Around the World 2003-2005
Luang Prabang and Muang Ngoi, Laos
What's New
Itinerary Page
Robinson Crusoe Island, Fiji
Feejee Experience
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Auckland, New Zealand
Wellington, New Zealand
Hiking New Zealand (part 1)
Hiking New Zealand (part 2)
Queenstown, New Zealand
Milford Sound, New Zealand
Manapouri, New Zealand
Bridges and Buildings of Sydney, Australia
A Few Friends in Sydney
Boracay, Philippines
Vientiane and Vang Vieng, Laos
Luang Prabang and Muang Ngoi, Laos
Trekking in Laos
Hong Kong
The Questions
Sneak Peek
European Travel Links
Contact Info

February 14th to 22nd, 2004

Luang Probang:
Luang Probang is the tourist center of Laos.  It is surrounded by mountains and situated at the junction of the Mekong and a minor river.  As an old French colonial city; Laos cultural center with the highest concentration of Wats, Buddhist temples, in the country; and one of the few international airports, Luang Probang draws tourists from all over the world causing an economic bubble.  Its entire historical section is dedicated to tourism.  Sadly, the only locals you will see are there to sell things to or provide services for tourists. The night market has beautiful hand woven fabrics at inflated prices.  The restaurants cost 3 to 5 times more than equivalent restaurants outside the area.  In some places, the cost of eating out was the same if not more than eating at a nice place in the United States.
My friend Kirsten was disgusted with the place and left after a couple of days.  She only had a short time to travel and I think she was tired of being harassed for a tuk-tuk to the waterfall or boat across the river or to the caves.  Even the Wats, Buddhist temples, cost about 15,000 kip to see. The exchange rate is $1 to 10,000 kip. The local rate for things: 2,000 kip for a bottle of Pepsi. 10,000 kip for a 100km bus ride. 2,000-5,000 kip for a good meal. 1 liter of drinking water between 500 and 1000 kip. When we got to Luang Probang the guesthouses were asking between $10 and $25 for a room, which was a bit of a shock since the last town we were in; our very clean room with two beds and a hot shower cost $3.
After Kirsten left, I stayed a few more days exploring.  I went to the waterfalls, climbed the hilltop wat, watched the walking of the monks, went trekking in the mountains, and took a short trip to Muang Ngoi.

Typical Street in Luang Probang

Ricecakes Drying in the Sun

Overlooking the River

Farm Across the River

Family Living on Cargo Boat

Cargo Boats on the Mekong

Sunset over the Mekong

Famous Night Market

Walking of the Monks:
Every morning at dawn, the Monks walk through the city taking handouts of food from the locals lined along the streets.  From what I saw, it was mostly rice or some morcel wapped in a banana leaf.

One of the Many Wats in Luang Probang

Early morning Monk Walk

Waiting for the Monks

Food for the Monks

The Waterfalls:
I joined a group of travelers staying at the same guest house for a trip to the waterfalls.  On the way, our pickup truck had some troubles and we stopped at a roadside shop.  At the shop we met the three girls pictured below.  If you look closely, you will see there is a small baby on the back of one of the girls.  The little baby did not make a noise the entire time we were there.  I was surprised a girl so young would be put in charge of a baby.
Like the Wats, the falls had a special entrance fee of 15,000 kip for foreigners.   The entire place was beautiful with hidden limestone pools, emerald green water, and even a rope swing.

Three Girls

Girl with Baby on Back

Girl with Baby on Back

Diving at the Waterfalls

Monks at the Base of the Waterfall

"Bus" to Muang Ngoi

The following day I heading to Muang Ngoi. To get there, I took the "bus", a small pickup with bench seats down the side. The sticker on the outside said 9 people max. During the 3 hour trip, the number varied between 14 and 17 people in some way attached to the pickup. And the bed of the truck was filled with bags of "rice?", so my knees were nearly to my ears. The next stage of my journey was by boat for a little over an hour, and I shouldn't have been surprised at how tightly they packed the people in.  It wouldn't have been so bad it I hadn't been cramped on the pickup truck for so long.

Muang Ngoi:

Main Street

Is a cute village tucked in the mountains on a good size river.  No electricity except from 6pm to 10pm powered by a noisy generator.  No cars, trucks, or motor scooters.  No hot water.  No flush toilets. 
I was amazed at how much noise chickens, ducks, pigs, dogs, and other various farm animals can make in the hours before dawn.  Whoever said escaping to the country side was peaceful, did not stay on a farm.  In Laos, every house is a mini farm complete with all the above and half a dozen children.
I guess it would have been ideal if I hadn't gotten sick the following day.  I did nothing but swing in a hammock and watch the river flow.  Not a bad thing to do, I just wish I had been feeling better.  Oh, I would also have liked a bed with some sort of padding.  If I had slept on top of the blanket, it would have been a great improvement, but then I would have frozen to death.  Ahh the choices in life.  I guess if I hadn't been feeling under the weather, I think it would have been worth the $2/night.  On the third day I was feeling well enough for the 5 hour journey necessary to escape back to Luang Probang.

Muang Ngoi From the River


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