Luang Prabang

What a difference 12 hours and a bit of sunshine makes.

We arrived in LP just as it was getting dark, pissing down with rain, tired and couldn’t find the hotel. Eventually found it and headed out to meet friends from the slow boat for drinks. I really didn’t want to go out but I needed food and a beer to make up for a crappy day. First impressions not good.

Next day we get up and head out to explore the town. Sun’s out, had a good night’s sleep and once we start exploring I realise (with relief) that it’s going to be a beautiful place to chill out for a few days. This is a good job as we’re mainly here to get our Vietnamese visas sorted. There’s a consulate in town so we head there first thing – it’s a painless process and they’re ready to collect within 48 hrs.

Truth be told we didn’t do a lot in our time here other than explore slowly, recharge our batteries and take in the scenery. One excursion to the local waterfalls aside we just wandered around taking photos of the town, the river and the remarkable light from the sunsets.

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The town has a few gems:

Phou Si – the temple on the top of the big hill in the middle of town is pretty unremarkable but the 300 step climb to the top is well worth it at sunset when you get the most remarkable views over the river and the mountains in the distance. But for the heat it could have been a town in the foot of the French Alps.

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Icon Klub – a little cocktail bar run by Elizabeth, a remarkable Hungarian woman who makes fabulous cocktails. We were immediately attracted by the review in Lonely Planet that said

If Bukowski and Bergman were bars and sired a lovechild, it might have looked something like this. Surely the best bar in Laos.

Was pretty much spot on. We went in for the review, stayed for the cocktails, the welcome from Elizabeth and the many characters that the bar attracts.

There are also numerous cafés doing great baguettes and croissants (a nod to LP’s colonial past) for breakfast and local dishes in the evening. We went twice to Cafe Toui on the recommendation of Elizabeth and were disappointed to be the only customers both times – the food in there deserves better, great Laotian food at modest prices. Maybe the slightly off the beaten track location works against them.

We liked LP and really needed the laid back atmosphere for a few days.

We’re moving on to Vietnam and Hanoi next but the useless bastards at Opodo almost ruined that for us. We booked a flight with them from LP to Hanoi (the alternative being a bus journey on horrible roads that can take up to 36 hours), they took the money and then cancelled the ticket. Except they didn’t tell us they’d cancelled it – it was only the “My Flights” app that we use to monitor all our bookings that told us. Awful uncontactable customer service didn’t do anything to help so we ended up having to source tickets from elsewhere. At the time of writing they’ve refunded the flight tickets but kept a £40 admin fee. Safe to say we won’t be using them again

Flickr Album from LP