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livelylass Oct 21st, 2005 01:47 PM

Tips on Luang Prabang sites, lodging, restaurants?
Traveling next month to Laos, and need more info on L.P., plus weather and clothing?

Mealea Oct 21st, 2005 04:02 PM

Why not do a search on this site and then ask more specific questions. That might be a good idea.

Lyndie Oct 21st, 2005 07:59 PM

Hi livelylass. I don't want to sound dismissive of your questions but I always try to borrow or buy a guidebook of the country I propose to visit. Lonely Planet is good enough.

LP is a glorious town and there a heaps of places to stay, eat & visit. Take cotton clothes & cotton socks, a light rain jacket, a cotton wrap or sulu for a cover-up, swimmers, comfy walking shoes or sandals, capri pants & a pair of black pants & a black short sleeved top for nights out. Most people use for info on weather.
Have a great trip and do as Mealea says regarding a search here. It will turn up useful info.

TexasSlim Oct 22nd, 2005 04:49 AM

I agree, get a book and read up. One thing I'll say is go to LP ASAP because I was there a couple of months ago and wasn't too impressed, it all seemed very "Fake Asia" to me, people I spoke with who had been there a year or two earlier agree that it's becoming spoilt rapidly. I thought the locals in LP were a greedy bunch of buggers, almost as bad as the Balinese.

Alan Oct 22nd, 2005 07:07 AM

Luang Prababang is very laid-back and pleasant, but there is some truth in what TexasSlim says. If they ever remade "The Truman Show" with an Asian setting, it would look a bit like Luang Prabang. Call me crazy (because the climate couldn't be more different) but it kept reminding me of a couple of Swiss villages I have been to. Here we are in the middle of Asia, and there are marked parking bays in the main street! And everything is so orderly!

However, my kids thought this was the best town of any we went to in Asia. They loved the night market with all the wares displayed by dim electric bulbs strung intermittently along the street, they liked the restaurants, whose food is Asian-but-specially-modified-to-suit-the-tourist, and, most of all, they loved the hotel where we stayed... Sayo's Guest House, which is an old French mansion with (in the upstairs rooms in the main building) shuttered windows with views on three sides (it's directly opposite a temple), fifteen-foor ceilings, and a solid old wooden staircase. Our room for the four of us cost us forty dollars a night -- easily the most expensive room we had in Asia -- but it was actually two rooms, and was wonderfully spacious... why, even the bathroom was bigger than some of the bedrooms we'd been staying in! There are, apparently, "ordinary" rooms in a secondary building out the back, but my advice to you is to get in early and ask for one of the upstairs rooms which run the whole depth of the building. It's worth the extra, and will put you in a good frame of mind to enjoy peaceful Luang Prabang. But it's not really Asia!

Kathie Oct 22nd, 2005 08:55 AM

Texas Slim and Alan, your experiences couldn't be more different from mine. I was there in 2002. There were very few cars at all in LP. We were lucky to find a driver who we engaged for a full day (US$30 my journal says). You might see a few tour company vehicles on the main street early in the morning, but after that it was just bicycles, tuktuks, rickshaws, etc.

The people were gracious and a bit shy. The novice monks were eager to practice their English with visitors. Comments abou the locals being greedy was entirely contrary to our experience.

We spent an idyllic week there.

MaryW Oct 22nd, 2005 06:46 PM

We were in LP for a week in 2004 and a further 10 days in 2005 - the difference was huge. So much more building, paving of streets etc. Many many more tourists (same time of year and suppose to be low season) than the previous year. We made an effort to get back as quickly as we could because we thought it would change quickly and we were very right. Now I still really love the place but I can see it turning into a bit of a theme park. Hopefully that will settle down a bit as it adjusts to the greater numbers but I'm glad to have seen it earlier rather than later. Friends who were there in the late 1990's of course say how much different it was then!

rhkkmk Oct 22nd, 2005 07:39 PM

i was in LP this june...i could see that it is developing fast...still not many cars...prices are climbing also...we were quoted $50 per person for a car and guide for a 4 hour sight see....i thought this outrageous...we did it on our own with a guide book for $12...didn't get all the details but got enough info for our taste...

it is still a nice place...the world bank and UN are providing funds but with that comes western taste and thought....i.e. the new brick side roads....looks like greenwich, CT to me....lots of the shops are run by ex-pats also...give it 15 years and you will have another chiang mai...

