First lesson: how to pronounce ‘Laos’. My guide told me that it is the Lao (silent s) people but the country of Laos (hard s). So I’ve been saying it wrong thinking I was all cultured and knew how to properly pronounce the country’s name. If you leave now, I will understand.
Although Laos is sandwiched between Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and China, it is surprisingly far different from Thailand than I expected. I had read that it is a bit more western feeling because of past French influence but it’s still distinctly not French in many ways.
Walking down the streets of Luang Prabang, it actually feels more like small town America or an old saloon town than France or Asia. Two story buildings line the main street with tour agencies, restaurants, spas and shops repeating themselves with Wats book-ending the main street. The restaurants are a mix of cuisines with some French bakeries as well as expat restaurants lauding (see what I did there?) burgers. Much of the food is similar to Thailand but they do have their own beer, Beer Lao (hard to miss the connection there).
The shops stay open late (okay, I’m an old lady but they’re at least open at like 9pm) but the street turns into a night market after sunset where you can wander amongst textiles, baskets, art, jewellry, coconut pancakes, until you get to THE Night Market (capital letters here) which has food stalls galore.
Some of the lessons from Laos are similar to Thailand: haggle, BYO toilet paper, but they have far more cash machines and smaller fees (20,000KIP which is $2). But they also seem to have more card options (still with the 3% charge) and accept USD which is handy when you’ve mismanaged your cash and don’t want to pay an ATM fee just to pay the cab driver $10 on the way to the airport. Or so my friend told me…
Another big thing in Luang Prabang: happy hour. Some places it’s 3-7pm, others it’s 7:30-9:30, you see the opportunity here, right?