GETTING FROM LUANG PRABANG TO PHU QUOC – THE FAST AND CHEAP WAY

Getting from Luang Prabang to Phu Quoc can be a bit of a hustle. It’s pretty impossible to find direct flights from anywhere in Laos to the Vietnamese island, and traveling by bus or any other transportation by land can be a nightmare to say the least.

If you’ve ever travelled in Southeast Asia you would know that domestic flights with some of the budget airlines like Air Asia, Vietnam Airlines and Cebu Pacific can be just as cheap as taking the bus or train if you just do your research and look for the cheapest days to travel. With that in mind, you can still travel internationally by flight on a budget, if you don’t mind spending a few hours on airports waiting for connecting flights.

This is how we saved a lot of money flying from Luang Prabang in Laos, to the island Phu Quoc in Vietnam!

We looked up the cheapest flight out of Luang Prabang, to anywhere in Vietnam. It’s usually really cheap to fly to between big airports, so we weren’t that surprised when we found that the cheapest flight out of Luang Prabang was to Hanoi in Vietnam. Before we booked the ticket, we looked up the price of a domestic flight between Haoin and Phu Quoc with a budget airline, and needless to say, it was pretty cheap.

If we would’ve booked a joint ticket with both flights included we would’ve paid around 500 USD for the both of us. But by booking two separate flights (and spending the night on the airport in Hanoi) we only paid 300 USD in total. The first flight was the international flight, so it was a little bit more expensive but we paid around 200 USD for the both of us. The domestic flight between Hanoi and Phu Quic was pretty cheap, and we only paid 100 USD for the both of us. So by booking our own connecting flights we saved 200 USD.

Another thing we did to save even more money, was to book the latest flight possible out of Luang Prabang, and then the earliest flight from Hanoi to Phu Quoc. We then spent the night on the airport and saved the money we would of paid for a hostel that night.

So here is a roundup on what to think about when booking flights!

  1. Compare the costs of booking joint tickets and booking your own connecting flights. It’s usually much more cheap to book your own connections. Just make sure you have at least 3 hours between the flights.
  2. If your traveling internationally, look up the cheapest flight to anywhere in the country your going to and then connect with a domestic flight.
  3. We always use Skyscanner when searching for flights, it’s a really good website that compares the price between different airlines (including all the budget ones in Southeast Asia)
  4. Lookup the different holidays and special events in the country you’re going to. The airfare can double up if you choose to travel on the wrong day.
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DISCOVER LUANG PRABANG – HIDDEN GEMS AND STUFF YOU NEED TO KNOW

Hello guys, I hope you’re having a wonderful day so far!

We are in Vietnam at the moment, but since I never found time to write about our time in Laos, I thought I’d do that now. Better late than never right?

Initially we were supposed to start our trip to Laos by taking the cruise down the Mekong river, and then stay in Luang Prabang for about 4-5 days before moving on down south. But as you know, things doesn’t always go as planned. As soon as we got to Luang Prabang we new that there was something special about the place, and by our second day there we had totally fallen involve with the place. So instead of staying for 4-5 days, we actually ended up staying there for 2 weeks.

We are the kind of travellers who enjoy finding places a little bit off the beaten path, finding hidden gems and not going where everybody else is going. We actually try to avoid the most touristy places, and try to find the more calm and laid back ones instead. Don’t get me wrong, it can be awesome spending time in a big and loud city with lots of people, but generally we love the more laid back places, preferably tropical island.

Luang Prabang is one of those places which has a little bit of both. We had been traveling alone for a few weeks and were pretty keen on meeting some new friends and spend a few days with other fun people. The city is quite big, but not overly developed. For example, it gets pitch black during the night because there basically no streetlights it the whole city (only on the really big roads). There are lots of amazing restaurants and bars but everything closes by 10:00-11:30 pm.

We started off our stay at a hostel called Villa Suan Maak. The place is owned by a a really nice german guy Martin, they serve great food (including german food) and has reasonably priced rooms with breakfast included. Our first night there we met two people who we ended up traveling with for a few days. Some of the nicest and funniest people we have ever met.

