Saturday, 16 December 2017

Luang Prabang trip – Prologue

Initially, I was planning to travel to Khao Yai as there are still flights to Bangkok with reasonable fare in December. However two of my ex-colleague couldn't make it and left the 2 of us, we decided not to proceed as it's not worth sharing a rented car and driver. I looked for alternative destination and found reasonable fare to Luang Prabang.

There are 2 airlines Silkair and Lao airlines which fly direct to Luang Prabang via Vientiane. Both offer three weekly flights to Luang Prabang. I used Skyscanner to search for flights and cheapest fare to Luang Prabang is Lao airlines at $240, departing 17 Dec and returning on 24 Dec. The next cheapest fare is $340 returning on 27 Dec. I decided to return on 27 Dec although it slightly more expensive. I would have additional 3 days there and could add another trip to the outskirt in the itinerary.

Luang Prabang is an UNESCO World Heritage site and was formerly Laos royal capital and seat of government. ASEAN nationals do not need a visa to enter Laos for stays not exceeding 30 days, except Myanmar and Brunei which is 14 days.
Map of Laos (Source: Lonely Planet)

I have always wanted to visit Phonsavan after I have watched a TV travel documentary many years back. I'm amazed by Plain of Jars as nobody has discovered the real existence behind it. When I read that the bus journey from Luang Prabang to Phonsavan takes 6 hours, I search for alternative mode of transport as I do not want to endure such a long bumpy bus ride. There are alternate day flight between Luang Prabang and Phonsavan (Xieng Khouang airport) served by Lao Skyway and the flight journey is only 30min. A return ticket cost K698,000 ~ S$115 and there is a payment surcharge of K100,000 ~ S$16 per booking.

I decided to include a trip to Nong Khiaw which is 3 - 4 hours bus ride from Luang Prabang. Bus is the only mode of transport between the 2 towns. Nong Khiaw is a rustic and sleepy town rarely visit by tour group hence retaining it's quaint charm. I decided to skip Muang Ngoi which is 1 hour boat ride from Nong Khiaw as there is only one public boat ride daily. If we were to visit Muang Ngoi, we have to spend additional 2 days here which will result in fewer days in Luang Prabang, so I decided to give Muang Ngoi a miss.

We will be staying at Phone Praseuth Guesthouse which is ranked #4 B&B in Luang Prabang. The rate per night is USD35 ~ S$47 including breakfast and they provide airport transfer which is one of the reason why I decided to book this guesthouse. Although it's situated across the river, but this isn't a problem as the bamboo bridge is available during the dry season.

I have booked 2 nights at Kong Keo Guesthouse through as it's ranked #1 in tripadvisor. The rate per night is K124,000 ~ S$21 excluding breakfast and is payable upon check in. I have requested for airport transfer when making the reservation as there is no public transport at Xieng Khouang airport. There was no reply from the owner at all. I have read online that it is possible to hitch a ride by paying K10,000 ~ S$1.60 to those hotel pick up at the airport since there will be other passengers in the same flight too. We will play by the ear when we reach.

I decided not to pre-book accommodation at Nong Khiaw as my first choice Meexai Guesthouse was not available on my travel date. I could not decide on the guesthouse to book as there was mixture of reviews on tripadvisor, etc. Since Nong Khiaw is mostly visited by individual travellers, I guess the guesthouse there will not be fully booked. We stayed at Ban Lao Sunset Guesthouse which offers unblocked view of the river for K120,000 ~ S$20 per night excluding breakfast.

Itinerary for this trip:
Day 1: Arrive Luang Prabang @ 5.45pm (GMT +7)
Day 2: MAG UXO Visitor Information Centre
Day 3: Phonsavan Plain of Jars
Day 4: The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, Phou Si
Day 5: Nong Khiaw
Day 6: Nong Khiaw
Day 7: Haw Kham (Royal Palace), Wat Xieng Toung, Wat Sene, Wat Visoun
Day 8: Kuang Si Falls, Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre
Day 9: Pak Ou Caves
Day 10: Phosi market
Day 11: Depart Luang Prabang @ 7.40am (GMT +7)

Budget for this trip is S$900:
- S$360 for accommodation
- S$50 for transport
- S$60 for tours and admission
- S$250 for meals
- S$180 for miscellanous

>>Day 1: 17 Dec 17

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