Laos ~ Places to Stay

4,000 Islands:

Mama Piang’s– It’s 20,000 kip (<3US$) price tag per night remains my cheapest accommodation yet. AND, that was for my own big queen bed with mosquito net. It was a great place. Mama and Papa are a little wild, but their kids are darling. It’s right in the middle of the one street between the docks and the bridge to Don Khong. She cooks one of the best laap dishes I had in Laos.

Pakse, Savanakhet, Tha Khek, Pak Beng, Huay Xai:

You’re on your own here. Use your gut and pick a guesthouse. There is not much to plan for here. Each place has about one main street along the river with lots of options. I did stay in the Mekong Hotel in Savanakhet, which had large rooms with TV’s and fan for about 100,000 kip (12US$).

Vientiane:

Sihome Hostel– This place should win awards. Great common area with pool table and beers. There is a padded room with movies and flat screen TV. I came home around midnight and there were some British blokes watching Premier League on the communal TV. All around good atmosphere. Beds are nice, but bathrooms cramped and great location at the beginning of the riverside walk. Absolutely best breakfast for a hostel: Bacon, tasty poached eggs and bread with coffee. They helped us pick the hostel in the next town, Vang Vieng.

Vang Vieng:

BounTang Guesthouse– Fabulous private rooms. Brand new, air-con, balcony, and clean. For 100,000 kip, I bought a private room with best view you can get of the mesmerizing Vang Vieng landscape. They also offer air-con dorms for half the price. Only stayed here one night, but going to bed with the lightning striking over the looming mountains in the distance and waking up to the sunny green hills was quite an experience.

EasyGo Hostel– This place is a dump. It has a small, filthy common area that keeps some of the rain off of you. But judging by the overflowing ashtrays, hasn’t been cleaned in a long time. The showers were clogged with plastic bottles and hair. Mosquito nets were provided. There is one girl who works the front desk and the only face I saw in three days. I understand a hostel is too much work for one girl, but eventually, they must hire a cleaning person or else it’s only going to get worse. It’s cheap though.

Luang Prabang:

LPQ Backpackers- A place full of rules. They rent towels, close the gates early, don’t allow billiards after ten, turn off air-con between 9-10 a.m. but offer a free egg breakfast. The rooms and toilets are nice and clean. It’s off to the end of town, so a slight walk is entailed.

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Luang Prabang ~ Kuang Si Waterfalls

Charter a tuk-tuk or mini van to take you the 40 minutes to this paradisaical locale. First, we hike up the hill, and meet the bears, rather playful and seemingly happy. They are the Asian Bears, sometimes called Sun Bear or Moon Bear, depending on the color stripe on their chest. These guys were climbing and scratching and fun to watch, but that cold water was calling to my sweaty backpacked back.

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It’s not long before being greeted with the dream like waterfalls and miraculously colored blue water. I had seen no pictures of this before, so it was all a wonderful surprise.

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I dove right in…

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Quiet, cold water mixed with that soothing sound of flowing water created an atmosphere of cheek hurting smiles.

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After soaking for a while, I took a walk higher into the trees. I met a guy on the trail and we hiked talking about mutual interests such as The Mighty Ducks’ movies. The jungle trees were dense and old.

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Because of poor planning, I was only able to spend a much too brief half day here. I could have stayed longer. Such a pleasure even if it went too fast. It was like that 5$ truffle you buy at the mall, you only get one delicious bite, but it’s usually one to remember.

Buddha ~ Luang Prabang’s Ornate Temples

There are over 30 temples in the quaint UNESCO heritage city of Luang Prabang, Laos. Many are small courtyards, some are hidden from plain sight beyond trees or houses, others on distant hillsides, but most are within the city center. I took a walk on a dreary, rainy day and snapped some photos of the many seated Buddhas.

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I know lots of people find themselves on “temple overload” whereby they feel that: “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” As you can see, beyond the golden tint, and enlightened eyes, they don’t really look all that similar. Perhaps I just enjoy the search and the joy of finding a place with good energy. The only problem with Luang Prabang’s temples is that almost all of them cost money. I spent about 100,000kip (>12$US) going to all these temples.

Sunset peak is found on the local hill giving expansive vistas of the countryside.

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Luang Prabang ~ Muay Xai Restaurant

I actually have no idea what the name of this restaurant was, but it was something like that. It’s on one of the side streets. Among the myriad of bugs swarming the halogen lights, we dined on some more traditional Laos food.

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Simply titled: Rice noodles with Beef–balanced and not oily. (<3US$)

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Vegetable Stew: Full of dill, eggplant and green beans, not spicy and tender, but strange chicken pieces. (<5US$)

Luang Prabang ~ Tamarind

It’s a famous restaurant in town that prepares completely traditional food for reasonable prices. I stumbled accidentally, in a dazed post massage pleasure stroll, into this restaurant. They offer cooking classes and have a three page history of Laotian food at the back of the menu. I got a good vibe from the place.

First, I ordered the Beer tasting platter. It’s just a big Beerlao, but it comes with a plate of nibblins, Laos nibblins.

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Starting clockwise at the rice cake, under it was a sweet potato cracker, pumpkin seeds, dried ginger, dried mushroom, dried banana, sesame seaweed and salty peanuts in the middle. Perfect finger food with a cold beer.

The next dish was called “Five Bites.”

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Starting clockwise at the amazing Luang Prabang sausage, (and ignoring the sticky rice) lettuce wrapped around peanut paste and lemongrass, minced pork in dill and coriander, pickled cabbage, and water buffalo beef jerky. I couldn’t have picked a better lunch for my taste buds. Total satisfaction for under 10US$.

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