Is Lao just about trekking? Plus flight/bus advice
I am planning a trip for about 16 days in November/December to SE Asia. I have done Cambodia twice and love it but think now I should venture out to Lao as everybody I have met on my travels says it was their favourite place. My problem is this -
1 Lao appears to be expensive to get to. I will fly into Bangkok probably (though could do KL). I hate Bangkok with a passion and will want to get out immediately, I can see flights to Lao with Lao Airway at about $175 one way (plus about 7 hours layover) but nothing cheaper. I am in my 50s with various annoying aches and pains and simply can't be lugging bags for any distance and as a solo (female) traveller am not keen on overnight trains.I will happily take buses (with ac) for up to 10 hours but it seems the distances involved are longer than this.
2 I am not into trekking so is Lao the place to go? I loved all the places I went in Cambodia (SR obviously, PP, Kampot Kep and my personal favourite, Battambang). My ideal is to wander around for most of the day, I love colonial architecture, can only take so many Thai type temples and enjoy natural scenery though won't make it to the top of the waterfall. I don't find lying by a beach particularly enticing though some R&R thrown in is good. My alternative thoughts were Northern Thailand, Lao, North VIetnam (I have done Saigon environs before) but again the travel times look horrendous.
I really would be grateful for any advice.
#1 Posted: 31/7/2013 - 02:32
Sounds like southern Laos might be a good fit for you. Check out places like Champasak, Tha Khaek, Pakse and Savannakhet. You'll find colonial-style architecture and these spots are super relaxed, plus they offer some great excursions like Wat Phu and the 4,000 Islands. You could fly from Bangkok to somewhere like Ubon Ratchathani or Sakon Nakhon (very cheap with either Air Asia or Nok Air) then take a two hour bus ride to the Laos border at either Mukdahan/Savannakhet or Vang Tao/Chong Mek.
#2 Posted: 31/7/2013 - 08:33
You don't sound like a city girl.
I second DLuek. You could fly to NKP and from there cross over to Thakek, check out the caves then move on to dumpy Savanakhet and from there keep moving south to Paxse, 4,000 Islands, maybe motorbike around a bit. Then you can cross back by Paxse and from Ubon make your way back to Bangkok and home.
#3 Posted: 31/7/2013 - 11:50
23rd June, 2006
Messaging not enabled.
Yep, sounds good to me.
#4 Posted: 31/7/2013 - 19:34
If you can fly into KL, you can fly direct to Vientane on Air Asia, which will be much cheaper than Lao Air.
Lao is definitely not just about trekking. My suggestion would be to go to Vientiane and explore there for 3-4 days. Make your way to Luang Prabang . YOu could break the trip up by stopping at Vang Vieng - should be good know that the partying has settled down. From Luang Prabang you could make you way further up river to Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi - both are pleasant small villages that are nice to just quietly explore without being too strenuous. The river trips are very pleasant way of travelling (to make a change from the buses) and the lengths are manageable.
There is plenty to see and do if you happy to walking around - without actually doing any serious hiking/trekking.
#5 Posted: 31/7/2013 - 20:23
First of all thank you so much for your insights, I am always amazed how generous people are with their time and knowledge. I am now in a conundrum. I incline towards Busylizzy's suggestion re Luang Prabang as everybody I have met raves about it and given I may not take another trip to Lao (given the logistical difficulties I am encountering now) then it seems a shame to miss it. However, the Southern area also sounds interesting but to do both and fly in and out of VIentiane (for KL) will involve an awful lot of travelling in 2+ weeks. Is there any possibility of entering Lao near Luang Prabang by international bus from Thailand (from a convenient Thai airport?
To add to my confusion I have started looking at hotels and find the better rated reasonably priced ones already full, and the remaining appear to be of a far lower standard than I would have expected from my Cambodian experiences.......
#6 Posted: 1/8/2013 - 01:33
Booked out already for November? Hmmm. Strange. I'd think you could find something acceptable this early.
