15 Jul - 25 Jul 2010 Louangphabang

Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos)
Philaylack Villa +85671253025 philaylackvilla@yahoo.com
Spacious and clean double room (no. 201) with large private balcony for only LAK 80,000.- or US$ 9.75 per night. Friendly and helpful staff.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Philaylack Villa in Louangphabang, which we would highly recommend, and for directions:

Exploring the well-oiled tourist heaven and UNESCO World Heritage City of Louang Phabang where the prices for goods and services are generally two to three times higher and the female populace is two to three times fatter than anywhere else in this lovely country, a town which conjures up nostalgic daydreams of a bewildering and exotic Laos: the wonderful patchwork of restored traditional Lao houses, many subtle hints of European architecture (the reminders of when Laos was part of the French colony of Indochina), plenty of golden-roofed temples aka wats, decorated with mosaics and murals about the Buddha's life, and well-behaved lines of saffron-robed boy-monks trudging under swaying palms through the morning mist (...any undesirable thoughts about paedophilia and multi-level marketing are swept under the carpet; after all, this is the noble philosophy of Buddhism, one of the most revered para-religious value systems among neurotic Westerners).

Climbing up the Sacred Hill aka Phou Si (entrance: LAK 20,000.- per foreigner), the geographical and spiritual centre of Louang Phabang, and enjoying stunning views of the bustling city and the shimmering rivers (Mekong River and Nam Khan River), against the backdrop of jungle-clad mysterious mountains.

Ticking off one temple after the other (our favourites: Wat Pha Mahatthat, Wat That Louang, Wat Manolom, Wat Xiang Thong, Wat Visoun) during our morning/afternoon strolls through Louang Phabang and noticing interesting details: (i) a stairway flanked by some impressive and undulating seven-headed naga spewing from the mouths of snaggle-toothed makara at Wat Pha Mahatthat, (ii) comic-like interior murals with Chinese, Persian and European characters at Wat Pa Houak and (iii) an ornate boat shed housing the monastery’s two longboats, used in the annual boat race festival at Wat Saen.

Getting our muscles kneaded and our joints flexed during a Lao full-body massage (60 min for LAK 40,000.- or US$ 5.- per person) which owes more to Chinese than to Thai schools and applies medicated balms which are rubbed into the skin, and realising (Matt only) that a Lao foot massage (60 min for LAK 40,000.- or US$ 5.- per person) is a strictly below-the-knees affair (as opposed to a happily ending Thai foot massage).

“Happy endings are best achieved by keeping the right doors locked.”

Laundering our dirty linen for LAK 8,000.- or US$ 1.- per kg, washed and dried, in our friendly Philaylack Villa guest house.

Taking an adventurous government express bus and roller-coastering for grueling 15 long hours through some of Laos’ most stunning scenery (including a few road-blocking landslides, caused by the onset of heavy monsoonal rains, which have to be removed by work gangs of villagers before our bus can move on) along the mountainous old Royal Road aka Route 13 from Luang Phabang to Vientiane's Khoua Din Bus Station (c. 390 km, 15 hours, LAK 120,000.- or US$ 14.70 per person, including the pick-up from our guest house), giving Vang Vieng a wide berth, thus arriving slightly jarred at Vientiane which looked more like a rambling collection of numerous villages, dotted with a few grandiose monuments, than the capital city of Laos.

2010 Map Konni & Matt

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