My Experience in Luang Prabang
As much as I want to say every travel experience is perfect and magical and life changing, I wouldn’t be 100% honest with you. Every experience is definitely life changing and travel makes you a better and stronger person for surviving it to tell the story. We as travelers become storytellers. As much as we want to tell you a good and pleasant memorable experience, there are also the experiences that will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. An experience that stands out the most to me is my experiences in the quiet sleepy town of Luang Prabang, Laos. I got to experience this little town with my cousin and 3 Americans that we had met on the airplane coming from Chiang Mai.
Right off the airplane, we made the mistake of not researching the VISA requirements for Laos and like a typical newbie traveler, we realized we had to pay for the VISA at the airport. There are different prices depending on what country you are from but, they accept USD right off the bat, regardless your passport (future note to self: always carry extra American USD). My cousin, I and one of the other girls did not have any American cash on us so we had to withdraw from the bank machine right outside the airport. I can’t even remember how much the conversion was but it was equivalent to over a million Laos kip. I had to withdraw more than once on arrival due to the withdrawal limit of the bank machine. Right off the bat, I felt as if these customs officers were ripping us off because they charge the Canadian’s something different from the Americans, even while we were paying the same denomination.
After that fiasco, we managed to make it to our quaint little guest house called Villa Meuang Lao (highly recommended) which was nice and cute. The really friendly owner and his nephew were great. No complaints whatsoever about this stay! We settled in and met our American friends for dinner and to wander the night market. The next day, we had planned to visit the Pak Ou caves in the morning and head back to Luang Prabang for a dragon boat festival they had in the Mekong river. Then, we were going to have some lunch, then head to the famous Kuang Si Falls. We had hired an amazing tuk tuk driver in the morning but, because we headed back to Luang Prabang after, we decided to find another tuk tuk driver for our Kuang Si excursion.
After lunch, we found a tuk tuk driver who was going to take us to Kuang Si Falls, which was painted right on the side of his tuk tuk. We agreed on a price and we were on our way. About half an hour later, he takes us to a “Waterfall” with elephants but not what we had originally asked for. He insisted this was Kuang Si falls but, we knew better and insisted he take us to the right falls. This ended up being an hour opposite the way we came which resulted in a bumpy ride for an hour and a half in a tuk tuk that smelled of gas. So needless to say, we made it but we were irritable to say the least and we got to Kuang Si with only an hour to spare. To top it all off, when we headed back to Luang Prabang, the tuk tuk driver insisted on more money due to the fact that he drove longer than originally planned and threatened to take us to the police. This was our cue to run off into the nearest market and get ‘lost.’ The man would not be able to keep up with 5 western girls, lost in the market. As much as the experience ended in laughs, this experience just left a bitter taste for me.
Please do not let this experience deter you from experiencing what this beautiful country has to offer. This could’ve been a one-off but also a learning experience. Always do your research and trust your gut instinct!