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Indochina Trip 3/9: Lao Airlines VTE-PKZ+LPQ & LXG  
User currently offlineEL-AL From Israel, joined Oct 2001, 1311 posts, RR: 5
Posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 19269 times:

Indochina trip 3/9: Lao Airlines VTE-PKZ + LPQ & LXG

This is continuation of my Indochina trip, first 2 parts:

Indochina Trip 2/9: Orient Thai DMK-CEI / MD-82 (by EL-AL May 2 2011 in Trip Reports)
Indochina Trip 1/9: El Al B744 TLV-BKK + LY Lounge (by EL-AL Apr 24 2011 in Trip Reports)

So I am in Laos. After crossing the border, I spent the night in Houaisay, the border town on the Mekong waiting for the bus to Luang Nam Tha the next morning. Not much to do in Houaisay, I used the few hours I had there to get some local money, to visit a nearby tample and to eat Lao food for the first time. Also met another Israeli couple who I traveled with to Luang Nam Tha. The first noticeable different from Thailand is that there way way more policeman on the streets.

Houaisay:
http://img171.imageshack.us/img171/4313/imgp7978800x600.jpg



The next morning I was on the bus for Luang Nam Tha. Wow, you never been on a bumpy road till you had a road trip in Laos. A road in northern Laos is a narrow gravel lane, with some asphalt scattered on it randomly. Something else I saw for the first time was the typical Lao village (80% of Laotians live in country side) wooded houses with straw as roof, toilets outside.

Typical Lao village:
http://img402.imageshack.us/img402/8022/imgp8063800x600.jpg

http://img856.imageshack.us/img856/5084/imgp8135800x600.jpg

Luang Nam Tha is just beautiful. A 40,000 residents town in northwest Laos, with great scenery around, wonderful people (all Laotians are great, but those in LNT were just fantastic) cheap Guesthouses and restaurants with 2 markets, day market and night market, and most important – this place is the most peaceful place I have ever been to in my life. People are worried from nothing. You have to be there to understand. In LNT I met a group of 10 young Israelis (2 came with me from Houaisay) and we were joined by a Norwegian, Canadian and Russian and we all traveled around together in the next 4 days. Some pics from LNT and its surroundings:
http://img263.imageshack.us/img263/863/imgp8193800x600.jpg

http://img857.imageshack.us/img857/443/imgp8190800x600.jpg

http://img14.imageshack.us/img14/5678/imgp8114800x600.jpg

http://img30.imageshack.us/img30/7821/imgp8158800x600.jpg

http://img40.imageshack.us/img40/2549/imgp8115800x600.jpg

Traffic is … well… very light:
http://img820.imageshack.us/img820/8391/imgp8081800x600.jpg



http://img543.imageshack.us/img543/4053/imgp8060800x600.jpg

We rented motorbikes for a day (just 35,000 kip each, 4 USD!) to travel around the area. I paid a mandatory visit to Luang Nam Tha airport, LXG. The airport handles 3 round trip flights a week, all Lao Airlines flight from Vientiane (VTE-LXG-VTE). When I was there, the terminal was closed:
http://img651.imageshack.us/img651/5185/imgp8091800x600.jpg

http://img816.imageshack.us/img816/1115/imgp8118800x600.jpg

http://img857.imageshack.us/img857/6603/imgp8116800x600.jpg

After 4 great days in Luang Nam Tha (LNT), my next stop was Oudomxay, 3.5 hours bus ride, which is nothing to write home about, only a place to break the long drive to Luang Prabang to 2 parts. LNT cental bus station – the green one was my bus:
http://img855.imageshack.us/img855/4306/imgp8210800x600.jpg

Oudomxay:
http://img696.imageshack.us/img696/5374/imgp8222800x600.jpg

The 115km from LNT to Oudomxay took me 3.5 hours. The 194km to Luang Prabang took me 5 hours. Can you calculate the average speed?
http://img28.imageshack.us/img28/1682/imgp8233800x600.jpg

My ride from Oudomxay to Luang Prabang:
http://img199.imageshack.us/img199/3479/imgp8246800x600.jpg

Lao version of toilet break:
http://img683.imageshack.us/img683/9393/imgp8251800x600.jpg

Beerlao – a national pride. In most places there is no other beer at all, but Beerlao is so good that no one ask for something else:


Luang Prabang, the number 1 tourist destination in Laos and UNESCO world heritage site:
http://img199.imageshack.us/img199/1109/imgp8434800x600.jpg

http://img215.imageshack.us/img215/613/imgp8285800x600.jpg

http://img819.imageshack.us/img819/4406/imgp8351800x600.jpg



http://img5.imageshack.us/img5/2629/imgp8429800x600.jpg

The Mekong:
http://img195.imageshack.us/img195/9606/imgp8525800x600.jpg

The old palace of the King of Laos, ruled till the Pathet-Lao army occupied the capitol in 1975:
http://img852.imageshack.us/img852/8250/imgp8441800x600.jpg

Phu Si hill, right in the city center, gives a great view of Luang Prabang city and airport:
http://img829.imageshack.us/img829/1757/imgp8296800x600.jpg

http://img163.imageshack.us/img163/5536/imgp8346800x600.jpg

http://img18.imageshack.us/img18/3742/imgp8293800x600.jpg

http://img850.imageshack.us/img850/1717/imgp8294800x600.jpg

Naturally, I waited to see some airport action, an indeed after about 15 minutes this ATR of the home owner, Lao Airlines, arrived:
http://img16.imageshack.us/img16/8226/imgp8323800x600.jpg

http://img857.imageshack.us/img857/5302/imgp8324800x600.jpg

http://img713.imageshack.us/img713/4261/imgp8326800x600.jpg

The next day I paid a mandatory visit to the airport itself. On my way:
http://img842.imageshack.us/img842/1263/imgp8365800x600.jpg

Luang Prabang airport, LPQ, is the second busiest airport in Laos, after VTE. The small airport is currently under major expansion that eventually will give the airport ability to handle airplanes as large as the 747. I guess much of the quite and peaceful atmosphere of Luang Prabang will be gone once it will be accessible from all corners of earth. Airside view:
http://img97.imageshack.us/img97/5223/imgp8375800x600.jpg

This is the 'fence' separating the airside from the outside. Imagine that in Israel!


