Our Grand Expedition from the North to South of Laos

To start this post, let us first explain how we ended up on the nonsensical route that we did.

Our original “plan” while traveling Southeast Asia was to start out in Vietnam, then go to Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia.  We started out in Vientiane Laos then headed north, with the intention of taking the two-day slow boat from Luang Prabang over to Thailand.  We would travel south through Thailand and then on to Cambodia before going back to Thailand where we have a potential gig lined up.

When doing some research on visas and the logistics of all this, we considered that perhaps it would be wiser to go to Cambodia before going to Thailand so that we wouldn’t have to worry about multiple Thai visas (since we would be leaving and then coming back.)  The unfortunate part of this plan was that we hadn’t considered it until we were already in Northern Laos.  This new plan would require backtracking down to Vientiane, and then traveling even further down to Pakse and the 4,000 Islands before crossing into Cambodia.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 3.46.50 PM
15.5 hours. Right.

Here is what actually happened:

We started out with an uneventful, four hour bus ride from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang.  Once we arrived at the Luang Prabang bus stop, we intended to book a sleeper bus for that night down to Vientiane–only it was full, so we couldn’t.

At that point our choices were to stay the night in Luang Prabang and take a bus in the morning that would take all day and put us in Vientiane the following night, or to take a sleeper bus the following night.  12 hours sitting on a bus all day sounded horrid so we opted to hang out in Luang Prabang and take the sleeper bus the following night.

While we enjoyed relaxing in Luang Prabang one last time, we probably should have just taken the day bus, because then we could have gotten an actual night’s rest at a guesthouse in Vientiane.  Instead, we spent 12 agonizing hours in a Laos sleeper bus (why didn’t we learn the first time?) crunched up on the ground while the bus violently bounced and swayed all the way to Vientiane.

———————————————————————————————————————————————-

We arrived in Vientiane at about 7am with another set of choices.  Do we take another 12 hour day bus straight away and head down to Pakse or wait and do another night bus?  With the horrors of the sleeper bus we had just exited fresh in our minds, we couldn’t bear the idea of doing it again two nights in a row.  Instead, we hopped on a bus two hours later, and headed down to Pakse.

We were assured that the bus to Pakse would be 12 hours, putting us in the city around 10pm which should have been a decent enough time to find a room for the night.  Only, the bus stopped half a hundred times on the way to Pakse for god knows what reasons, extending the journey to about 15 hours.

Do you know how many guesthouses are open at 1am in Pakse?  None.  There are none.

There was only one other backpacker on the bus with us who was also stuck in this situation and the three of us set out to find some kind of accommodation for the night.  Exhausted from no sleep and almost 30 hours on buses, we wandered the deserted streets of Pakse knocking on guesthouse windows, in hopes of waking up the employees and inquiring about rooms.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the people we were able to startle awake all told us that they were full.

An hour later, we found ourselves sitting on a bench by the road, all but given up.  “There is one more on my map, I’m going to go check it,” said our new Spanish friend.  Sure that his efforts would fail, as they had for the last hour, we sat on the bench consumed with exhaustion, frustration, and helplessness.  

Just as we were adjusting ourselves in preparation to sleep on this bench, the Spanish guy reappeared, waving.

“Come on, guys!”

We sprang up and he waved for us to follow him to this one last guesthouse he had found!  It was a little pricier than we would have liked, but being 2am and after what we had been through, we were grateful for anything.

———————————————————————————————————————————————-

We woke up the next morning and decided we simply did not have the energy to get to Don Det that day.

Instead, we spent the day exploring Pakse, which is perhaps the most boring city on the planet earth.  Despite being the third largest Laotian city in population, there was hardly anyone around.  Anywhere.  The whole day.

There also isn’t really much to see or do in Pakse and it was Valentine’s Day, so we decided to celebrate by eating lots of delicious food that we normally wouldn’t splurge on.  For lunch it was Dok Mai Lao Caffe, an Italian restaurant run by two older Italian men which was excellent.  For dinner, it was Le Panorama on top of the Pakse Hotel where we could look out over the entire city and watch the sun set.

