From Vang Vieng, we supposed to take the mini bus to Luang Prabang which should depart around 9 am (cost 100,000 kip – around RM40). But the mini bus didn’t turn out after almost 2 hours of waiting. We were arranged to take the VIP bus instead – at 11 am. The journey to Luang Prabang is known to be very scenic but very challenging. It took almost 8 hours for us to reach our destination, even though the distance (according to Google Maps) is roughly around 200 km! How to describe the whole journey? For those of you that had been to Genting Highlands – the journey to Luang Prabang feels like going up and down Genting Highlands for 10 times. But it was indeed one of the most scenic journey I had been to, minus the whole dizziness effect I was feeling from the curvy road.
We arrived Luang Prabang around 7 pm and we were desperately needing to check in our hotel. The bus station is around 5 km away from the main city and hence we had no choice to take the tuk tuk that readily awaiting us there. It was extremely hard to negotiate the tuk tuk price there as they seem to gang up and offered only a fixed price at around 20,000 kip per person (~ RM8). At last we only managed to lower it to around 15,000 kip (~ RM6). The tuk tuk driver will try to cram as many people as possible into the tuk tuk. Please be reminded that the tuk tuk driver will charge higher if you do not want to share the tuk tuk with others. There’s no choice but to take the tuk tuk that seems to already conquered those tourists’ entry point into the historical city.
Finally we arrived our hotel – Maison Dalabua, which beautifully means “The Princess of Lotus”. Yes, the hotel is surrounded by pond of Lotus Flowers, another very beautiful hotel we stayed during our Laos Trip. The hotel is formerly a colonial building with western architecture. They are currently undergoing some renovation to build a swimming pool and another new block of hotel rooms. Room rate is considerably alright – USD 54 (~ RM170) during low season with well equipped hotel in room facilities. It is situated around 10-15 minutes away from the Luang Prabang town center by foot (where the night market start), at a more quiet area of the city.
We went to the famous night market shortly after we check in to our hotel. You can find any kind of souvenirs there, especially handicraft items. The hawkers are very pleasant to deal with and often ready to give discount for real buyers. The night market open around 5.30 pm and close around 10 pm. To be honest, many stuffs that you will find there (especially the handicrafts) consider quite cheap compare to other South East Asia Countries. So don’t obsessed with the bargaining if you think the price is alright for the value of the item you are buying considering that they are also trying to make a living. I really enjoy my shopping here because things are very unique, beautiful and cheap. But beware as little stuff can accumulate and become a lot! I spend almost RM300 just buying little stuffs here! #women&shopping
Oh ya! while we were wandering around, we decided to take a flight back to Vientiane to catch our return flight as we don’t want to waste 12-14 hours on the road. The flight (Laos Airline) cost us around USD 70 per pax, much cheaper than the published price online. We booked through one of the many travel agent along Sisavavong Road (where the night market located). It turned out to be a good choice as it allowed us to spend more time exploring the former capital of Laos.
The next day, we started our exploration with the many temples around Luang Prabang. It is now a UNESCO world heritage city, like our Penang and Malacca that full with historical and cultural site. We took the bicycle provided by the hotel and cycle around the city. There are many temples around and I only remembered two of them – the one at National Museum and the most beautiful Wat Xieng Thong (Temple of the Golden City). Of course, it is very unfair for me to say Wat Xieng Thong is the most beautiful one. Maybe I should rephrase it as the most well known one instead as each temple has its own distinctness and beauty. Some that I had visited like Wat Sane and Wat Mai are incredible “photogenic” in its own way. As for Wat Xieng Thong, it is the decorative mosaic around the wall. Since it is the most popular one, entrance fees are required to enter the temple, which is at 20,000 kip (~RM 8).
The temple located next to the National Palace Museum is another great beauty with a shield of green emerald on it. It is free to visit around the compound of the National Palace Museum. But to enter the Museum, you need to pay 30,000 kip (~RM12) and camera is prohibited. Decent clothing is required to enter the Museum and clothes rental is available at the locker area. So wear decently when you want to visit the Museum. You will required to keep your belongings at the locker before entering the Museum. It is definitely worth to pay a visit as it gave a glimpse of the royalty of Laos, which is little known by many of us. There is this area with a huge portrait of the King painted by a Russian Artist. According to one of the friendly guard that insisted to tell me the story about this painting, it is similar to the painting of Mona Lisa, where the portrait is so real that as if the King’s eyes will follow you when you go left and right. Bizarre right?
Just opposite the National Palace Museum, it is the Phousi Hil, where you can have a great view of the city from the top of the hill. Entrance fee is 20,000 kip (~RM8). You need to hike up around 300 staircase and you get to see a 360 degree panoramic view of the city. This place is also known as the Holy Mountain of Luang Prabang where Wat Chomsi Stupa is located at the top of the hill.
The Royal Ballet Theater is located inside the National Palace Museum compound as well. We went for the show in the evening that cost us 100,000 kip (~RM40) to watch the traditional dance and cultural performance, known as Phra-Lak Phra-Lam that had strong influenced by the Hindu Epic, the Ramayana. Well, I’m not a big fans of all this cultural performance. But prior of my visit, while doing research on Luang Prabang, I came across some travel site that urge for the support of tourists for this cultural performance as it was banned for almost 15 years in the past and was revived during the millennium years. So if there’s no audience, it will be extremely hard to preserve such culture.
In general, Luang Prabang is easy to navigate around just by foot or bicycle. You can take your own sweet pace, to walk around the once capital of Laos, to see the well preserved culture as well as the remains of French colonization architectures that compliment the old city in harmony.