After a few days we ended up (as I explained) extending our trip so we had to with hostels to one just down the road. The second hostel we stayed at was called Mano Guesthouse, really affordable privat rooms, breakfast included in the price and amazing staff. We really enjoyed our time there!

Now to some of our favourite places and hidden gems in the city!

Kuang Si Falls

Our absolute favourite place we went to in Luang Prabang has to be Kuang Si Falls. It is the most beautiful place, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. It’s not only the waterfall itself, it’s the beautiful surrounding nature, the way the waterfalls are formed and just everything about the place. There’s a big hike up along the waterfall, and it’s a pretty good hike considering the waterfall is huge. The waterfall consists of multiple smaller falls leading up to the big one, and then you can continue to hike up the biggest one and there you will find not only a beautiful view, but you can hike even further in to the jungle and find some amazing freshwater caves.

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La Pistoche

As some of you might already know, Laos doesn’t really have any beaches, which can be a real bummer considering it gets pretty hot during the day and you really start craving a nice and cooling swim in the ocean. But Luang Prabang do on the other hand, have one of the best public pools I’ve ever been to. Located right in the middle of the city, but yet quite hidden, you can find an awesome and cill hangout for the day. We actually spent three full days there in total. They have one bigger pool and then some smaller ones for the kids with lots of slides and other fun stuff. Even though you might think it’s going to be really crowded, it’s really not. It’s a really chill and quiet place with awesome tanning beds, tropical music playing all day long, good food and cheap drinks. They have a nice system going on where you pay 80.000 kip when you get there, which includes the 30.000 kip entrance fee, and the rest of the money they keep as a deposit. When you get there you’re given a plastic tag with a personal number on it, and when you order food and drinks you just show your tag, they keep a tab of everything you get, and they take the money from the deposit later when you leave. So you don’t have to carry around your wallet which is awesome.

Utopia

If you’re the kind of person that like to just get a few drinks in a really chill bar without it being too loud and crazy, Utopia is the place for you. I still can’t believe that place even existed, it was so insanely beautiful. It was like this beautiful garden, with lots of plants and trees, and pretty little lights hanging from everywhere and it was just unbelievable. They have pretty cheap drinks if you go there during happy hour and the food was really good. If you’re going to have a night out with your friend, I suggest you start the nigh off here with a few drinks and just enjoying the surroundings (including the awesome view of the river).

Sakura

When you’ve spent some time at Utopia and feel like you’re ready to move on to a more upbeat place, Sakura is usually the place that people go. It’s one of those outside clubs that’s trying to mimic the “full moon party” theme a little bit, with the music, the buckets and crazy partying. The whole area had kind of like a jungle theme going on. It’s a pretty cool place if you’re looking for a good time, loud music, cheap drinks and some crazy people. We spent one night there and we had a really good time!

“The bowling alley”

In Luang Prabang, all the bars and restaurants have to close around 10:30-11:30 pm due to local regulations. It can be pretty annoying if your having an awesome time and you want to continue partying for a while, but you know what, the night actually doesn’t have to end here. We learned by coincidence from a local that there is a so called “bowling alley”, where everybody goes when the bars closes. It sounded kind of sketchy at first, but then we met a Canadian couple who went the night before and absolutely loved it.

The bowling alley turned out to be this awesome place where you can do 10 pin bowling, archery, drink beer and just hang out with your friends. We had so much fun that night, and the whole thing was so surreal. Everything in the whole city closes, and everybody moves on to this random bowling alley to continue the party. And it’s one of those places that apparently everybody knows about, but nobody talks about it. If you want to go, just approach a tuktuk driver and say there word “bowling”, and he will know exactly where to take you. Oh, and it’s open until around 3-4 am!

Nightmarket

One can not go to Asia without spending too much time walking down endless night markets and eating way too much delicious streetfood. The night market in Laos is a pretty big one, the only difference from the one in Laos to the ones in Thailand for example, is that there are less food stalls and more jewellery and clothing stalls. Which is fine, it’s always nice strolling around finding beautiful stuff that you can’t buy considering the limited room in your backpack. But the food that we did find, was delicious!