Landside view of the terminal:
http://img585.imageshack.us/img585/9958/imgp8381800x600.jpg

http://img848.imageshack.us/img848/1558/imgp8379800x600.jpg

FIDS – that's the second busiest airport in Laos:


I went inside to have a look at the small terminal. I was able to go all the way till the departure gate without anyone checking me – no one asked me for boarding pass, ID, passport – nothing. Imagine that in Israel #2.
http://img861.imageshack.us/img861/2922/imgp8384800x600.jpg

Expansion works:
http://img69.imageshack.us/img69/8802/imgp8388800x600.jpg

Few minutes later, Bangkok Airways flight arrived from BKK:
http://img24.imageshack.us/img24/2820/imgp8389800x600.jpg

http://img689.imageshack.us/img689/8136/imgp8398800x600.jpg

LPQ's baggage claim hall:
http://img195.imageshack.us/img195/6571/imgp8400800x600.jpg

Check in counters:
http://img709.imageshack.us/img709/1725/imgp8407800x600.jpg

General view:
http://img857.imageshack.us/img857/4311/imgp8410800x600.jpg

Went back outside. Spotting location:
http://img641.imageshack.us/img641/4461/imgp8411800x600.jpg

Few minutes later, Lao Airlines ATR arrived, and waited till the Bangkok airplane will leave the tarmac:
http://img832.imageshack.us/img832/4584/imgp8416800x600.jpg

http://img97.imageshack.us/img97/4421/imgp8421800x600.jpg

http://img98.imageshack.us/img98/8426/imgp8422800x600.jpg

And took his place:
http://img831.imageshack.us/img831/3894/imgp8427800x600.jpg

So, after 5 days in Luang Prabang I was heading to Phonsavanh, in the northeast of the country. All my world for 4 months:


On the road during the 7.5 hours ride (no flights from LPQ to XKH unfortunately):
http://img228.imageshack.us/img228/1729/imgp8542800x600.jpg

http://img218.imageshack.us/img218/4798/imgp8543800x600.jpg

All of Laos in one picture (well, maybe except the paved road):
http://img189.imageshack.us/img189/1708/imgp8547800x600.jpg

Xieng Khoang province in Laos holds the infamies record of the most bombed place in the world. It was bombed heavily by the USAF from 1964 to 1973, days of the 'secret war' in Laos, every red dot means a bomb target:


The few tourists who come to Phonsavanh come to see the Plain of Jars, an impressive archeological mystery. While the city itself is the ugliest city I saw in my whole trip…
http://img691.imageshack.us/img691/1909/imgp8567800x600.jpg

…the Plain of Jars itself is a unique place unlike any other:
http://img98.imageshack.us/img98/4528/imgp8569800x600.jpg

http://img824.imageshack.us/img824/6116/imgp8586800x600.jpg

http://img846.imageshack.us/img846/15/imgp8608800x600.jpg

http://img827.imageshack.us/img827/2277/imgp8622800x600.jpg

http://img862.imageshack.us/img862/6210/imgp8648800x600.jpg

Craters from B52 bombs are all over the place:
http://img94.imageshack.us/img94/6185/imgp8583800x600.jpg

According to the tour guide I had that day, those spoons are made from aluminum taken from debris of USAF airplanes. Those spoons are lighter and rougher then regular spoons, but I have no idea if their really made out of airplanes:
http://img717.imageshack.us/img717/2208/imgp8616800x600.jpg

From Phonsavanh I had a 7 hours bus ride which became 11 hours ride after our bus broke down in the middle of nowhere, heading to Vang Vieng. Inside the bus – look how the asile is used to seat passengers:
http://img228.imageshack.us/img228/8065/imgp8655800x600.jpg

Next stop - Vang Vieng:
http://img268.imageshack.us/img268/2083/imgp8680800x600.jpg

The town itself is disgusting – drunken, doped rude noisy teenagers from all over the world come to Vang Vieng do drugs and alcohol while treating the locals like servants. The most popular activity in Vang Vieng – lying down, watching 'friends' over and over while eating 'happy pizza' or getting drunk while 'tubing' in the river. I'll never understand why people fly half way across the world, getting to splendid country like Laos doing just that. One of many 'friends café':
http://img573.imageshack.us/img573/8342/imgp8697800x600.jpg

'The airport', and old American runway dividing Vang Vieng to 2 parts:
http://img851.imageshack.us/img851/7659/imgp8685800x600.jpg

The only advantage of Vang Vieng is that if you take a motorcycle (as I did the next day) and drive 10 minutes you get to places like this:
http://img405.imageshack.us/img405/8867/imgp8692800x600.jpg

http://img231.imageshack.us/img231/4707/imgp8688800x600.jpg

I escaped from Vang Vieng after 48 hours, hoped on a bus for 4 hours ride to Vientiane, the capitol and largest city in Laos. It was the best bus I had in Laos so far:
http://img684.imageshack.us/img684/2237/imgp8701800x600.jpg

Another bus, during break:
http://img717.imageshack.us/img717/8909/imgp8702800x600.jpg

