Category Archives: Laos

Waterfall at Kuang Si.

We booked a tour to see the Waterfalls at Kuang Si.

We booked this with a Taxi driver on the street who already had several customers and wanted to add a few more paying customers.

We paid 35,000 Lak each and it was worth the money.

The fall’s themselves are pretty spectacular but there is also a bear sanctuary there where rescued bear’s are looked after. It seems there’s a market for Bear’s in China where they are milked for their Bile.

Once rescued Im not sure they can be released again but they looked happy and contented.

The Taxi ride is a bit Hairy as they drive like looneys but it made it all the more interesting.

We made friends with two Portuguese brothers in the Taxi so we hope we’ll see them again in the future.

bridge-over-river

still-waterswimming-in-the-waternuno-getting-in-watermist

Muangthong Boutique Hotel Luang Prabang

Im in need of some serious anger management this morning.

When we checked out of the Hotel they gave us the bill (in Kip) which should have been $372 but they added an additional 3% to the bill for using a credit card ( they charged the same additional fee for debit card also).
So instead of the $372.09 ‘Total price’ quoted in my bookings.com confirmation i actually had to pay $384.

Not a great deal extra I know but we hadn’t expected an additional charge.

Then to cap it all, I had a text from Halifax Credit card to say I had now ‘gone over my credit limit’ so I would be charged. When i got to the airport i tried to transfer some money from my bank account to pay off some of the balance on the card but a combination of poor wifi and not knowing the sort code resulted in a lot of frustration and swearing before it was eventually resolved.

So now it looks like I’ve paid an additional 3% charge here, the usual 6% charge for the privilege of drawing my own money at home and an additional fee for going over my credit limit. A real bonus!

Perhaps we should have expected problems with the Hotel. On several occasions they reneged (or at least tried to renege) on the agreed contract.

Like when we asked for the ‘Free’ Airport Shuttle to take us to the airport and they said it would cost us $12.

We showed them the copy of the booking agreement and they said it was wrong and tried to convince me that the one on their screen (which was in Laos so I couldn’t read it) didn’t include a free trip to the airport, only collection. There were a lot of phone calls made before they grudgingly agreed to take us at 1400hrs.

But they insisted (a bit spitefully) we leave our room at 12 mid day as this was check out time.

Again I referred them to my agreement which allowed me a late check out of two hours free of charge and they eventually conceded.

We were very disappointed with this Hotel.

It wasn’t cheap at $74 per night but it wasn’t good value for money.

The main criticism was the noise.

We could hear every conversation from the room next door and, as it turned out, from the room below which we discovered when two ladies asked for an early morning call. They were up at six am and so were we.

We were also in a road front room ( which was nice enough with a large balcony over looking the front garden) but opposite was a family house where they played loud music from early morning till late at night. They also had a party whilst we were staying which involved lots of shouting and children crying. Not a great combination.

The bathroom smelt very damp and was regularly visited by mosquitos. (We bought a spray and used it several times a day to avoid being bitten) but the extractor fan was noisy and failed to overcome the problems.

There were no spare plug sockets in the room so we resorted to unplugging the TV in order to recharge phones. There was one accessible plug above the fridge but we kept an electronic mosquito repellent plugged in there.

None of the doors and windows made a proper seal so there were gaps where mozzies could get in but in a building like this that is to be expected.

What really annoyed us was the apathy of the staff. They really didn’t seem to want to help.

So, when i complained about the bed (which was the hardest thing I’ve slept on short of a floor )I wasn’t surprised at the lack of support.

I asked. “If there was any way they could change the mattress on our bed as it was so hard it was making my hips sore”?

After some initial communication problems, which required a very rough sketch of a bed with pen and paper  and the word ‘Hard” written on it, they said.

“No problem”. They agreed to put an additional cover on the bed.

“Could I also have a softer pillow as the one provided was making my neck ache”?

Again they agreed to get house keeping to change the pillow. The big fat thing they provided was like sleeping on a roll of carpet.

Sadly when we arrived home later that evening nothing was changed.

So, a second visit to reception was needed.

The new person there knew nothing about my problem, so I went through it all again. He agreed to get additional covers put on the mattress and to change the pillow. Result!

Well, not really. They did put an additional quilt over the mattress which helped but they didn’t change the pillow. When I raised this with the guy the next morning he said. ‘Sorry’ but  he didn’t seem to think it necessary to do anything further and the pillow never got changed.

As a regular user of bookings.com Ive been offered some ‘Genius’ Perks ( like the free airport transfer) such as a welcome drink, late check in/out and free bicycles.

So we asked if we could have two bicycle’s for the day?

Sadly we were told they ‘didn’t have any bicycles’.

Strange as the guest welcome book in the room said they had bicycle for rent?

So, back down to reception.

‘Ah, those bicycles”. “Sorry, we only have 5 and they are gone”.

At this point I would have expected them to help us source some bicycles from some where local, but no. We were told to walk in to town where we would find bicycles for rent.

So, not only was it not free (we eventually had to pay $7 a day each for bikes from Tiger Tours but they were good quality Mountain bikes) but we also had to sort it out without any assistance from the Hotel staff.

Given this Hotel is some way out of town, (it took us 10-15 minutes walk) bicycles would have been a great way of exploring.

There were other odd thing’s too.

Like they wouldn’t change $10 into kips for us, and they said they didn’t organise any trips?

We organised a trip to the waterfall with a local taxi driver (35,000 Kip each) on the street rather than through the Hotel. Basically the Taxi driver needs 200,000 Kip per trip so if he can get 5-6 people the price per head comes down. We ended up sharing a Taxi with two Guys from Portugal Who spoke great English and we ended up going for a drink with on the evening. And a Dutch Girl who failed to return to the Taxi at the end of the day so never paid her share. The driver recruited 4 additional travellers on the return journey so we were a little compact.

Driving is at best erratic and not for the faint hearted. You sit on benches in the back of a pick up truck with a canvass cover and hold on to anything you can. The drivers job is to try and shake you loose. It’s a symbiotic relationship but it works.

All in this Hotel was over priced, and didn’t deliver the basic standard of service expected.

The staff were at best indifferent and ineffective needing some advice on customer service, big time.

Think seriously before you book this one., there are better Hotels, much nicer Hotels and much more convenient Hotels available.

Muangthong Hotel. Don’t bother.

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.

Vientiane. 25th November 2016

 

With just over two weeks left of our trip we we’re still being dictated to by the weather which meant that most of the Island ’s off Thailand were still predicted to have rain.

So, the only way was up.

The further North we went, the better the weather prospects were.

Having discounted Myanmar because if the increased tension there between the Buddhist majority and the Rohingya Muslims we decided to revert to our original plan and head for Laos.

We flew from Bangkok DMK airport to Wattay International Airport in Vientiane on an Air Asia flight for 5184 Baht.

To get into Laos you need a Visa and as we hadn’t secured one in advance we had to get a ‘Visa on Arrival”.

As it turned out, this required us filling in two additional forms both of which contained identical information.
However, to make thing’s fun, they don’t give you the form’s until everyone is in the queue, then when the first person get’s to the counter and is asked for his form we all go into melt down.

There was a surge toward a little guy in a green uniforms who was wearing a big grin and clutching (very importantly) the necessary form.

Then everyone is trying to fill out the forms whilst stood up, which is impossible as you need your passport details your flight details, the address of your hotel in Vientiane and its telephone number as well as some other obscure info like ’who is your point of contact in Laos’?

There was then a mass exodus from the queue to anywhere with a flat surface. Pens became the most sought after commodity and there was a lot of confusion as many of us didn’t understand the questions on the forms and didn’t know what information was being sought.

Like most crisis, it eventually passed and we found ourselves back in the queue equipped with the correct form, the passport Photo, our passport’s and $35 US.

There is an ATM machine in the arrivals area so you can get Lak and despite what you are told before arrival, you can pay for the visa using Lak as well as Dollars.

You hand you paper work to one grumpy uniformed lady behind the counter, then shuffle along to the next window where a grumpy uniformed bloke look’s at you, then you shuffle along to a third window where you hand over your money and a third Grumpy bloke hands back your passport, hopefully with the visa fixed securely in it.

Next is Immigration where you queue up and when its your turn you step forward, hand over your passport with the new visa and then your sent away to fill in yet another form that requires the same set of information yet again.

Ever heard of computerisation?

Eventually, having used up a whole forest of paperwork and wasted at least an hour you are finally through and you can go find your baggage which by now has been circulating on a Carousel for so long all the contents have been thrown to the outside like a salad spinner.

We did contact the Hotel through bookings.com web site and ask about the Airport Shuttle bus they advertised but they never got back to us so we used an airport Taxi which was relatively cheap and easy.

There is a desk in the departure lounge with a big sign saying ‘Taxi’ and we showed the guy the address of the Hotel, paid him the agreed amount and followed our driver to his car.

There was some confusion when I gave the guy more money than he had asked for (there is always a lack of small change, small denomination notes are like gold dust so use them wisely) and got no change.

When I asked for it he initially suggested I had given him the right money, then offered 10,000 Lak refund before eventually and grudgingly, handing over the correct 30,000 lak.

We’d booked 4 nights at the Don Chan Palace Hotel for $300.

We chose this Hotel which is some way outside of Vientiane because it had a swimming pool and a Gym (more about that later) but the sensible option would have been to book one in the centre of Vientiane as getting in and out is a bit of a chore.

In fact, the sensible option, with hindsight would be to skip Vientiane altogether as its just not a tourist destination.
The Hotel has a shuttle bus, but there are some strange rules surrounding its use.

The bus only runs every two hours. 10, 12, 1400, etc.

If you want to use it you have to book seat’s (even though in most cases it is completely empty) you can’t just hop on and hop off.

If no one is booked on it, it doesn’t run, as we found out when we waited for the 1415hrs pick up from the Town centre, which obviously never came.

If you want to use it at other times (say 11am) it costs you $10 yet a Tuk-Tuk will take you in to town for 30,000 Lak. (About £3 ).

The Hotel itself is Huge. I mean Iron Curtain Huge.

It sits alone on a site in complete isolation, well, except for the Karaoke bar between it and the Mekong River. Our room looked out across the Karaoke bar to the river beyond so we were treated to some of the vocal highlights on most days.

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Karaoke bar from our Balcony

It classes itself as Five Star and the Lobby probably is. Its the size of a football pitch (or that other measure of space) half the size of Wales.

All Marble floors, Chrystal Chandeliers and fancy seating.

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The Lobby

Sadly the rooms (at least the one they put us in) aren’t as grand.

The room’s are big but they are Soviet in design. Heavy wood work, dark colour’s and the weirdest bed side table I’ve ever seen. It looks like a relic from the 60’s. A piece of the original Sputnik space craft with wonderful switches that control most of the room’s lighting.

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1960’s technology

Though you still have to get out of bed to switch off all the lights.

There’s a balcony but the doors don’t seem to close properly allowing the Mosquitoes unlimited access and they are single glazed which doesn’t shut out the noise.

This evening we were introduced to a new pleasure.

At 0330 hrs we were woken by a sonic boom. Well, several actually.

When we looked out the window there was a pick up truck with a full sound system mounted on the back and a light show that would grace the Pyramid stage. It had parked on the main road (Which appears to be a hang out for the Cool Kids in Vientiane) and decide to give a free concert to a dozen car’s full of local Youth’s, plus me and Jaki.

The TV set is also ancient. A big lump of a thing which show’s everything in shade’s of Pink which is quite illuminating and the shower prefers cold to lukewarm rather than the usual hot and cold.

But its big.

There are apparently five restaurants here but to date we’ve only found one and that’s where we have breakfast.

Yesterday I didn’t make breakfast as i was wrestling with the effects of the Malaria tablets that we started taking two days before entering Laos.

So this morning was my first foray and it was under whelming.

Most of the dishes are obviously targeted at Asian Customers (there are very few Westerners staying here) so there are lot’s of bowls of Noodle soup. These are served fresh and hot and there are staff there cooking and serving them at all times.

In a row down the centre of the Huge restaurant are a row of silver heated tureen’s which should, according to the label’s, contain things like, ‘Fish in Tomato sauce’ and ‘Grilled Pork and Mushrooms in Black bean sauce’.

These were obviously very popular because at 0930 they were all gone and no one was bothering to replace them. There was though, still plenty of boiled rice.

There was though plenty of fruit, some rather delicious Yoghurt, plenty of toast and no queue for the toaster. Small doughnut ring’s that were great with the yoghurt, local Jam and Honey and a Rotti stall but no one manning it.

On our last morning there was a pile of cooked Rotti’s but they were cold.

If you come to Asia one thing you wont get is a decent cup of English tea, which is why we’ve been carrying our own tea bag’s and why their loss was such a blow to team moral.

This morning, I asked for tea and got a cup of Luke warm grey liquid. There was no Milk provided, and i had to ask for a tea spoon.

They don’t seem to use tea spoons, we had to eat our Yoghurt with a soup label.

They also don’t like litter and removed my plate whilst i was still eating my toast but it was nearly 0945 after all and breakfast did finish at ten.

Stickler’s for rules.

The Hotel does say ‘English spoken’ but I suggest you take this with a pinch of Snuff.

We have found it quite difficult making ourselves understood. I know we English always expect everyone else to learn our language without ever bothering to learn their’s but here, I’m not sure we are going to get fluent in 7 days?

So making your self understood has been a challenge.

Like when I went down to the 24 hour restaurant and tried to order a Burger. I showed them the picture on the menu, I even paid them but then I stupidly asked whether I had to wait for it or would it be delivered to my room?

This caused total panic in the restaurant which spread to the kitchen like an outbreak of Zika Virus, in the turmoil they kept getting my room number wrong. As I hadn’t eaten for 24 hour I was keen that the burger arrived at my room and not next door where the Chinese couple wouldn’t welcome it as much as me.

In the end I returned to my room and waited, but it didn’t arrive. I phoned room service but the lady told me to phone reception. I phoned reception and they told me to phone room service.

At this point there was a knock on the door and my Burger arrived. Cold but looking gorgeous.

Then there was the issue with the Gym. (Told you I’d get round to this).

I went in there on the first evening, keen to maintain my new fitness regime.

There are a lot of running machines a couple of benches and some rather sorry looking loose weights plus three multi-gym’s.

I settled for a leg press machine, set the seating at the required height, put the rather disfigured pin in the rack of weights at a comfortable weight and pressed.

What happened was rather unexpected.

Instead of the base plate moving downward away from me the seat pin came adrift and I found myself hurtling backwards. The seat then can to a sudden stop, throwing my body backwards at which point my back bent in a new way and my neck twisted at a funny angle.

I had, for all intents and purposes, given myself a ‘whip lash injury’ which lasted for four day’s with a pain in my neck and shoulder and a headache for which I’ve been taking pain killers ever since.

So, i went down to reception to complain. The people in reception were very nice, smiled a lot but didn’t have a clue what i was talking about.

One didn’t know the Hotel had a Gym!

Undeterred I asked to see the Duty Manager, a rather dapper fellow in a blue suit, black shoe’s one size too big and a Filofax.

I explained the situation and referred him to the guest welcome pack that says they ‘Guarantee that guests will have an enjoyable experience in the gym’.

He smiled, made that face (the one you have on ‘ Who wants to be a Millionaire’ when Chris Tarrent ask’s you the million pound question and your mind has gone blank) then asked if they really had a Gym ?

Despite his assurances that the dangerous equipment would be removed it was still there the next day when we went for a swim.

The pool is a nice size, its very Big, clean and never very busy.

Primary because the water temperature is just above freezing.