You have time to do Northern Laos or Southern Laos - but not both.
Laung Prabang is a major tourist attraction. Perhaps THE major tourist attraction, of Laos. So it's definitely a beaten path kind of place. I've never been but everyone I know has a lot of good things to say about it.
So if you want to hit the favored spots, then it's up North. A little more remote, then it's down south.
#7 Posted: 1/8/2013 - 04:40
Nok and Air Asia have cheap flights from BKK to Udon and from there it's a short run to Nong Khai and the border with Laos. I haven't been to Nong Khai but most reviews of it are positive so you could stop there for a few days and head over into Laos.
I hated BKK the first time I went but have grown to love it. It takes time if you aren't used to big cities.
I know the owners of a good steakhouse that makes its own sausages and has german beers if you are interested. Tricky to find but great bar/restaurant if you want something different from Thai food.
#8 Posted: 1/8/2013 - 10:39
"I know the owners of a good steakhouse that makes its own sausages and has german beers if you are interested. Tricky to find but great bar/restaurant if you want something different from Thai food."
#9 Posted: 1/8/2013 - 11:06
As Leonard said, you could fly from Udon Thani, then take the two-hour bus ride to Nong Khai and cross over to Vientiane. From there it's a solid 10-12 hour bus ride to Luang Prabang though. Most people break up the trip by stopping in Vang Vieng. As Mac said, these are definitely touristy places.
If you're considering southern Laos, it wouldn't make sense to fly to Vientiane. You'd want to do as I suggested and fly to Ubon Ratchathani or Sakon Nakhon then head to the border from either of those.
In terms of accommodation, it is strange you're having trouble finding availability for 4 months from now... What site are you using? Generally speaking, though, Laos is a poor country like Cambodia. Luang Prabang certainly has some nice hotels, but overall, don't expect the first-world services you'll find in Malaysia or Thailand.
#10 Posted: 1/8/2013 - 11:48
I meant fly TO Udon Thani.
#11 Posted: 1/8/2013 - 11:48
19th June, 2013
Messaging not enabled.
About hotels being "full": It could be that you are actually not to late with your booking but rather to early for a stay in November/December. Online booking sites tend to pretend that hotels are full when in fact there are not yet bookable. A few places only enter the rooms available within the next three months but not further ahead. Have a look again on what's on offer in a month's time. You should be fine.
#12 Posted: 2/8/2013 - 02:28
Firstly: you can fly to Vientiane from Bkk with Lao Central Airlines. Has no one but me on this site heard about them? They are a decent airline and they are a lot cheaper than Lao Airlines - about $70 one way.
Secondly: Lao is not just about trekking. There is a lot of history to see. Are you interested in the following - Wats, markets, silk, food and wine, architecture of the old colonial type, the Plain of Jars, waterfalls and rugged landscapes?
I would spend a few days in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, maybe a stopover in Vang Vieng.
#13 Posted: 2/8/2013 - 03:13
I noticed our comment about hotels. Nov in Lao is quite cool, so you don't really need a pool. There are many hotels ranging from expensive to cheap. As Nov is high season you probably do want to book ahead. Bridgequeen, I am an expert Bridge player, unfortunately there is no Lao Bridge Association else I would invite you to a game.
Yes Mac, there is a restaurant that serves Bratwurst and German beer. No girls in dirndls though, (well not yet anyway).
#14 Posted: 2/8/2013 - 03:40
23rd June, 2006
Messaging not enabled.
Well Rufus, I think the short answer about Lao Central is no, but thanks for the information!
#15 Posted: 2/8/2013 - 03:58
"Yes Mac, there is a restaurant that serves Bratwurst and German beer. No girls in dirndls though, (well not yet anyway)."
Have you been to "Bei Otto's" on Soi 20 in Sukhimvite?
#16 Posted: 2/8/2013 - 12:47
Thank you one and all for your advice. Rufus shame about the bridge game, i started teaching people to ensure enough for games!
