First off; thanks be to admin and regular contributors of the forum.....have spent many hours gathering really useful information to form a (kind of) plan in gratitude to travelfish. Cheers- and promise to put some energy back in February with a trip report and images :)
All internal Laos travel is flexible- I must be back in Bangkok by evening of 22nd Jan- the later the better to stay near airport for international flights early am of 23Jan. Leaving Chiang Mai 11Jan that gives me 12 days in Laos- nowhere near enough. As such I have decided to sacrifice taking piss out of backpackers on the slowboat and fly to LP for more time on the ground and also to focus on more time in less regions. I will fly internally unless someone can provide other than the usual argument for the slowboat (I currently have a booking on the Laung Say 13Jan valid for seven days I have no intention of paying for just in case).
The reasons I love to travel anywhere are to indulge some other passions: photography and anthropology; particularly spirituality. Should say I am a 38yo female traveling solo. I mention this specifically because I am genuinely fascinated by all spiritualities and would not like for anyone responding to this post to assume I am an disrespectful falang keen to participate in a zoo. If any questions do appear ignorant or disrespectful I offer apologies and gratefully receive constructive criticism and suggested activities.
While in LP I would like to observe the alms collection discretely from a private balcony and would appreciate advice on where is best to do that- and if, considering it will be peak season, should I consider booking in advance for better digs with private vantage points? - bear in mind my flight arrives before the boats.
Should I feel it is appropriate after observing one morning (and I DO know other falang are likely to shame me) I may wish to participate in gifting- was important to me personally to participate in this act UNTIL I read reports of falang behaviour but am now put off but wish to remain open minded until I witness the zoo on the first morning. Has anyone any insider info on the best, most respectful manner to participate?- I'm not asking common sense advice available to anyone with respect & internet but perhaps for a local guide to prepare and present the alms with who is not just out for a tourist buck....if such a person exists.
A homestay in out of LP would be wonderful after a night or two in town if anyone has suggestions and particularly after routes/places with great photographic opportunities (this applies to entire stay. Also...as a solo female traveler am I able to to practice English with the monks in the park in LP? AFAIK it depends on the particular monk but I'm wary of offending by even approaching.
Before anyone has a go about the photography please understand I am and will do my best to be respectful at all times and do not need to be told how but understand why so many travelers need to be. I'm mainly after spectacular scenery in great light conditions but of course would love some great portraits with local's permission. Any photographers reading- gear advice would be appreciated as well. Shooting with Nikon D7 and thinking 50ml 2.8 and 18-200ml 3.5 lenses. Will also pick up a decent waterproof point and shoot in duty free for happy snaps and long boat rides...
I'm most particularly interested in activities that contribute directly to local communities in all areas. The first person to suggest VV is the first to receive an internet slap- I'm a mum on a break and don't want my time spent worrying about drunk kids in tubes....not judging them just that was soooooooo fifteen years ago for me (although Goa was the destination of choice back then ;) )
11 Jan Chiang Mai- LP
12 Jan LP
15Jan: Prabang- Paske-Champasak
16 Jan Champasak-Wat Phu-Don Daeng
17 Jan - Don Daeng
18Jan Don Daeng to Don Khon
21Jan Don Khon-Paske-Vientiane
22Jan VT-BKK pm flight
Sorry this post has become a thesis but want open slather on advice please on how to get the best out of the limited timeframe- and the more I think of a couple of days chillax with beerlao at the end the more I want to hang onto it- reckon I deserve a beer at the end of that and ten days around Northern Thailand previously. Gotta be at work 12 hours after my return to Melbourne as well- ouch! Money isn't particularly an issue although I'm more interested in winging it at trying to find homestays and a more *genuine* experience close to what I realise is a more traveled route......(gimme a break, I been busy raising offspring and need to get the travel mojo back)......
Is the above itinerary reasonable for the southern leg? Any advice further to the dreaded guide book on how to go about solo traveling in the areas? Can I hire individual river guides and/or longboats at each location? How late in the days can I travel onward by longboat and how easy is it to arrange with limited vocabulary? As you can see I've left plenty of room for randomness in the southern leg- any suggested places/activities worth stopping traveling down by river? Plan on early am roadtrip back to Paske the morning of my flight....doable?
Go for it.....please....
#1 Aaranyani has been a member since 13/11/2011. Posts: 5
reply more later but for a start:
http://laomeow.blogspot.com/2008/10/bindabaat.html & subsequent posts.
for a local guide to prepare and present the alms with who is not just out for a tourist buck....if such a person exists.
could stay in accommodation owned & run by a local family & ask if you could join in helping them prepare the food & then offering it. tell them you want to learn. & you can do this anywhere in Laos, LPB is not the only place in Laos with monks.
A homestay in out of LP would be wonderful after a night or two in town if anyone has suggestions
If your budget allows it, I would highly recommend Khoun and Khone's Guesthouse, just a few km out of Luang Prabang. Current rates are $25-$30, including breakfast. I stayed there in September for 3 nights.
Refer to Travelfish reviews and the K&K Website for more info. Also check out the reviews on Tripadvisor.