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Things you should know before going:

  1. You can use three different currencies in the country, Kip, Baht and USD.
  2. When travelling within the main city of Luang Prabang with tuktuk, don’t pay more than 10.000 Kip per person.
  3. It gets really cold at night and early in the morning sometimes so be sure to bring a sweater and some longer pants to keep warm during that time.
  4. Here are some useful phrases in Lao that can be good to know: Hello – Sabaidi, Thank you – Khob Chai.
  5. Luang Prabang has a Vietnamese embassy where you can get your Vietnamese visa.
  6. If you’re from Scandinavia you get a free stay in Laos for 14 days, you don’t have to apply for a visa or anything. you just have to get stamped in, and be ut of the country within 14 days.
  7. There are roosters everywhere in Laos, so be prepared to get woken up really early.
  8. Transportation is not as good as the other neighbouring countries, so you might want to plan a route a little bit ahead to be able to look up transportation possibilities.

 

 

LUXURY CRUISE DOWN THE MEKONG RIVER IN LAOS – SHOMPOO CRUISES – VILLAGE, CAVE AND WHISKEY

When looking into ways of traveling down the Mekong river, you quickly learn that the famous slow boat ride is a bit of a risk. An overbooked, crowded and uncomfortable boat ride where people in some cases have ended up without seats. We weren’t really that intrigued by the thought of having to stand up on a boat for 6-7 hours per day for two days, so we started looking for different alternatives. That’w when we found Shompoo Cruises.

Shampoo Cruises takes you on a more “luxurious” cruise down the river. You get your own tour guide for the stops you make along the way visiting villages and caves, you get free food and a lot more space on the boat. We booked the “premium” package which meant that during the overnight stay in Pakbeng we stayed at a more luxurious hotel right by the river with dinner and breakfast included in the price. The premium package costs about 225 USD per person, so it’s a little bit more pricy than the slow boat, but it’s so worth it. All the entrance fees at the stops you make are also included in the price, you also get free coffee, tea, drinking water and fruit during the cruise.

If you’re taking the down river cruise as we did, and you’re crossing the border over from northern Thailand, the company actually helps you cross. When we arrived to the border there was someone waiting for us on the “Thailand side”, and she then guided us all the way over to Laos. If you’ve never crossed a border before, or if you’re unsure about how to fill out the visa forms, it’s good to have someone there helping you out.

The first day of the cruise looked something like this. The boat left around 9 am, and by 11.45 am we were served a lovely lunch buffet with all sorts of different dishes including chicken, fish, springrolls, vegetables and rice. At 1 pm, we reached our first stop for the day, a beautiful traditional lao village. We got a guided tour around the village and our guide told us so much about the history of the Lao people. There were cute kids running around everywhere and they followed us around the entire time. The people were so nice and ew had a lovely time.

 

Around 4 pm we reached Pakbeng and everyone was dropped of at their hotel. Which hotel you get dropped of at depends on what type of cruise you book, we booked the “premium” one so we stayed at Sanctuary Pakbeng Lodge. At 7.30 am the next morning, after having a lovely breakfast, we got picked up by the cruise company and were transferred back to the boat. By 8-8.30 am we were back on the river. And by 11.45 am we got served another lovely lunch.

Around 1 pm, we stopped by the famous Pak Ou caves, or the 4000 buddha caves as they are called. Just as the day before, the guide showed us around and told us about the history of the caves. We explored the caves for about 1 hour, and after that we got back on the boat and headed for our next destination.

Around 3 pm we stopped at yet another village, but this particular villige was known for their making of rice whiskey. The guide told us about the process, we got to taste the different whiskeys (some bottles had snakes and scorpions in them), and we got to meat the locals.

You arrive in Luang Prabang around 4 pm, and I have to tell you, it’s pretty hard getting off the boat. After the first day the boat starts to feel like home, you get to know the other guests and after a while you become really good friends. We had such a great time, even though we where the youngest people on the boat. We can’t recommend this cruise enough. Although it is on the pricy side, it’s really worth every penny considering the good service, the free food, you get to visit all these beautiful historic places and you will have an absolute wonderful time.

