Luang Prabang. 2nd December 2016

 

Ok, so its 0530 in the morning and I’ve had a pretty awful night.
Ive found the bed here the most uncomfortable since we started traveling.
Its rock hard.

My hips are really sore and my neck has started hurting again.

I looked at the construction of the mattress today and its got old fashioned coil spring’s made out of scaffold tube.

Tomorrow I’m gonna do a scientific test on it and film it to see just how much weight it can bear before the springs move.

Im guessing over a Ton.

So i might be slightly grouchier than usual but…
When we booked the Hotel, it wasn’t first choice. We read some of the reviews and they weren’t too good, but we had left it late and choices were limited. What was available was either top end, 5 Star stuff or the cheap Back Packer Hostel type accommodation.

Most of the comments’ made in the reviews on Trip Advisor have proven to be accurate and are primarily due to the design and construction of the building.

Yes, the toilet smells, but its damp not sewage. There is an extractor fan but it make’s a hell of a din so you don’t leave it on any longer than necessary.

When you leave the room you take the key out of a holster and the electricity goes off so theres’ no chance of leaving the fan running whilst were out.

room

Yes, the walls are thin and we can hear the conversation’s of the guests next door.

We can also follow every TV programs they watch because the trendy flat screen TV is fixed to the wall directly behind the head board of our bed!

We can also hear the TV from down stair’s which was switched on at 0538 hrs this morning. Surprisingly the occupant snored so loudly last night that I heard him (guess it’s a him) even with my ear plugs in.

Yes, the curtains aren’t sufficiently thick to keep out the dawn light.

They aren’t much good at keeping out the street lights or the lights in the garden either.

Yes, the door’s don’t close completely (neither do the window’s) so there are gap’s through which the mosquito’s can get in and we have had to buy mosquito spray and burner’s to ensure we aren’t bitten. This works though as the count of dead mozzies littering the bed and the bathroom floor testify.

Our biggest moan is the lack of plug sockets. You have to unplug the Tv to charge your mobile phone.

All these things have been mentioned by customers in the past but the management clearly haven’t deemed them important enough to address.

That’s a pity as this could be a reasonably nice place.

The pool is good, nice and clean with comfortable sun bed’s even if there is alway’s a shortage of pool towels.

pool

The location is reasonable though it’s a good way out from the main tourist area. We walk it in 10-15 minutes without any problems.

If they offered free push bike’s it would make it a lot easier to get in and out but they don’t and when I asked about bicycle hire I was told to go to the main street. (Which I took to mean they don’t even rent bikes from here).

However, today they had different staff on duty in reception and I was told there were bikes (five of them) but they were all taken.

Thursday, we stayed around the pool all day and even though the sun doesn’t shine directly  onto the pool for a lot of the day, it was pleasant enough.

We ordered food from the Restaurant and the Chicken Burger and chips (they don’t do beef burger) were very good, cooked fresh and piping hot. And it was reasonably priced.

We were surprised to see that all the cooking is done in a small lean to with a tin roof  in the garden next door, then carried a dish at a time round the wall and into the hotel. The cooking seems to be done on a single gas burner which explains why each dish comes separately, there is no means of keeping things hot.

What lets it down (in our limited experience) is the service.

There are loads of staff working here (we read today that unemployment in Laos is less than 2%) some times there are 4 staff in reception and scores of other staff, cleaners, cooks etc.

There were two staff in the restaurant when i went to order the food, even though it was completely empty and looked to be shut.

It was delivered to us pool side but we had to ask for ketchup, which came some time later. Then the dishes were left all afternoon even though countless staff walked past them.

There seems to be a pattern.

Lots of staff but none of them seem to have a purpose, any direction and no guidance about their role. There’s no leadership. Leave it and some one else will eventually sort it.

There just seem’s to be a spark missing.

You can’t seem to have the same ’Crack’ here as you can in Thailand, the people are just so different.

