Backpacking in Laos Part 3 of 3: Luang Prabang

Also read:

10 Days in Malaysia & Laos – Budget & Itinerary

A Weekend in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Backpacking in Laos Part 1 of 3: Vientiane

Backpacking in Laos Part 2 of 3: Vang Vieng

Day 4 (PM): Travel to Luang Prabang

Same with our travel arrangements to Vang Vieng, a van was supposed to pick us up at the guesthouse at 3PM. But we got bored so we decided to walk to the Wonderful Tours Laos office where we we booked our tickets. The van was spacious because there were empty seats. However, our companions throughout the whole trip so it was impossible to fall asleep. The road the Luang Prabang was full of curves and turns which our driver expertly navigated.

I really enjoyed sightseeing along the way because of the mountain views. We made 2 stops within our 5-hour trip. Our driver stopped at a gas station a few minutes outside Vang Vieng to gas up and to let us buy snacks for the trip. The second stop was for the wonderful view deck when we were halfway to Luang Prabang. It felt like we were so high up in the mountains and we could see the silhouettes of the mountains of Laos all around. The area was so cold so we didn’t stay too long.

Halfway point between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang

We arrived at a transport terminal in Luang Prabang around 8 PM. Our guesthouse was a few minutes drive away so we hired a tuktuk to take us there. After some haggling, the driver agreed to drop us off at our guesthouse for a reasonable rate. But even though we showed the address and the name of the guesthouse, we still a hard time searching for it. The driver dropped us off at the Night Market because he thought our guesthouse was located along the same street and vehicles can’t enter the Night Market. It was our first glimpse of the night market and we were a bit distracted by everything that was on sale instead of focusing wholly on finding where we would sleep that night. LOL.

Night Market

Our Accommodation: Jasmine Ville GuesthouseFinding Jasmine Ville Guesthouse was a challenge for us. I incorrectly assumed that tuktuk drivers were familiar with all of the accommodations in Luang Prabang, but this was clearly not the case. We only had the street name for the guesthouse and we didn’t print out the map. We entered the Night Market as our tuktuk driver instructed but we didn’t find Jasmine Ville Guesthouse. We asked for directions from the locals but they kept pointing us in different directions. Jayvee volunteered to search for it on her own and we waited for almost an hour before she came back for us. We were looking in the wrong area, and there were two Jasmine Guesthouses in Luang Prabang which made it more confusing. LOL.

Jasmine Ville Guesthouse

Once we figured out where it was, we were happy with the location. It was walking distance to the sites we wanted to go in Luang Prabang and it was located from the main street which meant that it was quiet at night 🙂

We were assigned 2 rooms during our stay. Jayvee left a day earlier so we got transferred to a room for 3 during our last night.

Room for 4

Room for 3

I loved Jasmine Ville Guesthouse for the same reasons as our stay in Maylay Guesthouse. Our rooms and bathroom were spacious and clean. The WiFi worked great. And the breakfast was hearty. Aside from the array of breakfast meals we can choose from, we were also each given a smoothie and a plate of fruits for our group. Continue reading

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Backpacking in Laos Part 2 of 3: Vang Vieng

Also read:

10 Days in Malaysia & Laos – Budget & Itinerary

A Weekend in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Backpacking in Laos Part 1 of 3: Vientiane

Backpacking in Laos Part of 3 of 3: Luang Prabang

Day 2 (PM): Travel to Vang Vieng

A van picked us up at Green Box Hotel just before 2 PM. We were supposed to transfer to a bus, but for some reason the van became our transport going to Vang Vieng. The travel time was around 4-5 hours without any traffic. I tried to rest on the way as much as possible because the scenery didn’t interest me much. It was so similar to what I see in the Philippines whenever I travel to the province. There was only one stopover where the driver gave us enough time for a bathroom break and a quick meal if we wanted.

We arrived at the town of Vang Vieng at around 7 PM. The van stopped somewhere in the town center and we just asked for directions going to our guesthouse which we could reach by walking in 5 minutes.

We passed by The Walking Street which is intended to be the tourist hub of Vang Vieng at night. But it hasn’t reached its full potential yet in my opinion. There were only a few shops and stalls along the whole street – far from the hustle and bustle of well established night markets like the one in Cameron Highlands.

Vang Vieng’s The Walking Street looked a bit deserted. It needs more shops and people!

Along the way, we saw the office of Wonderful Tours Laos from whom we availed our next day’s tour. We made a quick stop to confirm our reservation which I made via email, and to pay for our tour. Our guesthouse was only a block away from the tour office.

Our Accommodation: Maylay Guesthouse

We were most satisfied with our stay in Maylay Guesthouse ❤ I found them via Agoda and the great reviews along with the affordable price convinced me to book 2 nights with them.

Maylay Guesthouse

Here are the reasons why we loved Maylay Guesthouse:

Location. It was located right in the center of the town which meant that everything was within walking distance. We didn’t have to ride a tuktuk during our stay just to find some place to eat, shop or (in Jayvee’s case) to get a massage.

Our rooms. For around Php 1,200 or USD 24 per room, we didn’t expect much. But our rooms were spacious and clean, the beds were so comfy and the bathroom was huge. I also appreciated that there was a space where we could hang our towels and wet clothes for when we go swimming.

Maylay Guesthouse’s twin bedroom. We booked 2 rooms for our group and they had similar layouts.