I have now booked my flights and have the following draft itinerary. As for hotels being full I mean the ones with top tripadvisor rating for my price range. So my flight is straight through to Luang Prabang (i got a reasonable deal) having decided that I really can't miss it as I may well never get back to lao. I fly in on morning of 28november and have to be in bangkok by 20.00 on 17 December. For this I have 2 options, pay an extortionate 200 plus dollars to fly from Pakse or go from Ubon Rat for about 50. Problem with this is that flights leave at 09.20 or 19.50. I would prefer ton take the former and then get into bangkok with plenty of time to transfer airports and then chill before my flight home, also there won't be a problem if it is delayed, but is this possible from Pakse? I am guessing I would have to check in at least one hour before so be at U R airport by say 8.00 am. Does anybody know if this is doable? Otherwise I guess I shall have to spend the night inU R before. Is there anything to do there?
So fly in mid day 28 November
LP to 1 December
Take the bus to Vientiane
3 nights there (2 full days)
Bus to Thakhaek 2nights
Bus to Savankhet 1 night
Bus to Pakse 3nights
Bus to champasak 2
To Don Khon 3 nights
Pakse? 1night or can I get direct from Don Khon to Ubon Rat in a day? In that case I have an extra day to allocate.
Ubon Rat?1 night
I know there is a lot of travelling but does this seem doable. Is there anything glaringly stupid in all this? Btw somebody said it would be cool then, how cool is cool? I thought it would be pleasantly hot/warm. And one last thing are dollars generally accepted? Thanks again for all the help.
#17 Posted: 2/8/2013 - 13:29
3 days in Pakse is too long. I would cut this to one, spend on more in Savannakhet and one more in LP.
Savannakhet is quirky and well worth an explore - the dinosaur museum, the monkey forest and the temple with ancient Pali scrolls.
Don't pay too much attention to TA reviews. The place I would stay, if I didn't have my house, is the Lao Orchid Hotel. This is central, not that expensive, has nice rooms and good staff. Close to everything. For restaurants see my write-up on TA.
Frankly I am amazed that DeLeuk and BusyLizzy are not familiar with this airline.
The above is the web site for LCA. So many people fly this now because it so much cheaper. Also they fly to Swampy and not Don Meung - a big plus!
Mac, the place I meant is in Vientiane, not Los.
#18 Posted: 2/8/2013 - 21:17
But the place I mentioned the waitresses wear Dirndls.
You are aware that some of your bus legs here are really long and painful right?
#19 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 00:12
That's the advantage of having eyes on the ground, Rufus. I hadn't heard of Lao Central Airlines either. Prices look great, and it flies to some pretty interesting places throughout the region too. Have you personally flown with them yet, or just getting good feedback from your friends? Do you know how long they have been operating, because their website says copyright 2013.
Those long bus rides in Laos can be interesting, but anything longer than six hours can get pretty rough. Breaking up those journeys with overnight stays is a smart idea if you've got the time. But apart from the comfort angle, I think what MADMAC is getting at is that those bus trips are going to eat up a big chunk of your time in Laos, and spending long hours on a bus every few days doesn't sound that fun to me. I understand the desire to see as much as you can, but you may want to consider staying in just one region. Since you are already flying into Luang Prabang, I'd just spend the full time up north and maybe add the Plain of Jars or something like that to the trip instead of cannonballing down south.
If you do decide to keep heading south, remember that you can cross back into Thailand from Thakhaek or Savannakhet or Pakse any time you want. That will build in some flexibility if you find you want to spend a few more days someone along the way.
Whatever you wind up doing, let us know how it went. And have a Beer Lao for me too. Cheers.
#20 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 00:45
"Those long bus rides in Laos can be interesting, but anything longer than six hours can get pretty rough."
I would have said four...
"Breaking up those journeys with overnight stays is a smart idea if you've got the time."
Yep. I agree. If I didn't have the time, I wouldn't make the trip at all. I'd cross that destination off the list. In my view, the juice ain't worth the squeeze at a certain point.