Wednesday night we walked down through the market in the centre of town and found a Pop Up Bar run by a couple of young entrepreneurs, so we stopped to see what they had to offer.

At that moment Mathew a traveller we had met in Vientiane arrived so the three of us sat down on some stool’s and ordered drinks. In fact we had three rounds.

We encouraged the bar staff to put on some music which they did and within minutes there was a group of 8-10 western tourist’s all buying drinks and chatting animatedly.

Tonight when we walked past, there was no music and they had no customers.

The whole market is a bit of a damp squib.

It looks pretty enough but there’s no vibe, no music or noise, no activity.

You could hear a pin drop.

The seller’s sit on the floor amongst their produce (often with small children in tow or eating in family groups) and show you items if you appear interested but if not, they don’t stir.

There is no bartering either.

The price they ask is the price they want and if you say its too expensive, they simply put it back on display. Apparently talking about money is embarrassing for them so they just don’t do it!

Given there are hundreds of stalls, all selling the same goods at the same price. Given they all look the same, have the same blue awnings, have the same lighting, I don’t understand why you would choose to buy anything, Its not like your getting a bargain.?

I tried to find a Silk Scarf for a friend’s christmas pressie and settled on a black silk job. Every stall had the same scarf but they all asked the same price. Not one would negotiate.

It’s all a mystery to me and what looked like a really nice night market has become a bit tedious and mundane.

last night they had an open air cinema showing Classic Laos film’s but the sound was so loud most of the tourists abandoned the bars and restaurants nearby and made for some where a little less fraught leaving only locals to watch the film. Great socially but terrible for business.

This morning we rented two reasonable mountain bikes from Tiger Tours opposite Wat Mahathat on the main road, for 50000 kip each including a lock and helmets for 24  hours, but we had to leave my passport there as surety some hing I’m not happy about.

They didn’t have any map’s so we set off using the useless Map supplied by the Hotel which has most of the ‘Wat’s’ marked but no road names. It wasn’t long before we were lost and it was only that we recognised a bridge as one we’d come over on the way from the airport that we regained our bearing’s.

A couple of hours in the saddle was about as much as Jaki wanted so we headed back to the Hotel for a swim and a snooze to make up for last night’s missed opportunity.

The Mattress is probably the hardest thing this side of ‘Bedrock’ so I went to reception and asked if it could be changed. They agreed to add an additional softer cover and a soft pillow. But when we checked they had forgotten to do it, so I had to ask again.

It’s this continued inactivity that I find so frustrating.

They have so many staff available but no one could deal with my request.

There has been a guy out by the pool all afternoon with a cabinet and two sanders.

The sander’s  are plugged in and ready to use. He has his face mask on, but he hasn’t made any attempt to start work in 4 hours.

Admittedly he’s played on his phone, he’s fiddled with the tools but he just can’t seem to get started.
This malaise is endemic and it will affect the tourist trade as it is perceived as disinterest.

There are  lot’s of things to do here.

There are loads’ of trip’s.

You can go on countless elephant tour’s, you can visit the cave’s, go Kayaking, climbing, hiking, visit several waterfalls, go Zip wiring, hire motorbikes for off road adventures. Hire scooters for on road adventures. Cruise the Mekong in early morning or at Sunset. Eat in a hundred different restaurants, drink dozens of different types of beer

But they all cost money and they aint cheap.

The trip by taxi to the waterfall for half a day is 200000 Kip, £20 but basically what you get for that is a ten minute taxi ride. And they won’t negotiate. Take it or leave it mate. They’d sooner sleep in the Tuk-Tuk all day than do the trip for 180000 Kip.

Nothing here comes free, you have to be prepared to pay for everything and its not always worth it in the end.

So, it’s a few more day’s then we’ll be back in Thailand and I will be relieved.

Im not a fan of Laos, pretty though it might be it has far too many draw backs for my liking.

Give me to the Koh San Road anyday.

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