My suggestion would be to spend a few days in LP town itself, and then a few days at their homestay. They are a lovely couple who are more than happy to drive you and and out of LP town as you need, and to pick you up from the bus station, etc. They love talking about their family life, their adventures in building up their homestay - and you will get some great food here. It's just a nice spot to relax, get away from the busy-ness of the town and enjoy some family-style hospitality.
In Sept, we were the only ones staying there but I understand that during peak season they are pretty full, so it would pay to book ahead if you think you are keen.
I also agree with wanderingcat's comment about participating/observing alms in other areas outside of LP. In LP, you will get the 'quantity' but not the quality. Even when trying to observe discretely from the back, the anticipated 'atmosphere' is somewhat ruined by ignorant snaphappy tourists determined to get in the way of it all.
Although I didn't get up for it, my partner got up to watch the alms ceremony in Muang Ngoi. He was the only non-local person there and had a far more enjoyable experience. I'm sure the same would occur in other areas too. If you are looking for a more 'authentic' and spiritual experience, skip LP!
Thank you wanderingcat and busylizzy- sage advice indeed. Think you're right about participating away from LP and Don Daeng may be the place for that. Has anyone been there who can offer various advice?
Khoun and Khone's looks wonderful but I'm wondering if I have time to stay there, check out around town and do daytrips/and village visit? Since I'll be missing the slowboat I would like to spend a day on the river to the caves. Is it worth it or will I be disappointed? Do my travel plans for the south make up for missing the *unmissable* slow boat? Any other trip suggestions around LP? Should mention I am very much looking forward to meeting textiles of the region and want to get as much local art/craft in as possible as well- would like to purchase directly from the weavers and communities :)
#5 Aaranyani has been a member since 13/11/2011. Posts: 5
don't think you have time to go all the way to places like Xam Tai in Houa Phan province for weaving, but perhaps consider more time in VTE. most people diss VTE but in terms of weaving there's quite a bit to see. some skilled Tai Daeng & Tai Phouan (2 of the ethnic groups with the most intricate weaving) weavers from Houa Phan & Xieng Khouang moved to & settled in VTE cos of conflict in their home regions, & now there are some good galleries in VTE, some have produced pieces that won in regional competitions (competing against Thai, Khmer & Indonesian weavers). comb through this for details: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=1883099
some galleries in VTE:
http://www.gotlaos.com/tatega1.html (check the rest of the gotlaos site for more places in LPB & elsewhere)
don't know your accommodation budget & requirements but could consider staying at Vanvisa GH in LPB or their sister GH at Kuang Si waterfall: http://www.luang-prabang-hotels.com/Vanvisa_at_the_Falls
contact them first to check if Mdm Vandara Amphayphone will be around during your stay (sometimes she's busy/out of town), & tell her you're interested in weaving. she is/was the director of some textile/weaving association in northern Laos. she or her family members would be a good guide for the almsgiving process too, she is very involved in supporting activities of the local sangha.
Thanks again wanderingcat- I've sent enquiries about Mdm Vandara Amphayphoneas and a two night stay there looks as though it could provide a genuine interaction with community members, which would be wonderful.........can I get there by boat and can I rely on making it back to LP by tuktuk or boat in time for a 1055 flight on the 15th?
You guys are a wealth of information and I thoroughly appreciate your willingness to share and help other travelers :)
#7 Aaranyani has been a member since 13/11/2011. Posts: 5
Well I am certainly goping to suggest Vang Vieng and also more time in Vientiane .
Vang Vieng is not just a tuber's paradise. The karst landscapes are fantastic and there is a lot to see. I take my young family - 2 small kids and myife to VV at least once a year to look at the sites and have a relaxing few days. No, I do not tube, and the scum can be avoided easily enough.
Secondly you should spend at least 2 days in Vienatiane. Those who say the city is boring are usually the gap year trash who want to go to VV only to get plastered. Vientiane has a lot to offer in terms of museums, architecture, food and shopping..
Thanks Rufus....and hey I appreciate every suggestion regardless of whether it is contrary to my current plans :)
It's not only the tubing/backpacker factor that puts me off Vang Vieng but also I don't travel well and just don't think four hours of vomiting surrounded by others in the same state to attain only 24hrs at another destination that's nowhere near top of my list is an inefficient use of my limited time.
Happy to look around VT- was wondering whether or not to listen to traveler reviews which do seem negative and have to admit in my former traveling days 'capital' was a dirty word and place from which to immediately escape LOL. But, tragically, as I grow wiser museums and shopping are on top of the list for any exploration......
Would have to fly back from Paske earlier though and possibly cut out a night at Don Daeng- has anyone been there to advise if I shouldn't cut my stay there down? I've noticed there is not a lot of posting on this forum about travels through southern Laos and would appreciate further feedback on that. I've yet to book the internal Laos flights so everything remains flexible :)
Maybe I should start a competition here for everyone to post their 'dream itinerary' and if I pick yours will provide many a beerlao and tales of adventure during one stopover ? :p
#9 Aaranyani has been a member since 13/11/2011. Posts: 5