Vientiane is very nice city. First, after 2 weeks it was nice to see traffic lights, cars and other city action again. Second, it has many restaurants, cafes and night clubs, even a mall and a supermarket – things that are hard to find in other parts of Laos. Third, it has some interesting sites and museums to see. Some pics:
http://img850.imageshack.us/img850/9475/imgp8758800x600.jpg

http://img853.imageshack.us/img853/7623/imgp8717800x600.jpg



http://img13.imageshack.us/img13/8261/imgp8848800x600.jpg

Patuxay, the Laotian independence monument: http://img140.imageshack.us/img140/6079/imgp8711800x600.jpg

Motorbikes for all
http://img851.imageshack.us/img851/4818/imgp8720800x600.jpg

Pha That Luang, the national monument of Laos:
http://img684.imageshack.us/img684/6583/imgp8724800x600.jpg

Interesting airplane departs from VTE:
http://img560.imageshack.us/img560/1001/imgp8740800x600.jpg

Streets names are in Lao and French:
http://img43.imageshack.us/img43/2435/imgp8762800x600.jpg

Lao national theatre:
http://img820.imageshack.us/img820/9135/imgp8807800x600.jpg

Lao national museum:
http://img855.imageshack.us/img855/1570/imgp8808800x600.jpg

Let’s just say that Americans and French must come with an open mind…
http://img853.imageshack.us/img853/1083/imgp8804800x600.jpg
(I took this photo just to give an example from the museum; this statement does not represent my opinion; of course, have no intention to make any political statement - it’s just a trip report)

Well, back to aviation – there was no way I was leaving Laos without taking a domestic flight in the country. Therefore I decided, with no real need, to fly from Vientiane to Pakse, the main city in southern Laos. I wouldn’t mind driving via Thak Hek and Savannakhet, spending 2-3 nights on my way, yet, there was nothing very interesting in those 2 cities and I really wanted to try Lao Airlines.

Booking:
No competition in aviation in Laos in general and in domestic aviation in particular. When I was checking fares in travel agencies in Vientiane the price of a flight to Pakse was the same, no matter which day or hour is chosen, a price which is identical to the price online – 1,045,000 kip, which is 132 USD. Quite a lot of money for 677 km flight, but who knows when I’ll ever have the chance to fly domestic in Laos?
Booking was eventually done using a travel agency in Vientiane, and I could even pay with a credit card! It was my only credit card payment in my month stay in Laos.

Pre-flight:
SDT was 07:00, the second out of 2 flights to PKZ, on going to Ho Chi Minh City, which I’ll visit 5 weeks later. I woke up at 5 am and took an overpriced tuktuk to the airport, 3 km from the city center (30,000 kip, while the normal price is about 10,000, not much room to bargain at 5 in the morning) and I got to the airport at 05:30.

The flight was due to leave from the older terminal in VTE – what a terminal! It’s like flying out of the 1950s! Drop off zone:
http://img683.imageshack.us/img683/9645/imgp8773800x600.jpg

http://img831.imageshack.us/img831/5025/imgp8892800x600.jpg

Inside:


Check in line (5 minutes wait):
http://img41.imageshack.us/img41/8600/imgp8882800x600.jpg

The check inn employee didn’t understand a word in English expect ‘window’ and ‘aisle’. In order to explaine her that I wish to sit on the right hand side of the airplane I wrote her “D” on a page I had, but eventually it all worked out OK. Look at those check in scales:
http://img151.imageshack.us/img151/6387/imgp8879800x600.jpg

Luggage was taken, manually, from the scale by another employee.

Since I had some time, I went for a quick look into the new terminal:


http://img24.imageshack.us/img24/1216/imgp8792800x600.jpg

International FIDS:
http://img852.imageshack.us/img852/1975/imgp8885800x600.jpg

http://img16.imageshack.us/img16/5051/imgp8888800x600.jpg

Back in my terminal – domestic FIDS:
http://img828.imageshack.us/img828/857/imgp8893800x600.jpg

We all had to pass passport control, since my flight was on going to SGN. This was the slowest passport control I can remember – the policeman needed 20 minutes to pass no more then 10 people waiting in line:


"In our country, those who do not believe in miracles are irrational" - David Ben Gurion.
26 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineEL-AL From Israel, joined Oct 2001, 1311 posts, RR: 5
Reply 1, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 19191 times:

I could step outside the door to the tarmac and to take pictures with no problem – I wish the MA60 was on my flight! Unfortenetly it was heading for Kunming in China (a city I’ll visit later on my trip):
http://img6.imageshack.us/img6/4130/imgp8900800x600.jpg

http://img707.imageshack.us/img707/7205/imgp8904800x600.jpg

The first flight to PKZ departed, so as the flight to KMG, and at 06:35 my boarding started – and employee called the 3 on us standing outside (myself and 2 English smokers) back in, out boarding pass torn, and we exit back outside towards the airplane. Gate:
http://img848.imageshack.us/img848/6198/imgp8907800x600.jpg

Tarmac:
http://img846.imageshack.us/img846/1172/imgp8908800x600.jpg

http://img863.imageshack.us/img863/8829/imgp8911800x600.jpg

Many Russian helicopters:
http://img813.imageshack.us/img813/7935/imgp8925800x600.jpg

My ride for today – brand new ATR 72-500, built just 10 weeks before the flight:
http://img171.imageshack.us/img171/704/imgp8912800x600.jpg

Walking from the gate:
http://img708.imageshack.us/img708/3665/imgp8913800x600.jpg

Boarding:
http://img101.imageshack.us/img101/8387/imgp8918800x600.jpg



http://img846.imageshack.us/img846/2125/imgp8922800x600.jpg

Flight details:
Flight: QV515
Airline: Lao Airlines
Airplane: ATR 72-500 RDPL-74175
Route: Vientiane Wattay VTE -> Pakse PKZ (both in Lao PDR)
Seat: 14D
Date: Saturday, January 22nd 2011.
Runways: 31 -> 15
SDV/SAT: 07:00/0815

Actual timing:
Taxi: 06:58
Wheels off: 07:03
Touchdown: 08:11
Full stop: 08:15

Airborne time: 1 hour 8 minutes
Gate to Gate time: 1 hour 17 minutes

I was greeted in an asian vow, and as I was walking to my seat I noticed that the last 2 rows of the a/c are in red, while the other seats are in blue, with a certain separation last 2 rows from the rest of the cabin, it is possible that it is using in some flights as business class, in the back of the airplane?

