So the journey to Luang Prabang was interesting from start to finish. It started with the agency who I'd booked the bus ticket through telling me that I wouldn't be on a VIP bus that I'd booked but a local bus but even then he wasn't too convinced that he knew how I'd be getting to Luang Prabang. When I got to the bus station I was actually told I was getting there by minivan, which was better as it would save two hours on the journey...or it was meant too. The road was crazy and the windiest and bumpiest road I've been on since I started travelling, I thought some of the roads in Nepal were interesting, this was on another level. Having been bouncer around all over the place, the driver pulled over, walked around the van and through the window I could see him looking distresses as he stared at the rear wheel. So we all got out to find out that not only had the wheel been punctured but it had been completely shredded, he must have been driving on it for ages to be in the state it was and smell of the burnt rubber. We lost an hour or so here while the poor guy tried to change the wheel. The rest of the journey was slow going and the road didn't improve. I think everyone was now aware that we had no spare wheel if we hit another puncture...about 20km outside of Luang Prabang he pulls over again to inspect the wheels as he thought we had another puncture, thank god we didn't.
Finally we arrived into Luang Prabang and had to grab a tuk tuk into town where we got dropped off in a central location so I followed the map to the hostel I'd booked, Central Backpackers, to find out that the map on hostelbookers was incorrect. Brilliant. No one seemed to know where it was so I asked to use the wifi at a hotel to try and locate the hostel. As soon as I got connected the whole town plunged into darkness as a power cut hit. Eventually it came back up and I was able to find it on a better map...of course it was right near where the tuk tuk had dropped us off. Finally about 2 hours later after arriving at the town I was checked in and heading to a local bar to meet the guys from the trek in Luang Namtha for one of their birthday drinks.
Luang Prabang seemed a decent town to hang out in for a few days with plenty of bars and restaurants. The guys had already planned out next day in Luang Prabang which was to spend the day at an outdoor swimming pool as they had managed to get free entry vouchers. So the following day was spent at La Pistoche swimming pool, a perfect way to spend a day in the sun. Albeit it was a bit expensive, by Laos standards, for food but at least the drinks were on happy hour with a cocktail being 20,000 kip but I was good and only had one, a refreshing lime lao lao (lime juice, lao lao whisky and ice). Five hours later we left to freshen up and head to the night market to see what was on offer there. The night market is a decent size with plenty of souvenirs on offer, along with crepes and sandwiches. The proper cheddar cheese crepe was brilliant. I also got a unique souvenir, 2 sets of chopsticks made from the metal of the bombs that were dropped by the Americans during the secret war. I thought it was something a little bit different.
The following day a group of us hired a tuk tuk to head to the Kuang Si waterfall, it was totally worth leaving early (8.20am) to beat the crowds not only for decent photographs but also a swim. It's 30km out of town but it's perfectly turquoise waters and multiple cascading waterfalls make it worth the visit and despite it's coldness, at that time of def, it calls you into the water. Included in the price is a visit to the sun bear sanctuary which is to try and save them against poachers. We pottered and swam around this area for an easy 2 / 3 hours before heading back to the town for some lunch and what turned into an afternoon and evening drinking. There is a curfew in Laos that means everything should be shut by 11.30pm and everyone should be back where they live/stay by midnight. However, there is a bowling alley that flaunts this rule so we headed over there around 11pm for more beers but as everyone does this we weren't able to get a lane to do some actual bowling. The alley shut, I think, around 1am so we got a tuk tuk make to the centre of town to be greeted by some much needed street food stalls. The woman was telling us she got around the curfew by paying off the police with a few dollars. This suited us as we were craving some drunken food.
For our last day in Luang Prabang we all vowed not to drink, which we stuck to and spent the afternoon, once surfaced and recovered from the hungover down on a sandy strip along the Mekong River. To get there you have to cross a bamboo bridge which comes at a cost of 5,000 kip. But the sandy patch acts as a reasonable hang out area and you can almost pretend to be on a beach. At least in the evening there are plenty of cafés and restaurants open serving fruit shakes to avoid the booze, so we did that over several games of s***head before calling it a night as we were all moving on early the next morning.
For me it was time to plod over to Phonsavanh to see the Plain of Jars.