Indo China – Day 38

We went to bed last night with no alarm, as even though we had a group thing starting at 8.30am, we weren’t really sure if we wanted to do it. We had already done a town orientation the night before, and doing another one this morning didn’t really sound appealing. We had thought about taking a half day tour to wash and swim with elephants, but we realised in the morning with more research that we most likely would have had to book that the night before.

Despite not knowing what we actually wanted to do, we still found ourselves eating the provided breakfast at just after 8, which meant by the time we finished it was right on time for the group walk to start. We told Chai we were thinking of doing a tour, but he suggested Chiangmai was the better place for elephants, and none of the other tours seemed to be anything special, which left us suddenly not really knowing what we wanted to do. So in the end we bit the bullet and just did the group walking tour.

The first part of the tour was just showing us the same things we saw last night, but now just during the day, but eventually we moved onto their morning market which was nice walking through, and then it was another walk along the river, before cutting back into the town to a silver store where they made ornate times from nearly 100% silver. After that it was off to the oldest temple in Luang Prabang for a bit of a history lesson.

At this point it was nearly 10.30am, and this was where the tour normally ended, but Chai suggested we all walk up the central mountain, some 350 steps, for a nice view of the town. Some didn’t like the idea because of the heat, as the sun was pounding down by this point, and as it was open till 7pm, clearly there was no rush in doing it. So Mollidy and myself decided to give it a miss and do it later. Everyone else decide to go though with it in the end, so we left them to it, and we looked for a travel booking agency so we could find out more about the elephant activities in this area to make sure they were ok for us and the animals to do and if there were any afternoon ones.

First though we needed to stop for a water break, as we were both pretty thirsty, and Mollidy also needed the toilet. So we found a restaurant where we were only going to order drinks, but then looking at the menu we started to think maybe an early lunch was in order. So we ordered food and drink in the end, which both ended up disappointing, as the drinks ranged from a little bit cold to warm, and the food was very average. After that we lost motivation for doing anything else, and decided this could be a good day to ‘have off’ to give us the energy for the remainder of the trip.

On the way back to the hotel though we stopped off at another market, which was more like an open air mall, and that only took about 15 minutes to look around. There wasn’t really much on offer, and we knew we were going to hit up the night markets again in the evening, so we left there and headed back to the hotel where cold showers were a must, as was a nap.

As Mollidy napped, I caught up on writing and uploading my latest blog posts, but this hotel had the worst internet of the trip so far, so two and a half hours later I had managed to get not a single one live on my blog which was rather frustrating. But Mollidy was at least able to have a good nap. At around 5pm though we left the hotel for the stupa on top of Mount Phousi where we hoped to see the sunset at 6.30pm.

There were two ways up and two ways down on the mountain, so we picked the one side to go up so that we could take the other one going down which would take us right into the night market on the other side. As we climbed the many steps we were able to stop often as there were places of worship and Buddhas everywhere, and thus broke the trip up the hundreds of stairs nicely.

By the time we got to the top it was nearly 6pm, and we thought we had timed it perfectly, as getting up was fairly quiet, but once at the top it was pretty busy, and clearly these people all came up the other way, and were there to see the sunset as well. We lined up for a photo opportunity on a nice rock overlooking the town, and then we found a good position for the sunset in about 20 minutes time.

As we watched the sun drop, we realised there was thick cloud low on the horizon right where the sun was setting, and with about 15 minutes to go till it was actually meant to set behind the mountain in the distance, it effectively set already behind the cloud. At this point we realised we could stay and technically just see the sky lighten and then fight the crowds back down, or we could go now as we had already seen the best part of it setting.

We decided to head down, and we took the other path, which was pretty much straight down with no stops, so we were very glad we had chosen the path up we had to break up the trip, as clearly this side was all about just getting to the top as fast as possible. Once down we found a seat overlooking the market and we just watched the sky change from there, and it was really beautiful.

After that we headed down for dinner, and we chose a place that also had a massage section to it, as we thought it could be a good place to pick if the food was good. Well the food ended up being pretty good, so we went for 30 minute feet massages as well, but these were sadly pretty average, and so far Laos had been pretty lacking on the massage front.

We then walked back through the market on the way back to the hotel, and though there were things we would have liked to buy as gifts or for ourselves, we still had in our mind those last 8 days in Bangkok where the shopping was going to be great. So with that we decided to just walk through instead of buying anything, though Mollidy did get a dozen Mango Steens which she polished off back at the hotel before we drifted off to sleep.

Today I want to talk about exchanging money, as we got duped at one of the boarder crossings, where we thought it would be pretty legitimate, but that was where we learned the valuable lesson, only exchange money where you get the best rates. There are places everywhere in Indo China that exchanges money, and though not all of them will be good places, or even able to accommodate the exact currency you hope to change or change to, you’ll be able to find one eventually.

Always do your research first, so that you know exactly how much you have, and roughly how much you should get back in the new currency, and when you hear a good amount, take it. Some places will be quick to take a big chunk, such as 10 to 20 percent of the money you’re exchanging, and these are the places to avoid. Even the good ones will still take a cut, but as long as it’s close to what your research estimated, then you’re safe to go ahead with it. If you need urgent cash though, try exchanging just a small amount to get by, so that even if you do get screwed, it’s only for a small amount.

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