In my seat:
http://img853.imageshack.us/img853/1517/imgp8927800x600.jpg

Taxing to runway 2 minutes ahead of scheduled time:
http://img189.imageshack.us/img189/9752/imgp8931800x600.jpg

After very short run, departing from VTE heading northwest (not too many suburbs in this 300,000 residents capitol city):
http://img23.imageshack.us/img23/981/imgp8935800x600.jpg



Crossing the Mekong and flying southeast, over eastern Thailand:


At cursing altitude of 17,000 feet:


http://img7.imageshack.us/img7/9817/imgp8953800x600.jpg

Soon, breakfast was served:
http://img832.imageshack.us/img832/443/imgp8948800x600.jpg

http://img820.imageshack.us/img820/4685/imgp8950800x600.jpg

Which western airline would give such a meal for an hour flight? Boarding pass:
http://img852.imageshack.us/img852/5235/imgp8896800x600.jpg

Other name brand stuff:
http://img189.imageshack.us/img189/1254/imgp9003800x600.jpg

I used the loo in the back which was spotless. Load factor was 68/72, or 94%. Cabin:
http://img215.imageshack.us/img215/1223/imgp8929800x600.jpg

Descending, re-crossing the Mekong:
http://img545.imageshack.us/img545/1959/imgp8965800x600.jpg

http://img695.imageshack.us/img695/118/imgp8970800x600.jpg

http://img163.imageshack.us/img163/700/imgp8971800x600.jpg

http://img856.imageshack.us/img856/9407/imgp8972800x600.jpg

http://img156.imageshack.us/img156/6200/imgp8975800x600.jpg

Landing on RWY 15:
http://img146.imageshack.us/img146/6307/imgp8977800x600.jpg

Trackback on the runway, view to the airside and to it’s brother heading for REP:
http://img811.imageshack.us/img811/5989/imgp8979800x600.jpg

Disembarking:
http://img838.imageshack.us/img838/323/imgp8985800x600.jpg

The 06:30 flight departs to REP:
http://img861.imageshack.us/img861/6016/imgp8984800x600.jpg

Paske’s airport airside:
http://img718.imageshack.us/img718/8895/imgp8986800x600.jpg

There was no identification check or separation between passengers after landing, only those passengers ending their journey in Pakse were asked to take their luggage. Baggage claim, the Lao version:
http://img863.imageshack.us/img863/8141/imgp8994800x600.jpg

I took a general view of the terminal in PKZ:
http://img190.imageshack.us/img190/819/imgp8997800x600.jpg

Check in counters:
http://img97.imageshack.us/img97/5365/imgp8996800x600.jpg

From the second floor I had a last view of my plane:
http://img15.imageshack.us/img15/8463/imgp8999800x600.jpg

I asked the information counter what is the price of transportation to the city, and I was told that a tuktuk price is 50,000 kip. Thinking that I can find something cheaper outside, I stepped outside the terminal and looked for a ride on the main road. Terminal landside:
http://img268.imageshack.us/img268/2750/imgp9000800x600.jpg

I was right – I found a ride to the city in just 10,000 kip. Well, in Pakse, I found pretty fast a nice place to sleep and I started exploring the city. Pakse (or Pakxe) is indeed very nice, clam, city on the river, with good restaurants (some has western food!), kind people, nice river promenade and even some shopping opportunities. It’s also a good base to explore southern Laos – Bolaven Plateau, Champasak and 4000 Islands area. Some pics:
http://img852.imageshack.us/img852/5751/imgp9083800x600.jpg

http://img35.imageshack.us/img35/7473/imgp9007800x600.jpg

http://img62.imageshack.us/img62/3599/imgp9038800x600.jpg



http://img855.imageshack.us/img855/3666/imgp9054800x600.jpg

http://img594.imageshack.us/img594/3755/imgp9075800x600.jpg

http://img219.imageshack.us/img219/1504/imgp9023800x600.jpg

I’m familiar with this flight:
http://img854.imageshack.us/img854/747/imgp9034800x600.jpg

The 676 km on a Lao bus I saved with this flight, the 160 km to the Cambodian border which I did later that week:
http://img29.imageshack.us/img29/6369/imgp9144800x600.jpg

The most expensive hotel in southern Laos. Room price is … 23 USD a night (which is about 4 times more then what I paid for my room):
http://img51.imageshack.us/img51/7278/imgp9033800x600.jpg

The rubbish bin in my hotel – can’t say the Laotians aren’t creative:


Local city bus:
http://img233.imageshack.us/img233/5305/imgp9096800x600.jpg

The next day, I took a bus to Tat Lo, remote village 90km from Pakse, which is pretty boring really – 2 waterfalls nearby, with nothing else but. My ride:
http://img825.imageshack.us/img825/7835/imgp9094800x600.jpg

My room:
http://img717.imageshack.us/img717/6244/imgp9101800x600.jpg

Tat Lo:
http://img856.imageshack.us/img856/5079/imgp9103800x600.jpg

http://img535.imageshack.us/img535/6008/imgp9104800x600.jpg



http://img694.imageshack.us/img694/3072/imgp9119800x600.jpg

http://img709.imageshack.us/img709/7388/imgp9122800x600.jpg

http://img807.imageshack.us/img807/4038/imgp9129800x600.jpg

http://img859.imageshack.us/img859/4416/imgp9138800x600.jpg

After Tat Lo, I took a bus (via Pakse) to Champasak, an Angkor era temple now a UNESCO heritage site. Crossing the river, Lao style:
http://img819.imageshack.us/img819/2952/imgp9172800x600.jpg

