We took a trip up the Meekong to the Pak Ou Caves a truly beautiful and revered destination while staying in Luang Prabang.
However... after thinking we were supporting the locals through buying their 'home weaved' silk. While they have silk looms there and the stall owners can showcase how to weave silk, it's in our opinion and of a professional silk weaver's warnings that the soft flowing silks sold there are indeed not from Luang Prabang. In fact, they're probably not even from Laos and are likely purchased in bulk from China and machine woven. Each stall has exactly the same scarves, and exactly the same patterns to perfection complete with a tag.
The going price for these is $140,000 KIP which is about $17 US. Now, if each scarf takes 3 days to make as claimed, and approximately 4-10 boat loads of tourists visits. How are they making enough scarves while trying to sell them to each tourist???
Don't get me wrong the scarves are pretty and it is a romantic idea that you're helping out the locals, but I hate the feeling of
1. being lied to that they make the scarves themselves
2. that they're made in Laos and thus are traditional Laotian silk.
It's akin to going to Ireland and buying Guinness made in China.
I'd estimate the scarves aren't worth more than $5 a pop (40,000 kip).
Unique Suggestions: Visiting the silk stalls there is still fun, just be aware of what you're buying and don't be conned into buying something over priced and not from the country.
Go there to buy Lao Lao Whiskey but just keep tongue in cheek when thinking about purchasing silk scareves there.
Fun Alternatives: If you really want to help the locals, buy from reputable shops (Ock Pop Tok, Kopnoi, CAMA Crafts, Lisa Regale...etc) or from Ban Phanom just a few clicks out of down town Luang Prabang and known for the entire village being weavers.
keep an open mind. People are trying to move up. Some people tend to want fast money, so that's when tourists get ripped off. If you want to avoid that as much as possible, don't look like a tourist. lol. But if you insist on staying in Lane Xang Hotel or Don Chan Palace...expect to be prey. yeah it's sad, but accept it. if you're not fit to handle yourself in Laos, maybe it isn't the place for you. Trying to find some monumental buildings like they have in Europe? There's nothing really like that in Lao.
Unique Suggestions: Yeah there are temples, and they might not seem as grand or as interresting as something you've seen in another country, but that is a place of worship for the people....so respect that, and i guess try to appreciate it. If you're offered drugs or whatever, much to your distaste, just say no and forget about it. don't let it ruin your trip. i find it best to to take a lazy walk around the cities, looking for people who speak a little bit of english and then try to communicate with them. have a conversation, few jokes, and laughs.
if you're going to vang vieng and want to have a sober good time, just go do some kayaking. You can chose to stop by the riverside bars or you could easily just go all the way down the Nam Song. it's a good workout and fun.
Fun Alternatives: the best Laos has to offer to visitors is the people and a little bit of mother nature. if you're intensions to visit are for some other reason, plan to be a little more dissappointed. I had a great time though, and i go back every year.
Not sure that htis is a warning or trap.
Unique Suggestions: There are lots of children in Loas that flock to the tourists when they arrive at food stops etc many of them have even smaller children in their care. They are ususlly begging and will hang around while you eat. We never gave them money but we often handed out fruit which they seemed grateful for. At some places they were waiting for our coke/fanta cans so they could have them not sure if they recieve money for the cans or what. We tried to give a small amount to all of the kids we saw but of course you cant give to everyone and at times we had to take back our fruit when some of the bigger kids took from the smaller but it was not a major issue we just gave it back to the smaller kids usually the "thief" looked pretty sheepish.
We generally kept a stash of fruit in the van and gave it out ot the kids when we saw them. None ever asked for money in fact they didnt ask for anything.
say NO toward it!! the bus condition was suck and u need to stay several hours in the border of Laos - Cao Treo to wait for the opening of the office!!
typically this bus ticket can be purchased in every agency and guesthouse in VIETIANE... it can cost u 16 - 18 US dollar and end up with a nightmare!
so, just say No to this bus service!
Fun Alternatives: for border crossin to VIETNAM, the best way is travel to SAVANNAKHET n purchase the tourist bus service from there to HUE... for m, this one is better...
If you take the slow boat from that goes from the northern part of Thailand to Luang-prabong some of the operators will try to get you to pay a 50 bahtt fee for "insurance" They even have a semi-offical looking form that you have to fill out. It's a scam. Don't be the one to pay the money.