———————————————————————————————————————————————-

The next morning, it was finally time for us venture on to the last leg of the journey to the 4,000 Islands.

A mini-bus picked us up from our hotel at 8am and took us to the bus that would take us about 3 hours south of Pakse to Ban Nakasang, where we boarded a ferry that took us to the island of Don Det, our home base during our stay in the 4,000 Islands.

Perhaps it wasn’t the most logical route, but we finally made it to Don Det, and the hammocks awaiting us on the porch made our arrival that much sweeter!

Journey Breakdown:

Wednesday 2/11: Bus from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang (4-5 hrs)

Thursday 2/12: Sleeper Bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane (12 hrs)

Friday 2/13: Day bus from Vientiane to Pakse (15 hrs)

Saturday 2/14: Valentine’s Day in Pakse

Sunday 2/15: Bus/Ferry from Pakse to Don Det (3-4 hours)

Success!

Nong Khiaw – Exploring Northern Laos

We booked a mini-bus from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw at our hotel.  We were picked up around 8:30am and transported to the bus station, where we were crammed into a minibus and set off to our destination.  The roads were horrible as expected and our driver flew over the potholes in a way that made our heads bang against the ceiling of the van, but we made it there in about three and a half hours instead of the four or five we were expecting.

We were hounded by tuk tuk drivers offering us rides into the town, but it was a short walk so we decided to go on our own.  Once there, we negotiated a room with a balcony overlooking the river for 50,000kip a night, which we were very pleased about.

Nong Khiaw is absolutely stunning and the epitome of peaceful.  It’s situated between towering mountains and divided by the Ou River, surrounded by fantastic views and charming in itself.  The local children are adorable to watch as they bike and run up and down the road playing and teasing passerbys.  One little boy even shot at us with a bamboo mud gun!  We spent the afternoon enjoying the town and went to a fantastic Indian restaurant for dinner.

DSC_0805
The view from our guesthouse in Nong Khiaw

The next day, we set out on adventure to explore the surrounding areas of Nong Khiaw.  We saw signs pointing toward a cave, so we decided to start there.  It ended up being one of the most scenic hikes we’d ever been on!  

The journey started on a dirt road through the mountains.

DSC_0817
Following the dirt road to the caves
DSC_0810
There were loads of funnel-web spiders along the path!

DSC_0809

Soon, we came upon a village where we paid a small fee to get to the cave.  After walking a short way through the village, the painted arrows directed us through breathtaking fields and farms, all surrounded by the towering mountains in the distance.

DSC_0819
Passing through the village
DSC_0823
Walking along the dried rice paddies
DSC_0824
In the wet season, each section is flooded and used to grow rice
DSC_0830
More fields

DSC_0837

DSC_0838

After we got through the farms, we followed a small path through the jungle and up to the caves.

DSC_0844
Hiking through the jungle, getting closer to the cave

DSC_0850

DSC_0854

When we finally made it to the cave, there were more painted signs that said things like “Assembly Group” and “Meeting Room.”  During the war, this region was heavily bombed, and the local people took shelter in the surrounding caves.  We assumed that the signs had something to do with what they used each ‘room’ of the cave for during those tragic times.

DSC_0862
We finally made it to the Houay Tor Cave!
DSC_0876
A spooky old lantern found in one of the rooms of the cave

DSC_0884

DSC_0888DSC_0889

DSC_0890

After exploring the cave and making our way back, we arrived back in Nong Khiaw many hours later and got lunch at Delilah’s, a well known cafe in Nong Khiaw.

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing after our long and difficult hike before getting dinner at Deen, the same Indian restaurant we went to the night before.  (That’s how much we loved it!)

Nong Khiaw was beautiful, and well worth the horrid bus ride north from Luang Prabang; and we would be venturing even further north to Muang Ngoi the following day!