Southern Laos:
http://img10.imageshack.us/img10/5497/imgp9174800x600.jpg

Champasak:
http://img845.imageshack.us/img845/9113/imgp9178800x600.jpg

http://img862.imageshack.us/img862/2422/imgp9189800x600.jpg

http://img268.imageshack.us/img268/7364/imgp9190800x600.jpg

http://img51.imageshack.us/img51/9691/imgp9191800x600.jpg



http://img88.imageshack.us/img88/5039/imgp9208800x600.jpg

This place is really interesting, but like in Tat Lo, not much to do after visiting the temple. If someone is heading there, I recommend taking day trips from Pakse to both places.

After Champasak, I was heading to Don Det, one of the ‘4000 Islands’ on the southern end of Laos. Place very beautiful, amazing nature and scenery, with a bit too much laud doped young westerners, but the beauty and simplicity of the place make up for that. Few pics:
http://img96.imageshack.us/img96/4579/imgp9270800x600.jpg

http://img43.imageshack.us/img43/9470/imgp9291800x600.jpg

http://img69.imageshack.us/img69/2058/imgp9224800x600.jpg

http://img849.imageshack.us/img849/816/imgp9308800x600.jpg

http://img706.imageshack.us/img706/3066/imgp9323800x600.jpg

http://img706.imageshack.us/img706/3364/imgp9395800x600.jpg

http://img821.imageshack.us/img821/5452/imgp9378800x600.jpg

Khone Phapeng waterfall, the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia in terms of water volume:
http://img846.imageshack.us/img846/476/imgp9349800x600.jpg

Laos on the left bank, Cambodia on the right bank:
http://img135.imageshack.us/img135/4010/imgp9334800x600.jpg

The next day I was relaxing myself in Don Det, and the day after I was off to Cambodia (through the infamies VK/DK border crossing, where a 20 USD visa fee become much more due to ‘stamp commission’, ‘medical quarantine’ over pricing visa and any possible way of corrupted police officers to rip tourists off. I’ll be happy to explain more in private massages).



Picture from – www.gcmap.com

This is it. This was my 25 days trip to Laos, a country that its beauty, culture, nature, simplicity and hospitality just can’t be described in words. For those of you, who wish to experience the Lao magic, hurry up! China is constructing a high speed railway to connect the Chinese railway system in the north to the Thai railway system, near Vientiane, connecting Luang Nam Tha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang and Vientiane. This means – the transport all over northern Laos will become way easier, and many-many Chinese and western tourists will visit Laos. The magic of Laos, and the fact that today most places in the country look the way it looked 300 years ago will probably be gone.

http://img198.imageshack.us/img198/2416/imgp8561800x600.jpg

Please take a look at my other trip reports:

Indochina Trip 2/9: Orient Thai DMK-CEI / MD-82 (by EL-AL May 2 2011 in Trip Reports)
Indochina Trip 1/9: El Al B744 TLV-BKK + LY Lounge (by EL-AL Apr 24 2011 in Trip Reports)
Flying The Box: Ayit Shorts 360 SDV-RPN-SDV (by el-al Oct 10 2010 in Trip Reports)
Nightmares And Thefts: Air Malta TLV-MLA-TLV (by EL-AL Oct 22 2010 in Trip Reports)
EL-AL Inaugural Domestic Flight 1.8.2010 TLV-ETH (by EL-AL Aug 2 2010 in Trip Reports)
2 Countries, 1 Dollar: TLV-LCA-TLV Arkia E195+B753 (by EL-AL Jun 3 2010 in Trip Reports)
Inside Israel: SDV-ETH-TLV; Israir & Arkia (+pics) (by EL-AL May 19 2010 in Trip Reports)
Special TR: Preparations For El Al Ind.day Flyover (by EL-AL Apr 20 2010 in Trip Reports)
LCC In Spain: TLV-BCN-SVQ-REU With UX, VY & FR (by EL-AL Apr 18 2010 in Trip Reports)
Y Viva Espana! TLV-BCN-TLV; EL-AL 'basic' (+ Pics) (by EL-AL Jan 29 2010 in Trip Reports)
EL-AL At It's Best: TLV-MXP, FCO-TLV (+pics) (by EL-AL Oct 12 2009 in Trip Reports)
First Sun D'or Pax TR TLV-BOJ (new Link To Pics) (by EL-AL Sep 12 2009 in Trip Reports)



"In our country, those who do not believe in miracles are irrational" - David Ben Gurion.
User currently offlineBAViscount From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 2338 posts, RR: 4
Reply 2, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 18896 times:

What an excellent, fascinating report on what looks to be a beautiful part of the world!

I'm curious - was it cold when you were there? The people in your pictures look dressed for chilly weather...for some reason I was expecting Laos to be one of those countries that's sticky and humid all year round!



Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barb
User currently offlineaivisavia From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2010, 160 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 18763 times:

Fantastic trip report!

Airprots in Laos are so beautiful, just the way I like, something cultural!

Looking forward rest of your trips! Enjoy yourself  


User currently offlineOA260 From Ireland, joined Nov 2006, 26978 posts, RR: 57
Reply 4, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 18719 times:

Nice report Jonathon. Always like to see TR's with lots of destination pics in . Looks like a nice adventure .


keep up the good work . .


Philip  


User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6807 posts, RR: 77
Reply 5, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 18625 times:

Hi Jonathan,

great report about this little-known country! What a collection of impressive pictures!

