On January 22 we flew from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos. It was a bit of a culture shock to be in a different country all of a sudden. I realized the only words we knew how to say were hello (sabai dii) and thank you (capjai). We had learned useful sayings in Thai for shopping and ordering food, but now we were back to square one. (We found out soon enough, though, that Lao and Thai are very similar languages and many of the words we knew were the same in both). We were glad to find that the taxis drivers at the airport weren’t pushy and we would get a break from the endless touts.
From the plane we could see rice paddies bordering the Mekong River. Luang Prabang is nestled along the Mekong River and the Nam Khan River. The town was strongly influenced by the French, which you can see from the architecture of the buildings in the old quarter and the many stands selling baguette sandwiches. Bread! I was so happy to see bread! I’ve gotten used to eating rice with almost every meal, but I’d really started to miss bread, and now it was all around me 🙂 . Not only was there bread, but also cake and other pastries for sale at the Night Market. I bought a big chunk of chocolate cake (3 times the size you’d get at the bake sale at school) for 7,000 Lao Kip (less than US $1)! We arrived in town around 5pm, which still gave us time to stop by a tour agency and walk around town before getting dinner.
We had booked Rama Hotel for one night online ($30). After hating the location of Center Park Hotel in Chiang Mai (since it was far from everything) I was hesitant to book a place for all three nights. I’m glad we didn’t have to stay at Rama Hotel the whole time, since it had a musty moldy stench. The smell in combo with the dirt and smoke from cooking fires got to me and I ended up with a cold for all of Laos, but it didn’t stop us from seeing the sites. For our second night we moved to the very upscale hotel The Ancient, which had pastries for sale right out front ($65)! They didn’t have the following night available, so our third night we stayed at Pack Luck ($45). Pack Luck turned out to be the best deal, since it was very nicely decorated and not as expensive. All three had wireless internet and delicious free breakfast.
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