Unique Suggestions: Be the leader to stand up an proclaim it a scam. They aren't going to kick off the whole boat of angry tourists.
Having just come through the border from Lak Xao into Vietnam, there was a sign saying that as it was the weekend, there was a charge of 1 USD for stamping the passport to exit the country. Of course this was repeated by the Vietnamese to enter. So total extra cost because its a weekend is 2 USD. Not much I know but worth knowing!!
Unique Suggestions: Smile and pay!!
Fun Alternatives: Dont go on a weekend or try another border crossing where it may not happen.
Night Time at the Zoo..... It's not all that great , since you can not photograph what you see. It was also a very long line, and really you are not seeing anything up close and personal that you could not do during day time. We took local bus , and it was a LONG way to travel , for something you can see at any Zoo.
If you want to travel from Northern Thailand into Laos via boat, there are things you have to be careful of. First off, do not buy your tickets in Thailand as they are very overpriced.
Unique Suggestions: The best thing to do is go into Laos before buying your ticket and do not buy it at the border either, despite what the apparent border guards tell you.
Fun Alternatives: The cheapest way to buy the ticket is to buy it at the boat itself. If you know you are going all the way to Luang Prabang, buy the two-day ticket but make sure it is marked for LP. If you are not sure, just buy the ticket to Pak Beng. You may pay a bit more for the second journey but you are more flexible and do not have to deal with the possibility of getting the one day ticket for the two day fare.
Before you tak your slow boat to Luang a man might suggest that he help you organise a guesthouse before you arrive in pak beng . He will probabaly say that there are only limited guest houses and many toursts and will ask for 5 dollars and he will organise it for you.
this is rubish as there are always vacancies and the guesthouses on average cost only $1 a night.
heaps of people got conned and this dude made heaps of money of those tourists.
The Patuxai, an arch of triumph in Vientiane, is shown on postcards, brochures etc...
But it's really a piece of kitsch, built recently with cement left behind by Americans building an airbase during the Vietnam war (the locals call it the vertical runway).
Just drive by, take a snapshot and move on.
We arrived in Thathek bus station which is situated on the main highway. We asked for prices to get a ride to Mahaxai one way as we were going to follow the road north from there to Lak Sao.
We were offered a ride for 10,000 kip each (There are 2 of us) this was agreed by all.
We did think it was cheap but were unsure of distances so....
Once arriving in Mahaxai, The price was now 10$ each and because it is just the Tuk Tuk man and your word and you are completely out of the tourist map there is no going back
We had the opportunity of bartering and the price does drop. Connviently there is a guesthouse in this town, is it a regular scam?
Unique Suggestions: Stay the night, visit the beach and then leave the following day, but make sure you either catch the bus or that they write down the price of the return journey.
Or don't go
Just skip this city as it has nothing to do with Laos. You sill die of heat and have to sleep in an auful place for the same price you where sleeping at a beautifull place in LP.
Unique Suggestions: Try to fly directly to LP after landing in Vientiane.
I can't decide if this is a tourist trap or not. Buddha Park is a few km past the Friendship Bridge coming from Vientiane Laos. The small park houses many strange Buddha statues. All were built since the 1950's. It is a nice setting to walk around. It is along the Mekong with Thailand on the other side. I only spent about an hour there. I probably wouldn't visit again but am glad I saw it.
Unique Suggestions: While there make sure you climb inside the mouth of the large piece on the right as you enter the park. From inside you can climb to the top and look out over the park.
Fun Alternatives: There really isn't an alternative as if you end up here there is not much else around.
A local told me that some where in May 2002, few portial of the waterfall structure was collapse. So, now the waterfall do not look a like what we see like the postcard but still worth to visit. Rent a taxi from LP cost around US10.
The market in Luang Prabang. This isn't so much a tourist trap as a non-event, unless you're into paying too much for frayed textiles. Or unless you'd like to buy pot or opium, both of which will likely be offered to you.
TOUGH MANAGEMENT While this facility may be nice, I know the management is tough and does not have...more
Although my stay in Vientiane was brief, I really enjoyed the hotel. It had everything I needed and...more
Ban Sawang, Vang Vieng, 2145532, Laos
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Business
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