"I think what MADMAC is getting at is that those bus trips are going to eat up a big chunk of your time in Laos, and spending long hours on a bus every few days doesn't sound that fun to me."
Because it's not fun. It blows. And if you have the runs (which at some point in said trip is a real possibility) do not get on the bus. You will regret it. Assuming you can get the driver to stop, squatting by the side of the road will hardly be an enjoyable experience - although admitedly it will be an amazing one, just not in a positive manner.
"Since you are already flying into Luang Prabang, I'd just spend the full time up north and maybe add the Plain of Jars or something like that to the trip instead of cannonballing down south."
Exacto and I find ourselves in violent agreement on each and every point. Less is more here.
"Whatever you wind up doing, let us know how it went. And have a Beer Lao for me too."
I serve beer Laos at my dance studio if you ever get back into this neck of the woods.
#21 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 01:02
Assuming you can get the driver to stop, squatting by the side of the road will hardly be an enjoyable experience - although admitedly it will be an amazing one, just not in a positive manner.
Screamingly funny on several levels.
Good point about getting the runs too. I travel with a few tabs of lomotil (imodium) included in my small first aid kit. It will stop you up in an emergency. But better still to hold up for a day or two until things return to normal if you can.
#22 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 01:43
The restaurant is a short drive NW of JJ market. All Thai scene so no farang rip offs and the western food is better than the Thai food which is rare in Thailand.
Let us know if you want the address.
#23 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 08:53
"Also they fly to Swampy and not Don Meung - a big plus!'
Nah DM airport is better to fly to and from. Less busy, it's closer to the city and they serve food behind immigration unlike Swampy which only has expensive shops selling stuff at inflated prices.
#24 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 08:59
Apparently Lao Central Airlines arrived on the scene in 2012. Talk about flying under our noses! Glad I've heard of them now... Thanks Rufus. It might encourage me to finally make it to Luang Prabang.
#25 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 10:22
I also prefer DM, if for no other reason than the nostalgia of it.
#26 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 10:45
They have been around for a year. I haven't flown with them, but many friends and family have. They are fine - jets, slightly older, but in good condition. They were originally Phonsavahn Airlines, but changed the name. As you say, they fly to Swampy which is a huge plus. Fares to LP are very cheap also.
#27 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 20:03
Only a plus if you have connecting flights from the same airport. Otherwise it's more of a hassle.
#28 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 07:46
Well it does have the sky train connection now - which is a plus.
#29 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 10:08
Thanks for the advice. I find there is a lao central flight from LP to Vientiane for about 65dollars. Seems a great idea except I believe the scenery on the way via bus is fabulous. So, bus and overnight at vang vieng, or fly??? Re buses, how do they compare with buses inCambodia (excluding Giant ibis which is an exception)? I have used loads of Cambodian buses so I would be able to compare.
Also is it worth going to Don Khon, or should I get my r&r in champasak?
#30 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 10:55
It's a 12 hour bus ride from LP to Vientiane . There is no scenery in the world that would make me make that trip if I could avoid it. I would fly for sure.
I can't speak for LP / Vientiane (Rufus can though) but all of the buses I saw in Savanakhet (and that was a lot since I've been in and out of there many times) were rough. I'm surprised they actually make it to their destinations (particularly the one going to Hue).
#31 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 11:02
Carting a 20kg bag on and off a skytrain and up/down the stairs isn't that handy really. Much more comfortable to catch a cab.
#32 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 11:21
"Much more comfortable to catch a cab."
It is. But I'm airborne! I don't mind the duffel bag drag much. And the sky train is fast when traffic is heavy.
#33 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 11:39
I found southern Laos lacking and boring. Northern Laos was much better imo. Luang Prabang, Nong Khiaw, Muang Ngoi are where I went. Then there is also Oudomxai and Luang Namtha if you wanted to do an overland route back to Thailand(would head to Huay Xai and then can head over to Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai).
