September 18, 2015

Laos : Exploring Luang Prabang - A day in the Old Town

Continuation from here...

I was looking forward to explore Luang Prabang cos it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Much of the old town can be reached on foot but on my last day here, I rented a bicycle from my hostel to get around.

Just followed the bicycle route on the map.

First stop, the Monument Du President Kaysone Phom Vihane. He was the first Prime Minister of Laos who then succeeded Souphanouvong as the second President.

Couldn't get closer to the monument as the park was gated and it was closed at that time.

So I just continued cycling through the route and had a quick stop at another monument. This is Monument Du President Souphanouvong, the country's first President.

Initially I wanted to go to Ban Xang Khong and Ban Xieng Lek to watch the villagers making Posa paper (made from Mulberry bark) and weaving silk.

Had to cross this old wooden bridge.

After a while, I got lost. I couldn't find the turn to the village. It look so easy on the map but I dunno why I couldn't find it, I came to a dead end of a dirt road. Oh well.. it wasn't a main attraction pon (bitter.. haha), so I decided to turn back.

little monk

From one of the wats nearby the river, I saw the bamboo bridge.

Must check it out later..

Then I passed by Wat Visoun. Founded in 1512, it is Luang Prabang's oldest temple. On the grounds are a sim of fairly plain architecture and the That Makmo.

the sim

That Makmo

Wat Visoun is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm
Admission is 20,000 Kip

Next to Wat Visoun is Wat Aham. It is just a small temple, and practically deserted. Only saw some monks there..

 Wat Aham is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm
Admission is 5,000 Kip
Moving on, I reached the bamboo bridge. Once a year, after the rainy season, a bamboo bridge is built over the river. When the rainy season returns, the bridge has to be removed otherwise it would be swept away by the strong current.

Crossing the bridge is not free though. You have to pay a fee of 5,000 Kip, to help maintain the bridge and pay a small salary to the family who built the bridge.

It was rather hot and I needed to take a break, so I stopped by the road and chilled at one of the riverside café.

Sooo relaxing! I almost fell asleep on the couch..

cute local kid

My next destination was Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang's most prominent wat. There are a few structures on the ground of the temple but the most impressive one is the sim, the temple's congregation hall. Both the sim's exterior and interior are richly decorated with intricate gold stenciling on black lacquer.

the sim

The sim's back wall contains a colorful mosaic, the symbolic 'tree of life'.

The sim is surrounded by several chapels and stupas. One of them is the Chapelle Rouge or Red Chapel, which boast a colorful mosaic on its pink wall.

The wall is even featured on the cover of Lonely Planet Laos.

Another highlight at Wat Xieng Thong is the Chariot Hall. This hall houses the funeral carriage of King Sisavang Vong who died in 1959.

the funeral carriage, decorated with large dragon snakes at the front

details at the door

Wat Xieng Thong is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm
Admission is 20,000 Kip

Next stop was the Royal Palace Museum. Formerly a Royal Palace, it is now converted into a museum, offering visitors a chance to see how the Laos Royals used to live.

the Royal temple
Taking photos inside the museum is not allowed. Pfttt.
Royal Palace Museum is open daily (except Tuesday) from 8 am until 11.30 am, and from 1.30 pm until 4 pm
Admission is 30,000 Kip

Just opposite the Royal Palace Museum is the stairway to Phousi Hill. I parked my bicycle in the museum's compound and hiked up the steps. However, halfway after climbing 138 steps.. there was a ticket counter. Need to pay 20,000 Kip to visit the hill. Wahh.. Such a rip off!!

Terus patah balik. -_-

I'd rather spend the money to buy this fruitshake!

Just 10,000 Kip.

After all the cycling, I thought a traditional Lao massage was a good way to relax. Went for a 90-minutes session at a spa nearby my hostel for 70,000 Kip. Not bad..

About 5.30 pm, the hostel staff helped me to call a tuk-tuk to the airport. Would be flying back to Vientiane with Lao Airlines. Splurge a bit here cos I didn't want to endure a longggg bus journey to the capital. hehe..

Luang Prabang International Airport

Flying time from Luang Prabang to Vientiane was only 45 minutes.

Once I reached Wattay International Airport, I just wandered in the small airport, filling my time. I actually planned to spend the night there cos I was too cheapskate after splurging on the flight ticket from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. hahaha..

After the last flight out, the airport slowly became empty. No other travelers around.. looked like I was the only sleeper that night. I just sat at the benches, reading a book. A guard was nearby but he just watched me cautiously. But around 11 pm, an immigration staff came to me and told me that the airport will be closed and nobody is allowed inside.

Oh no where should I go? There's no tuk-tuk or taxi outside. The guy then told me there's a hotel just across the road in front of the airport. He was so nice to walk me to the hotel but in my mind, I was cursing myself. Plan nak jimat tak jadi.. haihhh!

Luckily I managed to bargain with the hotel staff, so I got a discount for the night.

The next day, I had another unfavorable experience at the airport. At the airport counter, the staff asked me to weigh my backpack cos I had no check-in bag. Dengki la teww.. Unfortunately, I was about 1 kg overweight. I told the staff I would transfer some of the items to my daily backpack to reduce the weight. Annoyingly, the staff said handcarry items are only limited to 7 kg, which they said, including my daily backpack.

Sooo, they asked me to weigh my daily backpack as well! Arghhhh!!! I exploded right away at the counter. Tried to argue but to no avail. In the end, I had no choice but pay USD 36 to check-in my bag.

Hmm.. although I love the country, I hate Vientiane's airport!

No comments: