Category Archives: Luang Prabang

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.

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.