I did all the towns being mentioned in Southern Laos but the only places I had any interest at all in where Konglor and Don Det/Khon. All the other towns are quite lacking in tourism and it doesn't have the friendly feeling that say Cambodia has to make up for lack of attractions.
Laos is definitely not just about trekking especially since tourism seems to be run by a mafia or something. Tour prices are outrageous especially if travelling solo and seem to be dominated by a couple larger companies with little offered by other locals. To me Laos was about scenery and seeing a few cultural differences(like how they live on the rivers up north and experiencing a "local bus" ride). The food in Laos was imo the worst I had in SEA(especially in southern Laos) and the hotels again were disappointing(although I stayed in cheap housing everywhere).
If you stick to your current plans definitely overnight in Vang Vieng on way to Vientiane. I did that whole stint in one go while battling a high fever(ended up being Dengue Fever) and it was hell. Also on any bus ride in Laos take snacks because the places the buses stop for food are disgusting(unless you want to eat bbq rat or little bony hens), I am willing to try a lot when it comes to food but I ate almost nothing at those bus stops.
#34 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 12:28
Geer1 has thrown me a bit, clearly you didn't like south Laos at all. Can I take it that the buses are in a totally different (worse) league than those in Cambodia? When you say the south is not tourist friendly do you mean that the people are unfriendly or that there are few facilities?
I have decided now that I shall get that flight 65 dollars well spent I think.
#35 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 14:44
Laos feeling was strange. Not unfriendly per say but more indifferent to my being there. Locals that weren't directly involved in tourism just seemed to ignore tourists and those that were involved just did only enough to get their job done. This wouldn't have been an issue if there were sights worth seeing but southern Laos was lacking in that department. Northern Laos had the same sort of feeling but the scenery made it worth while.
4000 islands was nice enough and by far the best area in southern Laos followed by Konglor but I personally wouldn't make a trip focusing on these areas. If you were taking a long trip and had time to see it that would be different but not as a main attraction.
Don't let my opinion scare you off if this is what you would like to do. Obviously others have enjoyed there time in the region but I just know that myself and a couple other travellers I ran into found the area lackluster.
#36 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 15:51
Where is Konglor, does it have another name? I can't find it on travelfish. And have you been on buses in Cambodia ? How do they compare?
#37 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 16:46
Bridgequeen, I have done the Vientiane to LP journey by bus, driven in my car and flown. I will never, repeat never do it by road again. I agree with Mac; sitting on my a$#@ in a bus for 10 hours travelling on really windy roads and having people near me throw up is not my idea of fun. Sure the journey has great scenery. You can see the scenery from the plane as well and you can take a river cruise to Pak Ou caves to see scenery as well. If you want to stop in Vang Vieng, ok, then you have to take the bus. At least take a mini bus.
Southern Lao is not boring, far from it. If you want to trek, head north, if you want to see history head south. Champassak is well worth a visit, and I have already mentioned Savannakhet. To say the locals ignore you is plain wrong. Well perhaps not if you have a poor attitude to them. " tourism seems to be run by a mafia or something". I think this comment sums up Geer's attitude and why people responded to him the way he perceived they did. Even when I spoke no Lao at all, people invited me for beer or a meal. Lao people are very friendly.
By the way, Lao food is very good.
#38 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 19:33
Quote from a friend this morning: " Lao Central airlines were fantastic. $40 fare to Vientiane - 20kg luggage, full meal and they fast-tracked check-in to make sure I got on the flight."
#39 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 20:19
I have to admit I'm with Greer on the food. I don't like Laos food and I don't like Issan food either (foruntately there is a lot of Thai food here). We have an Issan restaraunt here in Mukdahan and there isn't one thing on the menu that I like (sadly my father in law loves it and always wants to go there when he comes to visit - of course he hates and will not eat western food of any type. He considers it "crap").
I think Laos people are friendly too. I mean, people are leading their lives so you can't expect everyone to fawn over you all of the time. But in general I find Laos and Issan people to be most pleasant.
