Art, Culture, and Ocean Conservation . . .

Posts tagged ‘laos’

Slow Boat Scam on the way to Luang Prabang

Travelers Beware: when taking the slow boat to Luang Prabang -once you cross the border and get shuttled to the last waiting point the man that runs the show there gives a great big speech on how he wants you to love Laos and that at the over night stop on the slow boat their are only 4 guest houses with 11 rooms and that you need to book with him in advance. He is lying. There are plenty of rooms at a third of the price when you get to the stop over. He will also tell everyone there is no ATM at the stop over (which is true) and then that the closest ATM is back at the border he just shuttled you from but he will offer to help you out and exchange your money ( but does it at 1035 Kip per dollar less then the going rate).

I walked half a block and found a western union that doesn’t even charge a fee for exchanging cash (go right and right and stay to the left of the fork) — I waited and got a room at the stop over for 100 baht–but people that booked with him paid 500 baht for the same room. About 75% of the people in our group exchanged money and booked accommodation with him through his scare tactics. So if you are going to Laos via the slow boat from Pai, Chiang Mai, or Chiang Rai (which is a lovely trip) and are doing your homework I hope you find this notice. Please feel free to link or copy and paste it onto other travelers.

Cheers and happy adventures!!

Luang Prabang


Three days traveling and I have now arrived down and across the Mekong River into Luang Prabang, Laos. A place that you could not reach by road until the 1990’s, a place where the average working person makes less than $1 a day, a country that has been devastated yet carries on working toward a brighter future. In the late 60s early 70s America dropped over a million bombs on laos-I imagine trying to get the vietnamese along the Ho Chi Minh Trail-however only 60% of the bombs detonated –leaving fields and fields of ticking time bombs for anyone playing, farming, or walking by. Removing these bombs is expected to take over a hundred years.

We took the slow boat here, which has been the main mode of transportation for hundreds of years to Laos-PDR (which the locals joke stands for Please Dobt Rush). It took one day of driving 120km an hour on twisty curvy roads and two full days on water through the mountains on a big ole long slow boat. My favorite spot on the boat is up at the front-sitting on bags of rice under a bamboo mast with the Laos flag flying high above us. The boat is maneuvered with a steering wheel and people using 20 ft bamboo poles to push off rocks and other boats to lessen the impact when pulling over.

I loved watching the tribes in the river cleaning their fish, doing laundry, lil kids running down the banks and jumping into the water. There were many times we d pull up into a village and families and chickens, gallons of fuel for generators, and various market goods would be tossed on board. Water buffalo bathing in the sun and cooling off in the water spotted the land. The water line from monsoon seasons past was well beyond 50ft above us on the rocks. Such a wild and untouched place. It makes you realize what earth was like before civilization became a popular trend.

I arrived just as the sun sunk behind the mountains blasting rays of sherbert pink sun off into the sky. Laos was a French colony for a while so there are super yummy baked goods everywhere!! Sap sap sap (yum yum yum)!!! Croissants, cakes, chocolate, downtown Luang Probang looks like a little French town and even the guesthouse I’m staying at feels more European than Asian. Walking through town we found a night market, mostly run by Hmong Hilltribe folks, and the. A small alleyway had some food stalls– once I turned the corner I saw that it was hundreds of food stalls!!! Fresh cooked food galore!! And pigged out on yummy vegetables I’ve never seen before for 5,000 kip( ~80 cents) and fresh rolls which are appearing more and more the closer we get to Vietnam.

The whole city has a midnight curfew so the bars close at 1130pm to get everyone home in time. Which was kind of nice since everyone in pai is up til 6am every night. Also after traveling all that way I was pretty tired.

The main alcohol here is Lao Lao a cheap local rice whiskey that’s “at least 50% alcohol.” I had a super yummy coconut drink they make with it–it was awesome. I also learned about this really great project for sponsoring Laos children for education. The laid goverberment is only 16 years old- probably younger than most people reading this blog. A big focus for them is education. You can learn more about their education system here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Laos
There was a great organization listed on the wall where I was earlier where for $50 you can sponsor a Laos child to go to school for one year including supplies ( which are in great scarcity ) but I’m not able to find it through google so I will add it next time I see it around town.

Today I look forward to taking a tuk tuk an hour up the mountain and lounging and hooping at the multi-tiered clear pool waterfall at the top and then visiting the beautiful temple on the top of the hill in the middle of town for sunset.

Tomorrow perhaps the caves with ancient buddhas in them!

The adventure continues!! Much love and thanks for reading.