Welcome to Laos!

January 9, 2009 - 11:30 pm No Comments

Just before heading to the airport, Doug and I treated ourselves to another massage at a place recommended by Peter. He told us they were the best massages in Chiang Mai, but the place looked like it was set up in an abandoned dentist’s office on some random back road. The rooms were frigid and smelled like gym socks, and the massages were only mediocre. Doug and I vowed to get at least one more quality massage before we come home.

We got to the airport not having booked any accommodation in Luang Prabang. Since most immigration officials require an intended address while visiting a country, I was starting to get a bit nervous. We fired off a bunch of e-mails to any guest houses that we could find online with the dates we needed to stay and our flight information. One of the guest houses I found was run by a photographer named Paul Wager (take a look, he’s got quality stuff). Even though the positive review about it said that it was not officially open yet, I sent off an e-mail anyway. Just to put something, we picked a random guest house address for our immigration papers.

We boarded our flight and took off. Laos Airlines served us some kind of fried fish sandwich, which wasn’t half bad. In the air, I was a bit stressed about finding a place to stay for the night. Doug was care-free, fumbling with his Rubik’s Cube. After two weeks, he has one side done and almost a second.

Before we knew it, we descended through the clouds and haze, revealing Luang Prabang to be a comfortable town nestled within lush, green mountains. Didn’t really know what to expect. All I know that it was highly recommended by my cousin Eric and a bunch of people who had posted to online forums. Only an hour’s flight from Chiang Mai, we figured why not.

After landing, they let us walk around the tarmac a bit and take pictures. Very cool.

Luang Prabang Airport

Then off to immigration, where I got the shaft for being Canadian. For some reason, Laos visas for people from Canada are more expensive than for any other country in the world. Why?

We walked outside to search for a place with Internet so that I could find a guest house. Standing just outside the door, what do I see but the smiling face of Paul Wager and a big sign with my name on it in his hands. Sometimes it just happens.

Paul let us to his truck and introduced us to his Laotian wife, Joy. On the ride to the guest house, he told us a little about his five years in Laos. He came here, loved it, presumably met his wife, and never left. We started talking photography learned that he’s been published in National Geographic, Travel & Leisure, and other popular magazines. After reminding him that there are a lot of people who want to do what he’s doing, he offered to help me out in any way he can, starting with telling me where to go in Luang Prabang to get the best shots and then giving me advice about how to get established in the industry.

The guest house is in the middle of town. He showed us to our room, smallish but comfortable. He didn’t have any twin rooms left, so Doug and I get to share a rather cozy queen size bed. Doug was overjoyed to find yet another shower head without shower doors in our bathroom.

Paul also lent us a couple of bicycles to get around town. Mine offers no mechanical advantage, has no brakes, and has a pretty little basket on the front if it. We ran out to see the town before it got dark, getting down to the Mekong River just in time for sunset.

River Boats at Dusk

At a restaurant called Yongkhoune, we had some traditional Laos food for dinner (beef and chicken orlam), and neither of us really liked it. Doug, who has been a little under the weather for a few days now, has cramps. There seem to be enough backpackers here to sustain a nightlife, but we’re going to take it easy tonight. Pretty full day tomorrow in Luang Prabang.

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