#40 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 22:57
Bridgequeen. Konglor is a small village nearby to a cave. There is nothing really special about the town but the cave is kind of neat. You actually take a small canoe type boat through it and walk a little ways. Travelling alone I could see Konglor as being a hit and miss location though. I had a good time there but part of that had to do with the half dozen travellers I happened to meet there. If you happened to go there when there were few other travellers it would seem quite boring as there isn't that much to do. If you are considering doing it then the easiest way is to take direct bus from Vientiane. To leave you can take the same bus back to highway junction then hop on next bus heading south.
Rufus. I will admit I missed Champasak as I was somewhat templed out on my trip and Siem Reap was my next spot. If Champasak is nice then a person could probably put together a half decent trip doing Konglor, Pakse, Champasak, 4000 islands. Savannakhet imo was a complete waste of time and was one of the least appealing places I went to on my whole 4 month trip. .
For the record I do not have a poor attitude towards locals, my biggest issue is that I am not an outgoing guy so finding people to chat with etc isn't easy and I almost need the locals to try and strike up conversation with me in order for one to get started. That never really happened in Laos but happened a lot in Cambodia and also at times in Thailand. Like I said before it isn't that Laos people were unfriendly, they just weren't what I consider to be friendly. They just had this sort of indifferent attitude towards my presence. I wasn't the only one that felt this way either as I chatted with some other travellers who had the same sort of feeling. I also met a few travellers that really enjoyed the people though, maybe they were just lucky to meet some really nice people or I was unfortunate not to.
Also the mafia comment is to do with Tiger Trails and Green Discovery Laos which often are the main tour companies available and are quite expensive. They promote their ecotourism stuff but I was told that they are run by businessmen and that the money doesn't actually go to helping towns etc and rather are money grabs. I don't know if this is true but there were also very few other more local companies/individuals offering tour type services which is odd for a country with so many poor people that would benefit by offering competitive priced tours. Add in that it is well known that Laos has issues with corruption(particularly with regards to Chinese money/influence) and I wouldn't be surprised in one bit if there is somewhat of a mafia type of involvement/control of Laos tourism.
#41 Posted: 5/8/2013 - 00:44
FYI , most people when referring to the geograghic area where Konglor Caves are located they say "Thakek" - which admitedly isn't much bigger than a postage stamp. If they refer to the caves themselves they'll say "Konglor Caves".
I am extremely extroverted, so meeting people and having conversations has never really been a challenge for me anywhere in this region.
#42 Posted: 5/8/2013 - 02:43
I agree that Green Discovery and Tiger Trails are expensive. I never use Green Discovery or recommend them for a variety of reasons. By the way, GD is Australian owned. There are many other very good tour providers however.
I am surprised you did not like Sav. I really enjoy the town and it is a nice place to chill out for a couple of days. Did you see the dinosaur museum and did you do the trip to the monkey forest and the temple with the ancient Pali scrolls?
Don't forget that English skills in Lao are very rudimentary and many Lao are shy of making the first step.
#43 Posted: 5/8/2013 - 02:59
Konglor cave (Tham Lot Kong Lor) is covered by this bit of travelfish: http://www.travelfish.org/location/laos/southern_laos/khammuan/tha_khaek_loop (need to scroll down to find the relevant section)
#44 Posted: 5/8/2013 - 09:29
25th June, 2013
Messaging not enabled.
I found 4000 islands in Southern Laos to be really nice and kind of captured the warmth and friendliness of the Lao people. Not much to do there culturally though - more for relaxing.
I did find the Lao people friendly. I guess it depends on where you are...
But good luck with the trip and let us know how you go!
#45 Posted: 5/8/2013 - 12:34
"Not much to do there culturally though"
Culture is about people. There might not be much to do there activity wise - but don't confuse that with culture (a very overused word in the tourist world). If you have people, you have culture. Riding and elephant or zip lining is not culture, just fun. Not to be too pedantic, but just sayin'...
