Monday, April 18, 2016

Luang Prabang, Laos

It seems only yesterday I arrived in Laos, but it was last August when me and my travel buddies arrived early morning in Luang Prabang after a long bus ride from Chiang Rai. We were really tired but then there was just so much of excitement to explore Luang Prabang...

One thing that I'm always grateful about ; whenever I travel, I always run into the good people. Can't even count how many strangers I met on the road became family, people who continuously inspired and motivated me. I've done variety of traveling solo in Asia, USA, Europe and Australia and pretty proud of how far I've come happy. While few years ago I was in a huge mission of finding new home away from home, I found traveling solo is a great way to find answers I've been seeking about myself and what exactly I want in my life. Especially last year when I took a year off and all I wanted to do just writing, taking photos, celebrating life even things weren't always easy and fun as it seems on social media - but I grew, a lot ! Who knew walking into the unknown could lead you to amazing places.

Previously I spent about 3 days in Chiang Rai, then I took a public bus from Chiang Rai central bus station to Chiang Khong ( about 65 Baht/one way ). Try to leave early about 9am-ish so you have enough time to book your bus ticket and chillax in Chiang Khong before departing to Luang Prabang at 5pm. Tell the bus driver that you want to go to the border, so once he stops near the border - you can take tuk-tuk to continue your journey til the gate of the border. Walk ? Nah, a little too far on foot. Tuk-tuk around Chiang Khong border has fix rate so unfortunately you can't really bargain but of course you can always try. Unlike Cambodia/Vietnam border that always packed with people and seems unorganized, I would say the border at Chiang Khong was less crowded, cleaner, and well-organized. They even have shuttle bus to drop you to the Laos border, so overall it was pretty easy and smooth process at the immigration. The fact that there's nothing much to do in Chiang Khong ( but they have free wifi - pheww ), only few local restaurants and.. that's it, it could be quite boring but me and my friends managed to have power nap on the floor. One thing we learned from booking a bus ticket here to Luang Prabang, at the beginning the staff told us that there's no seat left for 5 pm bus but they have a van leaving at 9 pm, slightly more expensive but if the worst case we didn't get bus ticket, of course we have to take the van. My friend suggested us to have lunch first across the street then let's see after, so we came back and guess what... the same lady told us there are FEW seats available. Oh btw, we also heard she said the same thing to other tourists.

Gotta love travel sickness pill when you have to travel for hours and hours through the bumpy road of Laos. We arrived early morning, after negotiating price with the tuk tuk driver, he took us to the main street near the market where we had to walk for another 10 minutes to the hostel. To avoid more arguement or unnecessary headache, we got off and enjoyed the quiet morning of Luang Prabang instead. Watching the monks passed by and the sun rose slowly.

Obviously there are many things to do at Luang Prabang. From night market to Kwang Si waterfall, cooking class, museums, temples to hiking or walking tours - Luang Prabang always has something for everyone. Renting motorcycle isn't as easy as you may find in Thailand or Bali, so the other option travelers always use is sharing tuk-tuk to visit waterfall or other destinations. My favorite thing to do was definitely taking a long walk exploring little streets, talking to little kids or local people on the street or by the river, sitting at one of the bench while watching the local people open the night market and chatting with Australian designer who recently just opened her boutique in the main street of Luang Prabang. Coming to a new place where I had no expectations, I found myself falling in love again with the new food I tried, people I met, all the little things I saw and touched, that somehow I thought it's a bad idea to stay longer so the very first thing I should do was leave as soon as possible, even tho it was hard.. but I can always bring the memory with me.

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