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Backpacking in Laos Part 1 of 3: Vientiane

Also read:

10 Days in Malaysia & Laos – Budget & Itinerary

A Weekend in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Backpacking in Laos Part 2 of 3: Vang Vieng

Backpacking in Laos Part of 3 of 3: Luang Prabang

Laos is such a beautiful country and I can’t believe that not so many people don’t know about it. Prior to our trip, I told some friends about where I was going and these were some of the reactions I got:

  1. Are there even good places to see in Laos?
  2. Laos still exists? I thought it was conquered by _____.
  3. Where is Laos? It’s in Asia? Is it a city?
  4. You are the only person I know who’ll take a trip there.

Don’t worry, I tried to respond to these questions/statements to the best of my abilities and to share what I know about Laos. I did my research about where to go and what to expect, but I still learned so much about this country during the trip itself. So I’m sharing my experiences in this blog in hopes that it might convince you to visit Laos too 🙂

A sneak peek of Laos

The Flight: Air Asia

We tried our best to sleep as long as we could at KLIA 2 until it was time to check in for our flight. I wasn’t able to get much sleep maybe because I was too excited.

If you have an early morning international flight from KLIA 2, be informed that there are very limited options for food at the departure terminal. At 5 AM, Gloria Jean’s was the only cafe that was open. Everyone who was hungry and waiting for their flights flocked to the cafe as soon as it opened.

Our flight to Laos wasn’t very pleasant because of the other passengers. I was able to sleep for most of the flight, but I kept waking up every now and then because of the noise. There were some passengers a few rows behind us, who made so much noise. They were talking and laughing so loudly. Some of them even stood at the aisles so they can converse with their companions closely. A flight attendant reminded them not to be so loud and for the people standing in the aisles to sit down because they were blocking the way to the lavatory to no avail. They continued on for like forever. Keep in mind that this was a 6 AM flight, so I’m sure that most passengers would rather sleep during the flight.

Upon arriving at Wattay International Airport, we got immigration cards to fill out and lined up to get our passports stamped. Philippine passport holders do not need a visa to visit Laos.

Before exiting the airport, we bought a taxi coupon from the taxi counter. This is to make sure that the taxi taking us to Vientiane wouldn’t overcharge us. The flat rate from the airport to the city is 7 USD per taxi. It was a bit expensive because the trip only took around 15-20 minutes.

Our Accommodation: Green Box Hotel

The accommodation we chose was located near famous landmarks so we could walk to almost anywhere from the hotel. The location and their affordable cafe are the only thing that I found positive during our overnight stay. I would recommend this hotel with caution. Maybe we were just unfortunate but this was what we experienced:

  1. We availed of capsule beds in the dorm rooms for 9 USD per pax. Karla and Myr were assigned a bed on the lower level, while Jayvee and I were supposed to sleep on the top level. Jayvee climbed up on our bed and she told me the sheets were dusty. So on the pretext of having a hard time climbing up the top bunks (which was also true), we requested to be transferred to beds on the bottom bunk. The staff asked if we were okay to stay in another room and we said okay. We were moved to a clean bed that time.

    Our bed

  2. The rooms itself were not so clean. There were bits of trash on the floor and the rugs looked like they been collecting dust and other particles for some time.

    The dorm rooms at Green Box Hotel

  3. There were mosquitoes in the room which the signs in the hotel warned us about. We had to put on some insect repellent before going to sleep.
  4. Jayvee and I lost our towels. We hung those towels by our beds before leaving the hostel and they were no longer there when we came back a couple of hours later. My towel was rented from the hotel so I kept asking for a replacement. Jayvee lost her personal towel so asked the staff for help in case housekeeping mistakenly included it in the dirty laundry when they cleaned the room. Our requests were not addressed because…
  5. The staff had a hard time communicating in English. I had a feeling they didn’t understand our situation even after explaining several times, so Jayvee and I both gave up. Tak (not sure about the spelling of his name), who was on morning duty when we checked in was so helpful. He was the staff who moved us into another bed when we requested it. The other staff were not so responsive because of the language barrier 😦

To balance things out, I’m listing the things I liked about Green Box Hotel:

  1. The location – it was near the famous landmarks, so we were able to walk for most of our DIY Vientiane City Tour.
  2. Breakfast is included in the room rates. I wasn’t able to take a photo of their breakfast spread, but it consisted of toast, spreads, banana, coffee and tea. Basic but filling.
  3. There were plenty of showers rooms for each floor so we didn’t have to line up for long to wait our turns.
  4. Food at their cafe was so affordable. We ate lunch there just after we checked out and while waiting for the van to take us to Vang Vieng.
  5. The hotel was also near STB Bank where we exchanged our US dollars to Laotian kip. From what I’ve read, you can only exchange your money to Laotian kip once you’re in Laos and it’s best to do it in a bank because they have the best rates. I found the latter part to be true. STB’s exchange rate that time was $1 = 8,268 kip while others were around 8,100-8,200. I feel that this isn’t such a big deal though because the smallest bill they had is 500. The amount I exchanged should have been equal to 1,587,456 kip but the cashier didn’t give me the 456. LOL.

    Green Box Hotel Cafe

Itinerary: 2D/1N

Day 1 – Vientiane City Tour

We started with the our city tour walk after a late lunch. Along the way, we passed by Lao National Cultural Hall which looked impressive but didn’t interest us enough to explore what it contained.

Lao National Cultural Hall

Our next stop was That Dam or Black Stupa since it was  nearest from Green Box Hotel. The stupa appears neglected and not so grand. Legend says that it was once covered in gold, but it was stolen by the Siamese army when they ransacked Vientiane in the 1820s. There is no entrance fee here.

That Dam

Just across the street, was a stall selling iced coffee. My companions are coffee lovers so they didn’t miss the chance to try Lao coffee for the first time. It was love at first sip for them 🙂

This little stall sold one of the most delicious coffee my companions have tasted according to them

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