2/6

Bus to Nong Khiaw: 130,000kip

Snacks: 7,000kip

Water: 5,000kip

Vinat Restaurant: 60,000kip

Deen Indian Restaurant: 71,000kip

Accommodation: 50,000kip

2/6 Total Spent: 323,000kip ($39.89 USD)

2/7

Breakfast: 40,000kip

Huoy Tor Cave Entrance Fee: 10,000kip

Delilah’s (Lunch): 85,000kip

Deen Indian Restaurant: 72,000kip

Accommodation: 50,000kip

2/7 Total Spent: 257,000kip ($31.74 USD)

Visiting the Pak Ou Caves and Our First Motorbike Accident

About 25 km north of Luang Prabang lie the Pak Ou Caves, two caves that are full of hundreds and hundreds of Buddha statues.  To visit them, you can take a tuk tuk, a boat, or do what we did and rent a moto for the day.

We knew that the route we were taking was going to be lots of dirt paths and some major roadways with traffic, so we opted for a manual motorbike in hopes it would make for an easier journey.  Off roading on a manual motorbike we’ve never driven before?  Sounds like a great idea, right?

The trip started out a little jerky but once Jojo got the hang of the gear shifting, we were cruising along just fine.  Then we reached the beginning of the dirt road.

Bumpy does not even begin describe this road.  We were flying six inches off the seat as we made our way around hairpin turns and up and down dangerously steep inclines.  While it was admittedly terrifying and painful, it was also absolutely thrilling!  We were alone on the road apart from a few locals whizzing by us (and probably laughing at our pathetic attempt at driving on this road.)

DSC_0722
Jojo in front of some of the beautiful scenery we passed while driving to the Pak Ou Caves
DSC_0729
The glorious dirt road

We came to a particularly precipitous incline and started our ascent in second gear, but we were moving too slow and about half way up the hill, the bike slowed to a halt.  When the bike stopped, Jojo switched to first gear, but he was still holding the throttle all the way open.  The bike tried to fly forward, but our weight pulled it back so that instead of taking us up the hill, the front wheel flew up in the air and threw me backwards onto my back.  Time slowed, and I watched in horror as Jojo and the motorbike stood straight up and began descending toward me.  I saw it before it happened: me breaking Joe’s fall, and Joe breaking the bike’s fall.  It would have been a grisly event if Joe hadn’t thrown his weight forward at the last second, re-grounding the wheels and saving us both from being crushed by the bike.  We made it out with a few scrapes and bruises, but we were thankfully unhurt otherwise.  Not to mention, our tablet that I landed on top of, and our camera that was in my hands during the fall suffered no damage–we seriously lucked out!

The rest of the way was mercifully uneventful.  The roads were still treacherous, but Jojo had gotten more acclimated with the bike after our close call and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery as we passed by.

DSC_0735
Passing by farms with mountains in the distance
DSC_0739
We passed lots of animals on our journey, including this adorable baby cow!
DSC_0745
We passed through some villages on our way
DSC_0758
…and our first elephant spotting!! (We pulled over to let them pass.)

Finally we came to a village across the river from the caves.  We parked our bike and hired a boat to take us across for 26,000kip.

DSC_0759
Looking at the caves from across the river
DSC_0761
Boating across to the caves
DSC_0765
The stairs leading up to the caves

When we got to the other side, we got off the boat and walked up the steps to the first cave.  They call it a cave, but it was less of a cave, and more of an overhang–and as promised, it was crammed with Buddha statues of every style and posture!

DSC_0770
Buddha statues in the lower cave

DSC_0776 DSC_0784

After exploring the lower cave, we climbed the stairs up to the upper cave.  It was filled with more Buddha statues and went a little deeper than the lower one.  It wasn’t lit up at all, so we had to use our flashlights to explore its depths and find the rest of the statues.

DSC_0786
Exploring the upper cave

DSC_0788 DSC_0794 DSC_0799

When we were finished with the caves, we got back on the boat that took us to the village where our bike was parked.  We decided to take Route 13 back to the city rather than the back roads, this time!  We made it back to Luang Prabang in good time, but we were really nervous that we would be held responsible for the significant amount of scratches the bike had acquired during our trip to the caves.  We’d heard a lot of horror stories regarding motorbike rental in Luang Prabang, and feared we might be demanded to fork over hundreds of dollars for the damages.  If they noticed the scratches, they didn’t say anything about it and we were relieved to be off the hook!  We finished the day with another dinner of Lao barbecue, grateful for our day of adventure and minimal injury.