Quoting EL-AL (Thread starter):

From Phonsavanh I had a 7 hours bus ride which became 11 hours ride after our bus broke down in the middle of nowhere, heading to Vang Vieng. Inside the bus – look how the asile is used to seat passengers:

Wow, sounds (and looks) horrible!

Quoting EL-AL (Thread starter):
No competition in aviation in Laos in general and in domestic aviation in particular. When I was checking fares in travel agencies in Vientiane the price of a flight to Pakse was the same, no matter which day or hour is chosen, a price which is identical to the price online – 1,045,000 kip, which is 132 USD. Quite a lot of money for 677 km flight, but who knows when I’ll ever have the chance to fly domestic in Laos?

That's really expensive - do you think it's cheaper for the locals? Anyway, I would have bought the ticket, too.

Quoting EL-AL (Thread starter):
Which western airline would give such a meal for an hour flight?

Olympic Air comes to mind...recently flew IST-ATH and got a nice meal. But you are right basically.

Quoting EL-AL (Thread starter):
The rubbish bin in my hotel – can’t say the Laotians aren’t creative:

  


PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently offlineCaptainRed From Germany, joined Oct 2010, 684 posts, RR: 20
Reply 6, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 18498 times:

Hi Jonathan,

what an awesome report, thanks. And some very nice and amazing pictures from this exotic country. Great that you traveled on your own with just a backpack, was certainly a good and adventurous experience.

Also nice to read about Lao Airlines, seems to be a nice airline. The price seemed to be a bit high, but I would have done it as well.

CaptainRed


User currently offlinejetsetter629 From United States of America, joined Nov 2007, 439 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 18371 times:

Awesome trip report! Lao and all of Southeast Asia is a part of the world I would really love to visit! Laos is such a hidden gem of Asia!

User currently offlineJL418 From Italy, joined Jun 2009, 493 posts, RR: 6
Reply 8, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 18249 times:

Hi El-Al,

thank you for your TR. I'm not having the chance to visit Laos as for now - and I deep envy the fact that you found the time to do 4 months of travelling on your own - but your pictures and narration were a good substitute. I'm actually loving your Indochina series and I can't wait to read more!


User currently offlineeastafspot From France, joined Jan 2008, 778 posts, RR: 12
Reply 9, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 17618 times:

very interesting insight of Laos, lots of stunning pictures. This country looks such pleasant for great adventures.

Quoting EL-AL (Reply 1):
Lao style:

so simple and practical

Many thanks for sharing



Fly with Air Burundi, Air Tanzania, Air Uganda, Kenya Airways and Rwandair...Jumuiya ya Afrika mashariki
User currently offlineEL-AL From Israel, joined Oct 2001, 1311 posts, RR: 5
Reply 10, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 17220 times:

Quoting BAViscount (Reply 2):
What an excellent, fascinating report on what looks to be a beautiful part of the world!

Thank you very much BAV, this part of the world is beautiful in every way you can think.

Quoting BAViscount (Reply 2):
I'm curious - was it cold when you were there? The people in your pictures look dressed for chilly weather...for some reason I was expecting Laos to be one of those countries that's sticky and humid all year round!

First, remember I was there in January. In the north, daytime temperature was aroud +25C, and at night all you need is a light sweatshirt. In the south it's much hotter, with temperature over 30C in daytime and pretty warm at night. The only exception is Xiang Khuang, at winter temperature at night can get below freezing point, and at day it's no more then +20-22C. Why people dressed for winter? My flight departed pretty early, so passengers had to get out of bed at the middle of the night when it was still cool outside. For the Laotians, whenever temperature drops below +18C its considered arctic climate for them. Don't forget that unlike western countries, in Laos no local is fat (- who's usually hot) and there is no heating anywhere.

Quoting aivisavia (Reply 3):
Fantastic trip report!

Thank you very much.

Quoting aivisavia (Reply 3):
Airprots in Laos are so beautiful, just the way I like, something cultural!

All of Laos is beautiful, regarding the airports, it's the way all buildings are built over there. Those triangle roofs were built that way because of the heavy rain during the summer.

Quoting OA260 (Reply 4):
Nice report Jonathon. Always like to see TR's with lots of destination pics in . Looks like a nice adventure .

Thx Phil, it was amazing. I think like you on that matter - no TR is complete without destination pics.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 5):
great report about this little-known country! What a collection of impressive pictures!

Thank you PH, Laos is indeed little known what gives touring the country extra magic.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 5):
Wow, sounds (and looks) horrible!

Not at all. In Laos, time is not an issue, at least for the locals. When the bus broke down, most passengers just went to sleep in their seats, and other light a fire next to the road to warm up, just stood there for 4 hours and tried talking with me using their best English. No one shouted, no one made angry phone calls, no children cried. Their calmness effects you, and I couldn't care less that we're stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 5):
That's really expensive - do you think it's cheaper for the locals? Anyway, I would have bought the ticket, too.
PH, no local can afford flying (most Laotians make about 2 USD a day) and all locals on Lao flights belong the 'the' party.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 5):
Olympic Air comes to mind...recently flew IST-ATH and got a nice meal. But you are right basically.

When OA was still Olympic Airways they served full meal on the 1.5 hour TLV-ATH route, I'm glad to hear it didn't change.

Quoting CaptainRed (Reply 6):
what an awesome report, thanks. And some very nice and amazing pictures from this exotic country

Thank you CR, i'm glad you liked it.

Quoting CaptainRed (Reply 6):
Great that you traveled on your own with just a backpack, was certainly a good and adventurous experience.

As I wrote at the background section of my TLV-BKK flight, it was an oppertunity of a lifetime which I couldn't miss. My only regret is that I didn't fly earlier, in November.

