14.11.2010 - 17.11.2010 32 °C
On our arrival in Luang Prabang we intended to get some cash from the cash machine at the airport. As we approached the ATM an Irish lad informed us that he'd just tried to take money out and that it had completed a transaction, made a noise like it was counting and dispensing cash, but did not provide him with any cash. Not wanting to experience the same problem, we gave the cash machine a wide berth. We had heard that US dollars and Thai Baht are also accepted for higher priced purchases in Laos due to the weakness of the local currency (Kip). We mananged to organise for a Tuk Tuk to take us to our hostel and paid in US dollars. The first thing we noticed on our journey was that they drive left hand drive vehicles on the right hand side of the road in Laos - the opposite to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore where we had visited prior to Lao. The majority of vehicles on the roads were mopeds and motorbikes, with many riders not wearing helmets and some really young kids also riding them. Junctions were chaotic to say the least, with pedestrians given no priority and traffic flowing in any direction it wanted to! That evening we learnt that all cash machines in Luang Prabang were not dispensing any cash, apparently they are not re-filled at the weekend and due to the weakness of the currency Lao cash machines empty very quickly. Thankfully we had some Thai Baht that we could pay for our evening dinner with. We walked through the main street, which is closed to traffic each evening to allow the night market to trade, and saw the many stalls that fill the long street selling all sorts of products, but mainly souveneirs as the market is clearly targeting tourists. The streets in Luang Prabang are a blend of Buddhist architecture, traditional Laos buildings, European and in particular old French style villas and it all comes together to make a beautiful ancient city. We made our way to a restaurant that was recommended in the Lonely Planet and enjoyed dinner alfresco with live Lao music and traditional costume dancing for entertainment. The next morning we hired bikes and explored the city further, riding around the river banks and visiting Temples including 'Phu Si' temples on th slopes a hill and offering fantastic views over the surrounding area. The beautiful countryside and mountain scenery were not what we had been expecting from Laos and was a very pleasant surprise. The next day we hired bikes again and as well as exploring the city further we went to the Vietnamiese embassy to apply for our visas.