The pool has been designed on the 3rd floor so that the sun never shines on it, protect as it is by the 4th floor, so it never gets warm.

The mastermind who designed this also installed floor tiles that are like ice when wet so movement is strictly limited.

Our stay at the Don Chang included Free Bicycles which would make getting around easier.

So we booked two bikes for 11am on the 28th November.

Excited to get out of the town we packed a bag and set out to reception where we were met by a bloke in a lovely blue suit and a smile who took us to find our trusty steeds.

The good new’s was: There were 4 bikes available.

The bad new’s: They were all defective.
One had the saddle on it’s lowest setting so my knees were up under my chin and it had rusted in place.

Two had no brakes, which seemed to surprise our Hotel Representative.

Not that it didn’t have brakes, but that we should require them.

The third he conceded readily wasn’t suitable to ride as it only had one pedal.

We abandoned the cycle ride and set out for a walk.

Now Vientiane is a nice town. If you were an ex-pat working abroad this might be a good placement. Its clean, its quiet (to the point of boredom) its relaxed, in fact there just isn’t anything happening at all.

As a tourist attraction it’s got nothing going for it. You could (jaki did) see everything worth seeing in a day.

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Main streets are deserted

Even the night market is quiet. Theres no atmosphere and certainly none of the razzamatazz of Thai market’s. Oh how I miss Thailand.

The people are different too. They are quieter, more reserved, less confident and as they don’t speak much in the way of English, so don’t (or can’t) engage with us at any level.

You cant have the ‘Crack’ with them to use an Irish expression.

So the morning I find myself sat in the Temporary Domestic Departure lounge at the Airport, waiting for my flight to Luang Prabang, which were hoping will be more interesting.

The Wifi doesn’t seem to be working and the staff are at best disinterested. Its all a bit strange.

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mending the wifi

There is a guying in the queue carry about 20 French sticks and a bottle of beer as carry on luggage and a groups of ladies in their best clothes who are clearly having a great time which they are recording copiously on their mobile phones.

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Fellow travelers

Our flight is at 1215 so we got up early in order to catch the shuttle bus to the airport.

We decided to give the breakfast one last try.

Luckily we did cause they had ‘boiled cauliflower in black bean sauce’ on the menu. Yum Yum!

The fried eggs were still runny but that’s how they seem to like them. The Yoghurt (their best offering) had run out but there was toast and plenty of noodle soup!

They did provide a cup of boiling water (though they did have to get one of the managers before they could decipher what I was asking for) for my Tea bag and they did eventually find a Tea Spoon, so all was well.

However, I will be glad to leave Vientiane.

It did nothing for me and didn’t deliver what little it promised.

There are some nice restaurants and a few nice bar’s but mostly its dull and un-inspiring with very little to offer.

Its not even cheap. everything has to be imported as they are land locked, so this is reflected in the price’s.

If your traveling, I would suggest considering giving this a miss, there are much more inspiring places to visit, where the people are far more engaging and friendly.

This just isn’t one of them.

Luang prabang. 30th Nov 2016

Wandering around the shops and market stalls last night we noticed lots of Decorative items in what looked like Ivory.

Knowing this to be illegal in most countries we assumed this was some thing else but it appears it may not be.

So please be aware that Ivory from Poached elephants may be on sale and you may unwittingly be supporting this evil trade by buying a Holiday Souvenir.

Just be mindful.

Luang Prabang. 29th Nov 2016

As we’ve just and arrived were doing our basic homework.

We’re at the Hotel, we’ve now got a map (at least a tourist Map) and its reasonably obvious that we are a little way out from the centre so were gonna rent push bikes straight away. However finding a decent bike rental shop isn’t easy.

The only one I’ve found so far is Sabaidee Luang

Whilst we were looking I came across some information on scams perpetrated on tourists here so thought it might be useful to Share.

The hotel is called Muangthong  Hotel and although it hd mixed reviews on Bookings.com we were running out of options as we’d left it late to book.

