Thursday, December 8, 2016

LP101 - INTRODUCTION TO LUANG PRABANG

Believe it or not, I did not even know the existence of Luang Prabang before seeing the AirAsia advertisement when it opened its latest route to the city. But at least I am well aware of Laos, and its capital, Vientiane, as some people don't even know where the country is.



Where is Laos located?

Laos is one of the Indochina countries which shares the borders with Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Myanmar, and is a member of the ASEAN. This should be not an easy task for the security people to look after the country. 



Where is Luang Prabang located?

Luang Prabang is placed on the centre north of the Laos map, surrounded by mountains and forests. That should explain the lower temperature and cooler air here. One significant geographical landmark is it is situated at the spot where two rivers meet, the famous Mekong and Nam Khan river. The Mekong river then makes its way through the country to Cambodia and Vietnam. The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Luang Prabang takes about 3 hours so you should be able to calculate the approximate distance.





Why Luang Prabang?

It is a UNESCO heritage site, where history, tradition and culture are very much preserved - hence there is no (or should not be) any social activities past midnight. Once colonized by the French, you could see some French influence to the city. This is the place you should go if you want a relaxed and calm holiday, as the traffic is (still) not busy and you could just simply walk to any place you want or get a tuk tuk for spots further away from the city. And if you love nature and activities related to it, like trekking and kayaking, this is the place to go. People at the hotel could suggest tourists' attractions for you and there is a Tourist Information Office in the city centre for you to get more help.






Any special preparation required?

the map given by the hotel

This is one place which you can simply pack-and-go. Just a pair of strong feet and walking shoes should be necessary. There will be a lot of walking and climbing to be done. Money changers are everywhere. I was told that I had to change my Malaysian RM to US Dollar and then only change the US currency to the local Kip, but that was definitely a misleading fact. You could easily change your RM to Kip here. The best rate in December 2016 is RM 1000 = 1 500 000 Kip, and that is already a lot of money. 



There is no Muslim community here so it is difficult to get halal food. So far we only came across two halal eating places in Luang Prabang but we did not try the food. That was not an issue for us as we brought our own (instant) food from home.



Is it a good place for shopping?

I might say things are quite costly here, of perhaps the locals have marked up the price for tourists, which is common everywhere else. For example, a pack of sliced fruits like mango costs you about 10 000 kip which I would consider expensive. The cheapest fridge magnet at the night market is 30 000 Kip and the funny thing is you could get a piece of shawl cheaper than a piece of fridge magnet. The specialties would be the locally hand-woven beautiful clothes, especially the ones produced by the indigenous people.




I personally feel Luang Prabang is a great place to go. People here are very friendly, the traders at the wet market and night market are polite and humble, and treat you nicely. Guides do not ask for tips from tourists. If you have the chance, better come here earlier, before the place gets too commercialized like Bali or Siem Reap, and before more Malaysians go to the markets and start bargaining like crazy.




This is one place I would consider going back just to sit by the waterfalls and enjoy the cool and fresh air when I am already retired but I would definitely not trek up the hills any more by that time.


RELATED LINKS TO MY LUANG PRABANG TRIP:

Ock Pop Tock - The Handicraft Centre
[PART ONE] [PART TWO]
The Public Library in Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang Handicraft Exhibition
[DAY ONE] [DAY TWO]
Luang Prabang National Museum
Haw Pha Bang Temple
Climbing Up Mount Phousi
[PART ONE] [PART TWO]
Luang Pabang Film Festival
Bear Rescue Centre at Kuangsi Waterfalls
The Beautiful Kuangsi Waterfalls [PART 1] [PART 2] [PART 3]
The Royal Theatre
Night Food Market
Night Market in Town
The Alm Giving Ceremony [Day 3] [Day 4]
The Morning Market [Part 1] [Part 2]
Strange Food Sold at the Market
Cruising on Nam Khan River
The Picturesque Tad Sae Waterfalls [Part 1] [Part 2]
Monument of the President
Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre
Strolling Along Nam Khan River
Wat Xieng Thong
Observing the Buildings Overlooking Mekong River
Mylaohome Hotel

Luang Prabang International Airport


VIDEO
Lao Boy Band "Xtreme" Live Performance
Traditional Lao Music Performance
Cruising on Nam Khan River
Traditional Lao Dance at the Royal Theatre