Our favourite was the stop at the first village, we just fell involve with the kids. They were all running around, laughing and playing. Some of them were a little bit shy, which made them even cuter. We just loved it there!

 

THE EASIEST WAY TO GET TO LAOS FROM THE NORTH OF THAILAND – CHIANG MAI TO HUAY XAI BORDER CROSSING

Hello again guys, we hope you’re ready for some more great travel tips!

At the moment we are spending some time in the beautiful city of Luang Prabang in Laos. Since Laos is one of the popular destinations for backpackers traveling through Asia, we thought we would share some tips on how to get here. One of the most popular backpacking routes is to cross the boarder in to Laos from the north of Thailand in Chiang Khong over to Huay Xai, and that is exactly what we did.

As mentioned, we were traveling to Laos from one of our favourite cities in Thailand, Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is situated in the northern part of Thailand, about 6 hour away from the Lao border. The easiest way to get there, is to take one of the so called “Green Buses” over to Chiang Kong, the city right by the border. We booked our tickets online on a website called 12.go.Asia, which is one of the best websites to be familiar with when traveling through Asia. You can book everything from bus tickets to plane tickets online, and it works pretty much all over southeast Asia.

The “Green Bus” left from the busterminal 3 in Chiang Mai around 8.00 am and arrived in Chiang Kong around 2 pm, which means roughly 6 hours of traveling. The bus ride went smoothly, although it might be good to know that the road might be tough for people with motion sickness, so it might be good to bring some motion sickness pills just in case.

Since the bus arrives in Chiang Khong in the afternoon, it might be a good idea to spend one night in Chiang Khong and cross the border early in the morning the next day. The border opens at 6.00 am, and the mandatory shuttle bus across the friendship bridge starts at 7.3o am. If you’re taking a boat down the river, the slow boat sometimes leaves as late as 11.30 am so you should have plenty of time to cross. We stayed at Day Waterfront Hotel, and we couldn’t recommend them enough. They give you all the paperwork you need to fill out for the visa application, and they explain how everything works by the border, and they even order you a tuktuk for the next morning so you basically don’t need to worry about anything. The owners speak really good english as well, and they were so sweet and caring.

A good tip to make the crossing as smooth as possible is to fill out all your visa forms before arriving at the border to save some time. You also have to bring a passport photo for the visa application, but if you forgot to bring one, you can make a copy of your passport by the border for 1 USD. The cost of the visa depends on where you’re from, but usually it’s around 30-35 USD, but it’s a little more expensive for some. You can pay the visa fee in USD, Lao KIP and Thai Bhat.

Something we didn’t know before making the trip over to Laos, was that during 2018 most of the countries in Scandinavia and a couple of other countries get free 14 day visas. We were only going to stay for two weeks anyway, so we actually got in for free which was a nice surprise. Apparently the tourism in Laos has gone down a bit the past couple of years, so they changed the visa rules to get more people to consider adding Laos to their travel route.

If you’re going to the the slow boat down the river, be prepared to spend many hours on an overbooked and crowded boat. Apparently they try to jam as many people as possible on the boat to make as much money as possible, and sometimes people end up having to stand up without a seat for 6-7 hours. Oh, and the so called “seats” on the boat are old uncomfortable carseats, from what we heard. Luckily we heard about this while we were in Chiang Mai, so we actually booked a more “luxurious” version of the cruise with a company called Shompoo Cruises, but there is a separate blogpost coming up about the whole cruise experience, so I don’t want to spoil anything just yet.

I hope this answered some of you questions about the border crossing from northern Thailand to Laos. But if you have any more questions, just write a comment below or send us an email and we will be happy to help you out with more information!

Picture of the beautiful sunrise view from our hotel balcony in Chiang Khong!

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ZIP-LINING ADVENTURE THROUGH THE JUNGLE IN CHIANG MAI – FLIGHT OF THE GIBBON

Yesterday we had one of the best days of our Asia trip so far. We did something we had been looking forward to for months and months. We finally got to experience zip-lining through the jungle with Flight of the Gibbon. It truly is one of the most amazing things we’ve ever done, and we will remember this day for the rest of our lives. This is something everyone needs to do at least once in their life. But maybe not if you’re afraid of heights since it all takes place pretty high up amongst the treetops.