#46 Posted: 5/8/2013 - 12:42
I went to the dinosaur museum and was highly disappointed, guess I was spoiled as a child going to Drumheller. I didn't see the monkey forest or temple since I didn't know about them, I did stop by the tourism office but don't remember being told much so just went to museum then next morning hopped on bus out of town.
Really up to Bridgequeen what he decides to do. Sounds like there might be enough to keep busy with in Southern Laos when you include what I missed or skipped. I would still recommend northern Laos compared to southern Laos but that is based on my experiences. Going to Luang Prabang is definitely a must do so it is good that he is doing that no matter which way he decides.
#47 Posted: 5/8/2013 - 18:51
25th June, 2013
Messaging not enabled.
You are absolutely right. Sorry if I gave that impression with my words.
I was just using it in the sense of cultural attractions: temples, markets etc.
Oh, and I never said zip lining or elephant trekking was culture! hell no..
#48 Posted: 6/8/2013 - 00:29
All I'm saying is that every local village has culture - and many, if not most, have temples and markets. Certainly southern Laos has enough temples and markets. They may not be "amazing", but they are a elements of real culture. If you go to a town like Pakse, and you witness peoples day to day lives, get to know people, start to learn the language - that is culture. So I would disagree you have to go somewhere that has "attractions" to get exposed to culture. In fact, I would say that said hurts your exposure, because to a degree it's become artificial (which is what has to happen when something becomes a tourist attraction). In my view, if you want serious cultural exposure (and most people don't) then you have to start with taking enough time to learn language, which admitedly is hard. And you have to spend enough time in one place to really get to know people. Which the vast majority of people simply do not want to do. They want to move around a lot. They want a quick snapshot of "culture", but not real exposure. Culture is a word that is very overused at any rate. I think people use it for some sort of street cred among a certain type of social group.
#49 Posted: 6/8/2013 - 01:07
What they really want is tourist culture. If you want local culture then you need to learn the language and befriend the locals. The easiest local culture to access is at festivals so if you planned a trip around things like Songkran or Buddhist festivals then you get a hit of culture without the language skills.
#50 Posted: 6/8/2013 - 08:03
25th June, 2013
Messaging not enabled.
Would you like to show me where I said that you need to go somewhere with "attractions" to get exposed to culture?
As I didn't say such a thing, I suppose we are not in disagreement here?
And I think you are confusing yourself with your talk of "serious" cultural exposure. Since when do you have to spend long stretches of time in one place, and learn the local language, and make local friends, to have serious cultural exposure? Do you mean serious cultural understanding here?
Exposure and understanding/insight, are two different things.
#51 Posted: 6/8/2013 - 11:05
"Since when do you have to spend long stretches of time in one place, and learn the local language, and make local friends, to have serious cultural exposure? Do you mean serious cultural understanding here?
Exposure and understanding/insight, are two different things."
Exposure without understanding and insight are pretty worthless. What I am saying is if you are really interested in Lao Culture, than anywhere youu find Low Land Lao people you will get exposure to their culture. That is as true of Paxse as it is of Luang Prabang. That was in response to the statement "not much to do their culturally". Somewhere along the line we (collectively, humans) have confused stuff with culture. The Germans are notorious for it, labelling every culture (Kultur). As I said elsewhere here, when I lived in Germany there was a display of German "Brot Kultur) - I **** you not. But really culture is about people and their behavior patterns and begins with language.
#52 Posted: 6/8/2013 - 12:19
25th June, 2013
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Well, this is going nowhere, simply because we (not just you and I) do not agree on a single definition of culture. We can think of it in much broader terms - like I think you have - or nail it down to something more specific.
At the end of the day, what's important - at least to me - is that the traveler what they want out of traveling. If all they want is a superficial understanding of it, that's fine by me. If they want to delve deeper, great too.
#53 Posted: 6/8/2013 - 14:06
"If all they want is a superficial understanding of it, that's fine by me. If they want to delve deeper, great too."
