where you buy it. A zip up hooded sweat shirt like the one I’m wearing as I type this can be purchased for $1. A room with private bath can be had in low season for $6 to $8 a night. In high season it will double. There are many deals for the traveler without being a piker. Medications are C H E A P! Go to the pharmacy and experience how badly you are getting burned in the west. Many excellent and inexpensive choices in Laos. You just need to be smart and cautious.  Now I’ll show you some pretty shots of Luang Prabang .

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There are two kinds of travel bloggers. there are those sweet people who don’t want you to know about the garbage they saw behind the palace or the poverty or the unsanitary hospitals or the ridiculous amount of time to report their stolen camera. They are positive…always….when reporting on their adventues. They also sometimes snarl at the hotel staff or frown at everybody if their panties are pinching or get really put out at the noise from the celebration after they go to bed. They will haggle over a quarter and always stay at the best places they can find and are seldom seen off the safe side of the street.

Then there are guys like me. I want you to arrive….prepared for both the upside and the downside and determined to have fun and be ready for all the cracks in the plaster. I also hate hanging with tourists. I much prefer the natives. Laos has a lot of positive stuff going on. I just arrived…unfortunately… during Christmas/New year when all the tourists were swarming and prices were jacked up. Prices…..$1 US = 8000 KIP  A trip by tuk tuk from one end of the peninsula to the other should be no more than 10,000 KIP. It’s about a mile. Trip by van to the waterfall 50,000 KIP per person. Distance….30 kilometers. Same trip by tuk tuk with all of the passengers hanging on for dear life ? 20,000 – 30,000 KIP per person. Hoagie style sandwich at Dara market….let’s say…chicken, cheese, avocado, onion, lettuce, tomato, mustard and /or mayo ….15,000 KIP, It’s a good sandwich for the price.  An all you can load on a plate at the veggie buffet replete with pasta ….10,000 KIP.  A bottle of water Sm. 2,000 KIP Med. 4,000 KIP Lg. 6,000 KIP. A Coke 10,000 KIP…..a beer ….Here ? LOL 15,000 KIP.  So…a veggie buffet and beer =25,000 KIP or $3 +.  Breakfast – best deal I found… 23,000 KIP… two eggs, fried potatoes, a baguet w/ butter and jam, coffee & orange juice. Some places charge 40,000 – 50,000 KIP for breakfast . Like I said drugs are cheap at the pharmacy. I’ve got less than $35 US invested in a month supply of Allopurinol and Colchine for my gout…10 days worth of antibiotic….24 prescription throat lozenges…5 rehydration packets……..40 Imodium tablets and the list goes on. A minivan ride ticket to Vang Vien (9 hours away) cost me 125,000 KIP ($15+). My room here at Chansavang Guesthouse is $10 a day. Here’s some photos of Chansavang GH.

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 Joy, the proprietress speaks great English and truly is a “Joy”. The staff can help you with arrangements and they are nice folks.

My favorite part of the two weeks I spent here was when I rented a scooter from Tim at KPTD rental….100,000 KIP a day (twice the price of Thailand ) and rode to Kuang Si Falls. Photos following.

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 The falls are ….W O W !   Also there is a bear rescue….PORE OL’BEARS!  It was very interesting and crowded. At least I had that to enjoy since today has been a bust. Everyone is out enjoying the festivities, music, dancing, fireworks. I’m here pecking on this article and being sick. Oh well! Luang Prabang…..full of cute girls…??? and lots to spend your nickels on. Leaving Sunday. Next stop….Vang Vien.  Catch me if you can! 

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