DSC_0803

Breakfast: 85,000kip

Motorbike Rental: 120,000kip

Water: 5,000kip

Parking: 5,000kip

Boat: 26,000kip

Cave Entrance: 40,000kip

Donation: 5,000kip

Gas: 20,000kip

BBQ: 140,000kip

Water: 5,000kip

Accommodation: 80,000kip

Total Spent: 531,000kip ($65.85 USD)

Partying in Luang Prabang – The Bowling Alley

We spent our fourth day in Luang Prabang doing mostly nothing, which was absolutely glorious.

We started off with breakfast at a cafe by the river, then headed to a local bar/restaurant/lounge called Utopia, the same one we had spent an evening drinking, a few days before.  Boasting to be “Zen by Day, Groovy by Night,” Utopia was the perfect place to lay back and relax the day away, lounging on cushions on the deck overlooking the river.

IMG_2487
Sitting by the river on the deck of Utopia

After laying around all day, we decided to watch the sunset at Wat Chom Si.  The Buddhist temple sits atop Mount Phou Si, a 330 foot hill in the center of Luang Prabang, which we climbed up about half an hour before the sun went down.  We hadn’t expected much out of it, but the view of the city and surrounding scenery was surprisingly spectacular!

DSC_0667
The view from the top of Mount Phou Si

DSC_0670

It was a bit cloudy, so the sunset was a little lack luster; but once it had disappeared behind the mountains, the clouds lit up in all kinds of stunning colors.

DSC_0678 DSC_0692

Then, we walked around the temple to see the moon on the other side!

DSC_0720

We had worked up an appetite climbing up and down the hill, and decided on another dinner of Lao barbecue.  This time, we tried a place by the river where each person gets a plate for 60,000kip, and can refill it an unlimited number of times with raw meats and veggies to cook.

IMG_2489

We had heard it on the lips of other backpackers many times since arriving in Luang Prabang: “Have you been to the bowling alley?” The bowling alley is one of the few establishments open past the midnight curfew in the city, and where all of the boisterous partiers go when the bars in town shut down.  We were curious, but hadn’t made it there yet, mostly because we usually go to bed long before anyone goes there.

On this night, we were determined to see what it was about.  We headed back to Utopia around 10, where most of the backpackers seem to start their nights.  After a few beers in the garden, things started to shut down around 11:30.  At this point, there was a mass exodus down the path to a hoard of tuk-tuks waiting to shuttle people to the bowling alley.  As we walked toward them, we made fast friends with a pair of Dutch guys that were happy to bargain for us down to only 5,000kip each for the ride.

Once our tuk tuk was full, we set out on a short ride to the lanes.  I think we had expected some kind of swag bowling alley, but it the exact opposite.  The place was all white concrete and bright, BRIGHT fluorescent lights–not at all what you’d expect for a late night party spot, but party we did.  The group of us in the tuk tuk ended up going in on a lane together which cost 20,000kip per person, per game.  Every lane was packed with backpackers drinking, bowling, and being extremely loud, as is expected.  Our lane was no exception and we soon made friends with the group of people in the lane next to us, making our crowd even bigger and louder.  It was really quite fun!

Around 2am, our group decided it was time to head back to town, so we shared a loud, drunken, and hilarious tuk tuk ride back to our guesthouses.  Shamefully, we didn’t have a camera or phone on us so we don’t have any pictures of the night, but we will surely hold the memory forever in our hearts.

Breakfast: 60,000kip

Utopia: 100,000kip

Mount Phou Si Fee: 40,000kip

Street Barbecue: 150,000kip

Utopia: 85,000kip

Tuk Tuk: 10,000kip

Bowling Alley: 110,000kip

Tuk Tuk: 20,000kip

Water: 5,000kip

Accommodation: 80,000kip

Total Spent: 660,000kip ($81.51 USD)

Luang Prabang – Bed Bugs and the Kuang Si Waterfall

We woke up around 9am, realizing in horror that we had been afflicted by one of a traveler’s (or anyone’s) worst fears: bed bugs.