I'm actually cool with that too. One of my pet peeves though is when people are not really going to do the work it takes to really learn about a culture and instead hop from tourist destination to tourist destination and then claim they are a superior breed of tourist. So they'll go to Chiang Mai, Pai, Vientiane, VV, Luang Prabang, Hanoi, Halong Bay... you get the idea... then claim they are more enlightened and have some sort of moral high ground over the beach tourist who's just coming here to chill. They are spending every night hanging out with other tourists and pontificating. This is how I actually first came to Travelfish. I was at a bar / restaraunt in Savanakhet on a visa run and two backpacker kids started hassling this older guy because he was with a lady who was about 25 (he must have been pushing 50). But the older guy and his lady were having their entire conversation in Lao - which means he spoke Lao, so he's been there a while - and the girl pipes up about how he doesn't understand local culture and he's exploiting this "poor girl". It was way over the top. I ran into another of these types where I live (on the other side of the river) trying to tell me what's what when I've lived here six years. When I explained that as tourists their depth of knowledge probably isn't very deep one of them said to me "We're not tourists, we're travellers", as if that somehow was different from being a tourist and made them more culurally aware. A few of us here share this particular aversion - not that I mean you in that grouping for sure.
#54 Posted: 6/8/2013 - 14:26
I have heard this tourist/traveller crap too. It is usually from hippy types who hand out with other hippy types. I was in Vang Vieng once and there was a group of fire twirlers, (I kid you not), on th other side of the river. I heard them in a restaurant later that evening saying they were travellers.
#55 Posted: 6/8/2013 - 19:08
I was at a bar / restaraunt in Savanakhet on a visa run and two backpacker kids started hassling this older guy because he was with a lady who was about 25 (he must have been pushing 50). But the older guy and his lady were having their entire conversation in Lao...
That was me MADMAC! But I don't remember you being there. Then again, I had a lot of Beer Lao that day.
Take it easy on these kids. They're just kids. Yes, they are taking themselves way too seriously, but they'll get past it - eventually. Besides, I think you may be over generalizing, since most of the backpackers traveller types I've met on the road and pretty good people. Wouldn't you say that's true MAC from the folks you've shown around Muk?
#56 Posted: 6/8/2013 - 21:40
"Besides, I think you may be over generalizing, since most of the backpackers traveller types I've met on the road and pretty good people. Wouldn't you say that's true MAC from the folks you've shown around Muk?"
Indeed. This is only a subset. I just met two French / Swiss kids in Muk and helped them out with directions to their intended hotel from their Lonely Planet guide (I advised them to modify their hotel choice since the one they were going to was a notorious short time hotel and head over to SC Residence, which fit their requirements). I am not averse to backpackers, just to holier than thou backpackers.
#57 Posted: 6/8/2013 - 23:59
@Rufus: Thanks so much for the Lao Central airlines tip. Much better than flying Udon Thani & bus to VT. My flight was $83 though; where was your friend flying from for $40? (or is it cheaper buying tickets in Laos/Thailand?)
Edit: my flight in Dec, so maybe more expensive then.
#58 Posted: 7/8/2013 - 07:04
He flew Vientiane to Bkk last week. Mind you he bought his ticket with a special promotion.
$83 seems a bit expensive. I just checked - yes they have put up the price. But look at their website and it is $69.00 I guess the initial price was an encouragement to get clients.
From To Duration Flight Number Aircraft Type Cabin Economy best fare Premium Economy
01:00 LF066 SU9[li]
#59 Posted: 7/8/2013 - 19:37
Yes, bought mine through their website too & it was their cheapest fare for 9th Dec, so it must be a peak season price. Ah well...
#60 Posted: 8/8/2013 - 12:47
$83 isn't expensive by any measure. If it saves you 12 hours of uncomfortable travel over land it's well worth it.
#61 Posted: 9/8/2013 - 13:17
Yes, totally agree.
#62 Posted: 9/8/2013 - 14:11
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