Now were here it seems Ok. Its a bit traditional, lots of teak everywhere and some of the reviews were right. The patio doors don’t close properly so the mozzies can get in. The curtains wouldn’t shield you from a candle let alone the morning sun but its cute, there’s a nice pool, the restaurant seem’s to be Ok (though we haven’t eaten yet) and staff are trying to be helpful though English is still a bit sparse.

Were gonna find a local shop and get some Mozzie burners, some spray and a carton of Milk then I think we’ll be fine.

Visa updates. 6th Sep. 2016

Just when you think you’ve got it cracked, It all goes wrong.

Indian Visa.

Our problem with getting the Indian Visa was about the size of the file.

When I scanned my passport at the default setting of 76 pixels my finished J. Peg image came out at 90 KB which was within the parameters set by the Indian Embassy.

However, the same process with Jaki’s came out at almost 5 times that (at the same default setting) so was too big a file.

I reduced it in size, changed it to a PDF (which is what they need) & sent it off with her application and she received almost immediately confirmation that the application had been successful and an official looking form (that appeared to be her entry visa ready to print out).

Then an hour or so later she got an email saying the image of her passport was “Un-readable” and could she send another image which they could read. So she took a picture of her passport and sent it back. This image though was J.Peg so we guessed it wouldn’t be suitable and sure enough they emailed saying they couldn’t accept it, and could she send a PDF image.

So this morning I increased the resolution, re scanned her passport and created a 3KB file which we sent back. We are now waiting to see if the new file (which is readable) is deemed too big, in which case, we will need to scan yet another image and try again.

In the mean time, my visa with my original passport image at 90KB has been accepted and I have this morning printed out my Indian Visa.

Thailand Visa.

What we didn’t know and Trailfinders didn’t tell us at the time of booking (which i think they should) is that you can only stay in Thailand for 30 day without applying for a Visa. As our trip see’s us in Thailand for 62 days we fall foul.

Now you might think its easy enough to just get a visa, after all it’s only £20 each but it’s not that easy.

As well as filling in a form, providing passport Photos and paying the fee you have to present this at The Thai Embassy in London before 12-mid day (there are strict opening times, info available on their web site) and you will be granted a receipt within 30 minutes.

Then, you have to go back the NEXT DAY to collect the visa. This means a trip to London and an over night stay.

There is no postal or on line application available.

Trailfinders will do this for you for a charge of £45 (don’t know if this is per application) but that makes it an expensive item.

So, the solution is to leave Thailand before the 30 days is up and re-enter, ensuring that we don’t stay longer than 30 days on re -entry. But in order to be allowed entry Thailand in the first instance, we have to have PROOF that we are intending to leave again before the 30 day’s are up.

This requires proof of a Flight or Train ticket out of the country.

Which means, we need to purchase and pay for it in advance. The down side to this is, we have to set a definite date some where in the middle of the trip and if we failed to use it (for what ever reason) we would have lost that money.

Were thinking we might buy a flight from Bangkok to Hanoi (which we intended to visit anyway) which is about £27 each (cheapest price we’ve found using Skyscanner).

Or we could buy a ticket to Siem Reap in Cambodia which is £35, either of which will work out cheaper than paying Trail finders to collect a Visa  for us (total £60).

The only down side is that we need to make that decision now rather than when we get there and once its done, were committed.

Laos visa.

Very much the same procedure but at least the Laos visa application can be made by post, thus avoiding a trip to London. There is a cost of sending passports recorded delivery but the cost of the application is only £35. Or, as suggested by our resident back packer, you get this at the boarder.

Cambodia Visa

This seems to be very straight forward (though we haven’t tried it yet) as it looks like it can be done on line and is relatively Cheap at $37 .

So, the moral of the story appears to be, don’t underestimate the issues around getting visas to enter any of these countries and ensure your Travel agent has given you all the fact before you make a payment.

With Hind sight, we would not have stopped in India for just 8 days, if your gonna do it, make it a month.
We would also have flown into Thailand and out of some where else (Singapore) and then avoided the need for a Thai Visa.