While I had accidentally (and thankfully) fallen asleep before washing the Deet I had applied the night before off of my skin, Jojo had not been so lucky.  We quickly packed up our things and got the hell out of there, desperately clinging to the hope that the bugs had not taken our bags for a new home, or a nursery to lay their eggs.

Visions of toting around these disgusting creatures, for weeks or months to come, plagued our minds as we searched for a new place to stay.  We found a place closer to the city center called Chitlatda Guesthouse for only 80,000kip a night, and quickly took it.  It was easily the cheapest place we had found in town and the quality wasn’t bad, either.

To take our minds off of the miserable morning, we walked to the Mekong River for lunch.  We stopped at the first place we came across, a French-styled open air cafe, where we got some of the most delicious barbecued chicken ever!

After walking back to the guesthouse and spending way too much time researching how to get rid of bed bugs while traveling, we decided we would catch the sunset over the river at another one of the cafes while enjoying a dessert of sticky rice cooked in coconut milk with mango, and a mojito.

IMG_2476
Sunset over the Mekong River

Once the sun had gone down, we took a walk along the night market where we treated ourselves to a fresh donut and a couple of clothing items we had been longing for.

IMG_2480
Luang Prabang Night Market

For dinner we ate at a small cafe near our guesthouse in the center of town, where we were served what seemed to be instant curry loaded up with MSG.  Not the greatest meal ever, but everything else we had eaten that day had been excellent so it was okay.  After some more bed bug research, we finally resigned ourselves to sleep, hopelessly attempting to avoid thinking about being dined on by insects.

————————————————————————————————————————————————–

We awoke the next day with no new bug bites, to our immense relief!  Although it was still possible we were carrying them in our packs, it seemed promising that we had not been bitten again.

We got up and went out for breakfast at a street food stand selling sandwiches, crepes, and fruit shakes.  While we were eating, a tuk tuk driver approached us offering a ride to the Kuang Si Waterfall which was where we had planned to go on this day.

After negotiating down to 40,000kip each roundtrip, and waiting around for the driver to find enough passengers to fill his tuk tuk, we started on the one hour journey to the falls.  We chatted with the other passengers along the way, including an elderly Japanese man that invited us to come stay with him if we planned to visit Japan.  He even insisted that we trade information so we could contact him.  (Perhaps a visit to Japan is now in our future?)

Upon arrival, the tuk tuk dropped us in the shopping area just before the entrance to the falls.  He told us to meet back in the same place two hours from then so that we could ride back to the city.  We paid the entrance fee to the Kuang Si waterfalls (20,000kip each) and started our ascent!

Before getting to the water, the small trail lead us to the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center which is a Free the Bears facility dedicated to the rescue and conservation of Asiatic Black Bears.  The center houses a moon bear by the name of ChamPa who underwent the first ever neurosurgery procedure on a bear in 2013, to treat a case of hydrocephalus.  The story was featured in National Geographic, which you can read about here.  The bears have large structures that they can climb and play on, as well as hammocks, ponds, and toys.  We walked around the facility, watching them lounging and playing together.  The Bear Rescue Center receives no funding from the Kuang Si Waterfall entrance fee (even though you have to pay it to get to the bear center) so we left a small donation as well.

DSC_0570
Bear playing at the Rescue Center

DSC_0577

After the bears, we followed the rest of the trail to the base of the Kuang Si Waterfalls.  We ascended the mountain through an endless series of pools of beautiful turquoise water.  There were lots of people swimming in the pools, but the water was very cold!

DSC_0582
Jojo in front of Kuang Si Waterfall pools
DSC_0594
Walking through more pools
DSC_0613
And across…

DSC_0618

When we made it to the top of the pools, we crossed the bridge to begin our ascent to the top of the waterfall.  The whole way was very steep, and we were breathless by the time we reached the top.

