15.07.2013 - 17.07.2013 35 °C
We have had a change of plan.....
Anyone who knows us will know our plan had always been to go through Laos north to south and then enter Cambodia. However, after researching the places in southern Laos and talking about what we actually want to do over the next month or so we have decided to alter our route. Instead of going to southern Laos, we have decided to carry on across northern Laos and then enter Vietnam. We can then cross the length of Vietnam and then enter Cambodia from the east and work our way back to Thailand. This route makes more sense and means we also save on a flight from Hanoi to Bangkok, which we would have had to purchase had we stuck with our original plan.
That being the new plan we have had to stay in Luang Prabang three days longer than we expected to sort out our Vietnamese visa. Having a Vietnamese consulate in Luang Prabang has made changing our plans easy, it would have been a different story if we had had to go all the way back to Vientiene for the visa. Anyway getting the visa was straight forward, the consulate is a fifteen minute walk from the main tourist strip, along the Nam Khan river. It is a small consulate and obviously does not get many applicants, we did not have to queue once (extremely unusual) either applying for the visa or collecting it. All you need to take is your passport and a spare passport photo then simply complete the form on arrival. One word of advice would be to know roughly the dates you wish to enter and exit Vietnam, as your visa is valid for exactly 30 days from whatever date you put on the form. You cannot enter before the 'valid from date' and you will lose the days you are not in the country after that date. This visa has been the most expensive so far and cost us $60 each to collect in three working days. Very expensive.
So we have made the most of our extra three days in Luang Prabang and done absolutely nothing. Apart from our trip to the consulate Monday morning and then again this afternoon we have been relaxing. We have had very slow mornings with slower breakfasts at various cafes, we found a nice riverside place where we spent two afternoons, sipping beer Lao, writing our journals and talking. On one afternoon we even had a game of chess. This afternoon we went to a French café called La Benneton, where we gave in to constant temptation and treated ourselves to a cake, Chelsea had a pain o'chocolate and Liam a pear and almond tart, it was a rare treat we enjoyed immensely.
Our evenings have been just as slow paced and relaxed. On Monday we had a late lunch at our riverside restaurant and was not that hungry come dinner time. We went out for a little walk and stopped off at a ice cream parlour, and rather than going for a beer sat and ate ice cream. Needless to say it was really good. Yesterday we walked through the market to the food section and browsed everything on offer before splitting up to order what we fancied. Liam went for Khao Soy, a sort of noodle soup and Chelsea went back to the 10000kip a plate buffet. We shared some BBQ chicken again and washed it all down with a beer. On the way out we passed a stall making tiny dumplings and got a bag to snack on the way back, They were delicious, small pork dumplings with crispy pastry. Our last night in Luang Prabang was quiet, we strolled the night market, called at a sandwich vendor and stopped off for a few drinks on the way back to the guesthouse.
We have really enjoyed spending time in Luang Prabang, we have done a lot in the time we have had here, and although we lost two days to Liam being sick, we have more than made up for them. Our hightlights are the cooking course (Chelsea's highlight as Liam never actually took part) and the waterfall. We have loved strolling the city, calling at different bars and cafes, the afternoons slipping away. Our next stop is a town on Nong Khiaw, a small but apparently picturesque riverside village a further up river from Luang Prabang. We had hoped to get there by boat but being low season there are not enough people doing the journey so we are going to go by bus. There is not much to do there as far as we can see so we are hoping to continue the relaxing theme of Laos.