Quoting CaptainRed (Reply 6):
Also nice to read about Lao Airlines, seems to be a nice airline. The price seemed to be a bit high, but I would have done it as well.

Lao Airlines is nice, and in Laos it's the only option. I'm so happy that you aviation enthusiasts understand me, other backpackers were surprised to hear that I flew instead of taking an overnight bus (as I did from Phonsananh to Vang Vieng).

Quoting jetsetter629 (Reply 7):
Awesome trip report!

Thank you jetsetter.

Quoting jetsetter629 (Reply 7):
Lao and all of Southeast Asia is a part of the world I would really love to visit! Laos is such a hidden gem of Asia!

Couldn't say it better myself. Laos is like a time machine with fantastic operators!

Quoting JL418 (Reply 8):
thank you for your TR

My pleasure
JL.

Quoting JL418 (Reply 8):
I'm not having the chance to visit Laos as for now - and I deep envy the fact that you found the time to do 4 months of travelling on your own - but your pictures and narration were a good substitute. I'm actually loving your Indochina series and I can't wait to read more!

I am very glad to read this. More to come very soon.

Quoting eastafspot (Reply 9):
very interesting insight of Laos, lots of stunning pictures. This country looks such pleasant for great adventures.

Thank you. Actually, Laos can be nice destination not only for backpackers, if you add very little sum of money you can sleep in western class places, eat in good restaurants (especially in Vientiane) and to avoid the public transport; But hey, where is the fun that way?

Quoting eastafspot (Reply 9):
so simple and practical

And so typical to the area.

Quoting eastafspot (Reply 9):
Many thanks for sharing

My pleasure.

[Edited 2011-05-11 02:21:51]


"In our country, those who do not believe in miracles are irrational" - David Ben Gurion.
User currently offlineus330 From United States of America, joined Aug 2000, 3871 posts, RR: 13
Reply 11, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 17161 times:

I'm shocked you lasted 48 hours in Vang Vieng. I used it as a stop to break up the trip between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and was ready to leave after 6 hours (hopped the first bus to Luang Prabang the next morning). It's a pretty place, but it's ruined by the backpackers who use it as a place to use and abuse drugs--and those that undermine the local economy by "volunteering" at the bars. According to a local shopowner I was talking too, the locals hate what the place has become, but they feel like they have no choice--they have to make a living somehow and this is the only way they can.

And yes, for short distances air travel in Laos is relatively expensive, but if you've ever been north of Vientiane and experienced the sinuous, serpentine roads that hug the mountains, it is certainly worth it. Me and my travel partner took a minibus from Luang Prabang to Phonsavanh--which is truly beautiful, btw--and it felt like we were in a bobsled for six hours straight. After we arrived in Phonsavanh we immediately booked a Lao Airlines flight to Vientiane--a one hour flight versus a ten hour bus ride.

But go to Laos people--seriously--its well-worth visiting, and I am strongly considering going back to see other parts of the country that I missed after my internship in Bangkok is over with.


User currently offlineEL-AL From Israel, joined Oct 2001, 1311 posts, RR: 5
Reply 12, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 16729 times:

Quoting us330 (Reply 11):
I'm shocked you lasted 48 hours in Vang Vieng

Well, it does have cheap sandwiches, schnitzel, Burgers etc - western food which was refreshing change after 2 weeks of noodle sup and rice!

Quoting us330 (Reply 11):
It's a pretty place, but it's ruined by the backpackers who use it as a place to use and abuse drugs--and those that undermine the local economy by "volunteering" at the bars. According to a local shopowner I was talking too, the locals hate what the place has become, but they feel like they have no choice--they have to make a living somehow and this is the only way they can.

Exactly   

Quoting us330 (Reply 11):
After we arrived in Phonsavanh we immediately booked a Lao Airlines flight to Vientiane--a one hour flight versus a ten hour bus ride.

If I would have known that Vang Vieng will be such a nightmare, I would also fly XKH-VTE, that's about 70 USD.

Quoting us330 (Reply 11):
But go to Laos people--seriously--its well-worth visiting

Agree.



"In our country, those who do not believe in miracles are irrational" - David Ben Gurion.
User currently offlineZKCIF From Lithuania, joined Oct 2010, 297 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 7 hours ago) and read 16415 times:

thank You, Sir. i am very glad i've read this. just fascinating.
just one question: what about malaria and dirt/ cleanliness? any dengue, yellow fever, etc.?
did You have to take pills?
our family have been dreaming of going to laos, cambodia and myanmar, and we are really interested in your impressions on that.
thank You once more.


User currently onlineThe777Man From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 6568 posts, RR: 55
Reply 14, posted (3 years 4 months 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 16212 times:

Hi Jonathan !

Amazing report wth amazing picrures of Laos ! Nice for you to be on a flight although it was a bit expensive. Service looks nice and nice to be on a plane that's so new from the factory.

Looking froward to your continuation from your travels in Asia!

The777Man



Need a Boeing 777 Firing Order....Further to fly....CI, MU, LX and LH 777s
User currently offlineEL-AL From Israel, joined Oct 2001, 1311 posts, RR: 5
Reply 15, posted (3 years 4 months 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 15838 times:

Quoting ZKCIF (Reply 13):
thank You, Sir. i am very glad i've read this. just fascinating.

My pleasure, i'm glad you liked it.

Quoting ZKCIF (Reply 13):
just one question: what about malaria and dirt/ cleanliness? any dengue, yellow fever, etc.?
did You have to take pills?

Regarding the cleanliness, Laos is no problem. Not swiss standard, but cleaner then Thailand or Cambodia. Houses (and guesthouses, resterunts, internet cafes, shops etc) are spotless. Yet, public areas can sometimes by a bit dirty, but nothing a westerner can't cope with.

Regarding illness, I took some shots in Israel before going, and that's it. No pills.