Mealea Oct 23rd, 2005 01:39 AM

I agree with the comments about Luang Prabang developing fast and getting quite touristy. For someone on a first trip to Asia, it will be a rather clean, safe, easy, and sanitized version of Asia. That's one reason why people like it. On the other hand, for people who have traveled extensively in Asia and want a deeper cultural experience, it may very well be disappointing.

Mealea Oct 23rd, 2005 02:13 AM

Oops, accidentally hit the send button. Continued below...

I suppose I fall into the last category of traveler and maybe that's why I didn't find LP to be as charming and exotic as others found it. It is indeed a very beautiful place, but I wish I could have seen it before it became so full of tourists. I went in the rainy season and it was still full of tourists. More foreign travelers than locals on the main street and surrounding heritage zone. In some parts of town, there were more tourists with cameras taking pictures of monks on the morning alms walk than there were local people giving alms!

When TexasSlim spoke of "fake Asia" I understood what he meant. I don't necessarily think it's fake, of course it's a real place for the people who live there, but life revolves around the tourist industry and many of the most beautiful old buildings have been converted into fancy hotels and slick restaurants. That's why it feels a bit like a theme park to some people. It has the feeling of being a little too perfect and in fact UNESCO is in the process of paving all of those little side streets that lead to the river with new red brick. Not so charming to me. So, I can also understand what Alan say by "It's not really Asia." It is Asia, but a neater, easier version especially designed for foreign tourists. I have a feeling Hoi An in Vietnam would be pretty similar from what I've heard. I've heard people either love Hoi An or say it's too sanitized for the same reasons.

I did like LP, enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere, and met some nice people there. People were friendly enough, but I started to feel the true Laos and met the friendliest people when I got out of LP.

I really enjoyed my trip up north on the Nam Ou river. It's a totally different feeling compared to LP. I also had a lot of fun in Vientiane, maybe because not everyone was involved in the tourist business and people were especially nice. I got a much stronger feeling of being in Laos than I did in LP, that's for sure.

I want to go back to Laos, but I think I've seen enough of Luang Prabang and would like to explore more of the far north and the far south.

I'm glad there are still many secret hidden gems in Asia. It seems Luang Prabang may not be one of them anymore and is firmly on the mainstream tourist trail.

TexasSlim Oct 23rd, 2005 03:20 AM

Kathie, I'm sure if you returned to LP you will find many adverse chances in the past 3 years. But don't get me wrong I didn't dislike the place, there is a unique charm, a very relaxed atmostphere, there are some lovely old buildings and interesting little streets to wander. And that night market with the soft lights is truly delightful. But the entire time I was in LP (almost a week) I just kept thinking that it all seemed false someway. The real Asia stinks a bit and has some trash & traffic fumes. As for my remarks about greed. Every temple I went to look at in LP had somebody sitting at a table to collect an admission (not from Laotions of course) I found I was digging into my pocket far more than I do in Thailand, I found food overpriced too, 100Bt for a som tam that costs 20-30Bt in Thailand, 150 Bt for a tom yam that I pay 50-60 Bt for in Thailand. Of course if you fly directly in from Paris or Rome then food prices in those LP restaurants are ridiculously low. But by comparision with neighboring Thailand they are laying it on a bit in LP. I very much enjoyed my 2 week holiday in Laos but I was very glad to get back to Thailand at the end of it.

Kathie Oct 23rd, 2005 11:15 AM

I'm so sorry to hear just how much LP has changed since I was there in 2002. While development was starting, and it was clear that it would soon be more developed, at that point it was really lovely. I spent a week there, and felt it was a very spiritual journey with daily visits to wats, the pilgrimmage to the Pak Ou caves, etc. It was also remarkably easy to get off the toursist track. We visited a Hmong Village during the Hmong new year - what a treat!

I've been traveling in Asia for over 20 years (it's my favorite part of the world) and felt PL was unique. I hope it recovers from its growing pains...

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