Entering Laos by travelling down the Mekon River from Thailand is a very good way to get into the country. Travelling in style, we spent three days cruising down the Mekong on the Luang Say, with an overnight stop in the Luang Say Lodge, near the town of Pakbeng. The second leg of the journey took us from Pakbeng to the ancient royal capital Luang Prabang, a World Heritage site, or to the Thai border. En route, the Mekong river wound its sometimes turbulent way through jungle, mountains, teak plantations and farmland.
Luang Prabang – a sleepy town filled with temples on the banks of the Mekon River. Although there is a strong backpacker influence, there are also many eating places that serve excellent Laos dishes. The early morning market is a good place to see some of the local wildlife – albeit in a somewhat deceased state – but be prepared for a 05:00 am start. The tastiest morsels – small mammals, larvae and tortoises – get sold soonest! The hotel was excellent – a few minutes away from the centre of town but otherwise very well run.
Vientiane – a capital city that hums with some of the energy missing from Luang Prabang. The That Luang stupa is magnificent – built in the 16th century, destroyed by the Thai invasion of the 19th century, and later restored to the original design. The Seetha Palace Hotel looked great but suffered from indifferent staff. Enough said.