Quoting ZKCIF (Reply 13):
our family have been dreaming of going to laos, cambodia and myanmar, and we are really interested in your impressions on that.

You already know my opinion about Laos. Cambodia is hotter, more modern, about 50% more expensive then Laos (still dirt cheap in western standard) with great people - the Cambodians are the most happy people i've seen, all happy to be alive after the horrors of the 1970s. Haven't been to Myanmar. Yet, I don't think those 2 countries fit for young children, the poverty may be something they can't handle. I think that 16 years old is the minimum age for those countries.

Quoting The777Man (Reply 14):
Amazing report wth amazing picrures of Laos ! Nice for you to be on a flight although it was a bit expensive. Service looks nice and nice to be on a plane that's so new from the factory.

Thank you 777. Lao Airlines is nice, yet, I wish i had the MA60 instead.

Quoting The777Man (Reply 14):
Looking froward to your continuation from your travels in Asia!

More to come very soon.

LY



"In our country, those who do not believe in miracles are irrational" - David Ben Gurion.
User currently offlineba319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8542 posts, RR: 54
Reply 16, posted (3 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 15627 times:
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Hi Jonathan,

Excellent TR, thanks for posting, some superb pictures here.


I'm planning a couple of days in Laos next year, though won't be able to see what you saw of the country so your pictures have given me a feel.

Thanks again, really enjoyed.

Cheers

Mark



111,732,3,4,5,7,8,BBJ,741,742,743,744,752,762,763,764,772,77L,773,77W,L15,D10,30,40,AB3,AB6,A312.313,319,320,321,332,333
User currently offlineEL-AL From Israel, joined Oct 2001, 1311 posts, RR: 5
Reply 17, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 15364 times:

Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 16):
Excellent TR, thanks for posting, some superb pictures here.

Thx BA, I thought people will like to see many photos from Laos.

Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 16):
I'm planning a couple of days in Laos next year, though won't be able to see what you saw of the country so your pictures have given me a feel.

Don't hesitate to contact me if you need any tips!



"In our country, those who do not believe in miracles are irrational" - David Ben Gurion.
User currently offlineCoal From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 2047 posts, RR: 9
Reply 18, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 15186 times:

Fantastic report and photos! Truly amazing! Laos was always on my list of places to go. Unfortunately, believe it or not, it takes about 20 hours from Singapore to Laos, so I have yet to do it (if you go via BKK). However, seeing how you can also go via SGN, I might give it a try when I move back to Singapore in the 2nd half of 2011.

Cheers
Coal



Nxt Flts: VA SYD-CBR-SYD | QF SYD-DFW | AA DFW-TLH-MIA-DFW | QF DFW-SYD
User currently offlineCODCAIAH From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 177 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 15083 times:

Really stunning trip report! Makes me miss the 10 days I spent in Laos. I also took that flight between Luang Prabang and VTE!


CO/IAH-loyalist happily driven into the arms of WN/HOU
User currently offlineEL-AL From Israel, joined Oct 2001, 1311 posts, RR: 5
Reply 20, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 14721 times:

Quoting Coal (Reply 18):
Fantastic report and photos! Truly amazing!

Thank you Coal, happy you liked it.

Quoting Coal (Reply 18):
believe it or not, it takes about 20 hours from Singapore to Laos, so I have yet to do it (if you go via BKK)

Yep, the number of international flights serving Laos is very low. Yet, the SGN-PKZ-VTE is a good option.

Quoting CODCAIAH (Reply 19):
Really stunning trip report!

Thank you CODCAIAH.

Quoting CODCAIAH (Reply 19):
Makes me miss the 10 days I spent in Laos. I also took that flight between Luang Prabang and VTE!

Only 10 days? I was there 25 days and I wouldn't mind staying 25 more.



"In our country, those who do not believe in miracles are irrational" - David Ben Gurion.
User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2076 posts, RR: 4
Reply 21, posted (3 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 14551 times:

Thank you for the trip report, I greatly enjoyed the photos and descriptions of Laos - it's good to see the destination, not just the journey. That older terminal in VTE is such a great example of "traditional" tropical architecture (reminds me a bit of a giant Queensland public toilet block in some ways - though not plumbing related!)   Look forward to reading more.


Applying insanity to normality
User currently offlineEL-AL From Israel, joined Oct 2001, 1311 posts, RR: 5
Reply 22, posted (3 years 3 months 2 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 14342 times:

Quoting allrite (Reply 21):
Thank you for the trip report, I greatly enjoyed the photos and descriptions of Laos

Thank you.

Quoting allrite (Reply 21):
it's good to see the destination, not just the journey

Agree.



"In our country, those who do not believe in miracles are irrational" - David Ben Gurion.
User currently offlineswissgabe From Switzerland, joined Jan 2000, 5266 posts, RR: 32
Reply 23, posted (3 years 3 months 2 weeks 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 14109 times:

Great Trip Report. I love Laos and I travelled it several times already. Especially the most northern parts are my favorite ones. How I like the long bus rides during the rainy season, hehe.

On the other hand is makes me a bit thoughful when comparing Laos back in 1996 and now. It changes so much every time I go again.



Smooth as silk - Royal Orchid Service /// Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens - Springbok
User currently offlinereifel From Germany, joined Feb 2005, 1360 posts, RR: 1
Reply 24, posted (3 years 3 months 2 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 13846 times:

Excellent third part. I loved the read. Keep on with the great reports, can't wait to read the next parts.

25 BlueJuice : Great report! Laos has been on the list of places I want to visit one day. Hope to get there before it becomes touristy. Thanks for the great preview.
26 EL-AL : Thx swissgabe. Yep, things in Asia change very fast. Laos is still authentic, how knows how long it will last. Thank you reifel, more to come soon. Y
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