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:
- Are there even good places to see in Laos?
- Laos still exists? I thought it was conquered by _____.
- Where is Laos? It’s in Asia? Is it a city?
- 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 🙂
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…
- 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:
- The location – it was near the famous landmarks, so we were able to walk for most of our DIY Vientiane City Tour.
- 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.
- There were plenty of showers rooms for each floor so we didn’t have to line up for long to wait our turns.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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 🙂