Hi, everyone. We are here enjoying our first full day in Luang Prabang, which has been awesome.
On Saturday we spent the morning and early afternoon at JJ weekend market in Bangkok, which is one of the biggest outdoor markets in the world. It was so fun and we got some great deals and tasted some amazing street food from the vendors, including fried grasshoppers and caterpillars! Then we had a quick dinner and headed to the train station to catch our overnight train to Vientiane, Laos.
We'd booked a first class sleeper car so the ride wasn't too bad, although we'd left Bangkok late and we arrived at the Thai-Laos border later than expected. From there, it was a little unclear the best way to get into Vientiane--the guidebooks and internet had said there was no train in Laos, so we'd have to take a bus--but when we arrived, there was lots of visa paperwork, another short train ride, and then a van ride. The van dropped us off in front of a closed coffee shop in the pouring rain. So, we pulled out our guidebook, flipped to the map of Vientiane, and set out for our hotel. We had gotten a good deal online for a pretty nice place, so it wasn't in backpacker row and we had a bit of a walk. By the time we arrived, we were both completely soaked, and my backpack (which is water resistant but not waterproof) was soaked through so most of my clothes were wet.
The rain let up a little on Sunday afternoon so we walked around Vientiane, a pretty small and quiet city on the Mekong. On Monday, our only full day in the city, we walked along the river and got traditional Lao massages, which were similar to the Thai but different in that they used hot packs of herbs which smelled really good. I also got my hair cut to my shoulders which might not sound that drastic, but still feels very drastic! But life on the road has not been particularly kind to my hair, so it was time to do something about it.
On Monday morning we were picked up at our hotel by the travel agency through which we'd booked our bus tickets to Luang Prabang. After a few stops and two van changes, it became clear that we would not be boarding the VIP bus after all (for which we'd bought tickets--and no, this is not like flying first class--riding the VIP bus means you'll have a seat, whereas the local bus means that you likely will not!) We're still not exactly sure what happened, because most of the people in our van seemed to have been told that they were buying tickets for the VIP bus. My only real complaints about the bus were that Ian and I couldn't sit together and I couldn't see much out the windows, and the drive from Vientiane to Luang Prabang is supposed to be one of the most beautiful road trips in the world! In any case, the scenery I was able to see was gorgeous and we arrived in Luang Prabang ten-ish hours later.
Last night we basically checked into our guest house, ate some dinner, and crashed. Today we walked into town and along the river a little, checked some prices at travel agents for some day trips to waterfalls and caves and things like that, and eventually decided to rent bicycles to see a bit more outside of town. The town is very small and walkable, but also a bit touristy, so we wanted to get out and see some areas outside of the tourist ones. We had a really nice ride and got to see plenty of Lao people going about their daily business and some more really gorgeous landscapes. I'm tired this evening from the ride, but it was so fun to be on a bike again (I haven't ridden one in at least several years) and to see the sights. I told Ian that along with the cooking class in Bangkok, the bike ride was one of my favorite things we've done on the trip.
We'd read such good things about this town that we booked six nights at the guest house, so I'm sure I'll have much more to report about our time here. And hopefull soon I'll be able to upload some pics!