Pak Ou Caves

The Pak Ou caves are best known for the hundreds of miniature Buddhas that have been placed in them. There are two caves, both of which are accessible only by steps leading up from the landing jetty on the Mekong river.

The caves themselves are not really that spectacular to be honest, but the journey up the Mekong from Luang Prabang is quite scenic and tranquil. The caves are 25 kilometres away from Luang Prabang and the journey upstream will take you roughly two hours to complete. For those who are not so comfortable on a boat, there is the possibility to take a bus from Luang Prabang to Pak Ou village. By bus the journey only takes 45 minutes. However, even the locals agree that the road to Pak Ou is in such a bad state of repair that the longboat up the Mekong is probably the safer option. Besides, the village lies on the other side of the Mekong, so you will still need to take a ferry to cross from the village to the entrance of the cave.

All in all, even if you are not much of a culture vulture, I can highly recommend the trip up to the Pak Ou caves. If nothing else, than at least it makes for a very pleasant and relaxed way to spend an afternoon in the Luang Prabang province.

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Amantaka Hotel Luang Prabang

Here is the link to the Amantaka website.

The centre of old Luang Prabang is fairly compact and located on a peninsula at the confluence of the Khan River and the mighty Mekong. The Amantaka hotel is perfectly situated on the edge of the old town, within walking distance of the morning and night markets and most of the attractions in the old town.

The hotel and villas are very elegantly designed, with light wood fittings and furniture. The suites are fairly large and many of them come with their own private pool.

The grounds of the hotel are stunning, very lush and open. In addition to the private pools, the hotel also has a large main pool right in front of the library. The pool is only 18 metres long, but it serves its purpose if you really want to swim a few laps. However, the hotel does also have a gym with a good range of weight lifting machines and cardio machines.

There is also a spa, and I can highly recommend the Lao massage, which is a pleasant combination of pressure, rubbing and stretching which I found very effective.

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Vietnam Airlines, Economy Class – ATR72: Siem Reap to Luang Prabang

Folie04

INTRODUCTION

After returning from Banteay Srei, I spend the rest of my time by the pool enjoying my last day in Cambodia. Eventually, at 15h00 I make my way to reception to settle the bill and then it is time for me to move on.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Transport: The gorgeous old Mercedes Benz again.
Journey time: 20 minutes.

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I leave the hotel just after three o’clock in the afternoon. It is hot outside. Even so, the streets of Siem Reap leading to the temple at Angkor Wat are bustling with vendors and tourists. I think that is what strikes me most about Cambodia: even now, economically the country is still struggling to get back on its feet after years of civil war. But even so, there is something very optimistic about the country and wherever you go, you will likely have some snotty nosed but enterprising kid running after you, badgering you to buy a set of postcards for one dollar. But what you do not see, are people begging.

CHECK-IN

Location: Ground floor, the entire airport is on one level only.
Facilities: Only airport check-in.
Counters: There are two counters checking in the Vietnam Airlines flight to Luang Prabang. Apparently, the flight continues to Hanoi.

The airport at Siem Reap is managed by a French company and is currently undergoing refurbishment and expansion. From the bits that have already been completed, I think the facility is going to look rather nice upon completion.

I admit that I am just a tad surprised to find a Vietnam Airlines SkyPriority sign at the airport. Quite frankly, the place is so small I would not have thought they would bother. But they did. The agent hands me my passport and boarding pass and gives me instructions for passport control and the lounge. Yes, apparently they have one…

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LOUNGE

Location: After security, once you have passed through the duty free area turn right. The lounge is where gate 6 would be.
Type of Lounge: Contractor lounge operated by Cambodia Airport Authorities.
Facilities:
Small selection of warm and cold dishes, cold drinks, tea and coffee making facilities, workstations with computers. There are no toilets in the lounge.
Internet:
Not available.

Okay, I confess that I am surprised and just a tad impressed that a) there actually is a Business Class lounge here and b) that my Platinum status with Air France/KLM gives me access to the lounge even though I am flying on an Economy Class ticket.

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BOARDING

Priority Boarding: Not available.

The flight begins boarding at 16h30. I would say there are about fifty passengers on board. Once again, I take advantage of the fact that you have to walk across the apron to reach your aircraft and that the Cambodians see no problem in me happily taking pictures on the apron. Unfortunately, it is only once I board the plane that I notice I have been assigned an aisle seat next to some woman. So no pictures of our take-off. I wait until we are airborne and the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off before I move forward.

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CABIN

Configuration: 2 + 2.
Seat: Originally on 16C, an aisle seat. After take-off moved to 7A, a window seat. Both on the port side of the aircraft.
Pitch: I have no information about the pitch in inches or centimetres. But in any case, it is perfectly adequate and comfortable, even for a flight of two hours.
Facilities: Air vent and reading lamp.

The aircraft is operated in an Economy Class only seating configuration. Some of these aircraft are operated by VASCO – the Vietnam Air Service Company – on behalf of Vietnam Airlines. Or the other way round. In any case, this aircraft is fully Vietnam Airlines branded.

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SERVICE

There are definitely two cabin crew on this flight, one male and one female. Possibly there is also a third, but I am not quite sure about that.
Interaction with the crew is zero. They seem okay, but that is all I can say about them.

THE MEAL

Delivery: Box.
Type of meal:
Snack.
Meal:

  • A sweet lime.
  • A tuna fish sandwich with vegetables.
  • A small bag of peanuts.
  • A glass of still water.

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This is rather cool. I was kind of hoping there would be something to eat because I am hungry, but I was not sure what to expect on this flight. So I am pleasantly surprised to find that they are going to feed us. The meal is just right, I think. A small snack to tie me over until dinner. The tuna sandwich is tasty and certainly of a better quality than for example the sandwich I received on Air France on my flight from Zürich to Paris.

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ARRIVAL

Just after 18h the captain comes on the loudspeaker to inform us about the flight’s progress. We will be starting our initial descent at about 18h15 for an expected arrival in Luang Prabgang at18h45, fifteen minutes ahead of schedule.

The approach into Luang Prabang is spectacular. The landscape is mountainous and we meander our way around quite a few high peaks before eventually we are lined up for the final approach.

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The airport is more or less deserted when we arrive. There is just one A320 of Lao Airlines standing around, which does not look as though it recently arrived from anywhere. But perhaps that is not such a bad thing, because the new terminal is experiencing a power cut as we enter the immigration hall…

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Citizens from Thailand and Switzerland do not require a visa to enter Laos. Most countries, including Malta, can obtain a visa on arrival. What you will need if you are eligible for a visa on arrival, is a passport size photo, a completed visa application form, which you can either get upon entering the terminal or which you can download from the internet, and an imbarcation card which should be distributed on the plane. You will also need USD31. I know the website tells you that you only need USD30 for the visa. However, what the website does not tell you, is that you also need to pay an extra USD1 to have your visa processed. Once the visa has been plastered in your passport, you move on to the next counter, where you pay the fees. Once that is done, you may queue to enter the country.

GETTING INTO TOWN

Transport: Hotel shuttle.
Journey time: 15 minutes.

In Luang Prabang I shall be staying at the Amantaka. Without me even requesting them to do so, they have sent somebody to come and pick me up right after immigration and drive me to the hotel.

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