The amazing day started by us getting picked up by Flight of the Gibbon by our hotel at around noon. We the tour called “The sunset Gibbon”, which is why we got picket up so late. There is a “Sunrise Gibbon” package as well, and if you choose that one you will get picked upp at your hotel at around 6:30 a.m. After getting picked up, we traveled about 1.5 hours up the mountains and into the jungle.

Once we arrived they briefed us about all the security rules, about what to do and not to do in the jungle and so on. We were assigned 2 “sky rangers” who were our guides throughout the entire afternoon. Through the entire zip-line experience there was always one guide on each plattform. One sending us off, and the other one receiving us on the other side. They communicated with each other constantly through walkie talkies, to ensure that no accidents would occur. We were in tje jungle for about 3-4 hours and I have to say, we did not feel unsafe at all, at any point what so ever.

There were some rules we had to follow throughout the entire day. 1: You should not run or jump on or off the platforms. 2: You were not allowed to handle your security lines/ropes. Only the rangers were allowed to handle the ropes to ensure your safety. 3: When going down a zip-line, it was not allowed to touch the cable with the risk of getting stuck between the cable and the pulley. 4: When approaching the next platform and you heard them yell (Legs up), you had to lift your legs up as high as you could. Everything felt incredibly safe and you always felt well taken care of.

The entire course took a little more than 2 hours to get through and it was 2 hours with a constant adrenaline rush. You can not describe the feelings that run through your body when you swing freely among the tree tops in a beautiful jungle in Thailand, how can you? There were different types of zip-lines during the course. There were ones where you went by yourself, there were places where you went 2 people together, one where you got hooked up on back and without anything to hold on to, you where supposed to just jump off of the platform, sort of like a bungeejump (incredibly scary but everyone’s favorite in our group). There were also places where you were hoisted down to a platform underneath.

After 2 hours in the jungle we had one of the best dinners we have had so far in Thailand. We sat down a large long table, and they put out all of these different delicious dishes. There was chicken curry, brown rice, vegetables, mushrooms, fried chicken, fruit and more. While we ate there were two people playing traditional music in the background, and it was just the most amazing dinner experience. We became such good friends in our group that we met up later in the evening for food and drinks.

Over all, I can only describe the experience as one of the most amazing things I’ve done in my life. I can not recommend Flight Of The Gibbon enough. If you are ever in Chiang Mai, this is a must!

 

Here is our blog from the day. We only make swedish videos at the moment, but we don’t talk much in this particular video so you should still watch it just to get an idea of the whole experience. Hope you enjoy it!

 

 

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HOW TO GET FROM AYUTTHAYA TO CHIANG MAI – TRANSPORTATION THAILAND – BACKPACKING

We have now finally arrived in Chiang May, a destination we both have been looking forward to for so long. It took us a while to get here, nut it’s so fun to finally be here!

Our travel day went very smoothly this time, and it took us about 12 hours to get here. We booked a train ticket through the website 12.Go.Asia, a website used for booking online transportation tickets. We have used it a lot during our travels here and it has worked great every time.

The train journey from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai took about 12 hours as I just said. However, we traveled with a so-called sleeper train, which meant that the train travels during the night and that we had our own beds on the train which was a lovely and comfortable change from all the uncomfortable bus seats. We really love to travel during the night. First of all, you do not waste an entire day traveling that you could have spent exploring. Secondly, you can sleep the whole way, making the trip feel much shorter. Thirdly, it’s not as hot and you don’t have to carry your bags around between pickup points in the heat. However, as always, they crank up the air condition on all buses, trains and flights here in Asia and it was really cold. Therefore, always bring a sweater and a pair of long pants to wear on such occasions.

Another tip for those of you who will be traveling in Asia. If you have connecting transportation and multiple layovers, make sure you have a couple of hours between each. Delays are extremely common in Asia and if you miss you connecting bus/train/van you will probably have to wait a while for the next ride. Sometimes you’ll even have to buy a new ticket. Better safe than sorry!

Our last sunset in Ayutthaya