DSC_0663
The bottom of the Kuang Si waterfall
DSC_0628
The view of the waterfall from the bridge
DSC_0638
Climbing up the mountain

It was all worth it when we got to look down over the waterfall to the pools below, and the lush mountains in the distance.

DSC_0648
Looking down from the top of the Kuang Si waterfall
DSC_0640
The view from the top of the waterfall

We met up with the tuk tuk driver and took us back to city center where we got dinner at another cafe by the river.  Jojo decided to try something called “luang prabang sausage” which was a mysterious ground substance that tasted kind of like meatloaf.

After that, we meandered the night market once more and treated ourselves to khao nom kok, little cakes made with rice flour and coconut cream, before heading back to the guesthouse.

IMG_2484
Luang Prabang Night Market

2/1

Water: 5,000kip

Lunch on the Mekong: 113,000kip

Sticky Rice/Mojito at Sunset: 47,000kip

Night Market Clothes: 265,000kip

Donut: 10,000kip

Curry Dinner: 67,000kip

Water: 5,000kip

Accommodation: 80,000kip

Total Spent: 592,000kip ($72.31 USD)

2/2

Street Food Breakfast: 45,000kip

Tuk Tuk: 80,000kip

Kuang Si Entrance Fee: 40,000kip

Beer: 12,000kip

Dinner: 125,000kip

Khao Nom Kok: 5,000kip

Water: 5,000kip

Accommodation: 80,000kip

Total Spent: 387,000kip ($47.27 USD)

Luang Prabang – Relaxing in the City

We took a sleeper bus from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang which might have been one of the worst decisions we have made thus far.  Firstly, the sleeper bus cost us more than a day bus would have (which means we didn’t actually save any money by not paying for accommodation), and this sleeper bus made the sleeper buses in Vietnam seem like a luxury.  Instead of getting our own reclining seats, we were both cramped together in a space on the floor, about the size of a child’s bed, with nothing but two blankets and a couple of dirty pillows.  After attempting to sleep in positions that would make a chiropractor’s eyes bleed, we finally made it to Luang Prabang at about 6:30 in the morning.

After negotiating a tuk tuk down to 15,000kip per person into the city center, we wandered the streets exhausted, looking for reasonably priced accommodation.  After going from guesthouse to guesthouse, another traveler approached us and told us that he too had tried to find accommodation in the price range we were hoping for, only to find that everywhere in the area was at least 120,000kip for a double room.  By Western standards, 130,000kip ($16) is not much for a double room, but by comparison it’s quite a lot more than most budget accommodations in Laos and more than most places we stayed in Vietnam.  We relented and booked a room in Central Backpackers Hostel (which is not central at all), assuring ourselves that the nice room and free breakfast made it worth it.

We decided that we deserved a nap after a sleepless night, and woke up around noonish.  We walked to the center of town where several stalls are set up next to each other selling sandwiches, crepes, and fruit shakes.  All of the stalls sell the exact same things and they are there every day.  A couple sandwiches and a banana shake later, we wandered around the city to get an idea of what it had to offer.

Luang Prabang is sleepy and laid back like Vientiane, but the scenery is admittedly much better.  It sits at the confluence of the Mekong and the Nam Khan river, so many of the guesthouses and restaurants sit next to the water.  Additionally, the city itself is lush with trees and jungle plants which add to the charming atmosphere.

IMG_2465
Monks across the river

IMG_2466

We headed to a local cafe with the intention of using the internet, (only to find that it didn’t work) but we got some treats anyway.  We decided to hang out in the common area of our hostel to do some internet surfing instead which ended up working out much better…until the city wide blackout!  It happened out of no where and no one seemed to be perturbed by it.  Everything was normal, then all of a sudden we were sitting in complete and utter darkness.  It was actually kind of exciting!  Plus, the power came back on after 20-30 minutes so it wasn’t a real issue.

For dinner we decided to try a place called Lao Lao Garden.  After walking through the main entrance, we found ourselves outside again in their enormous garden patio surrounded by trees and plants.  It literally felt like we were sitting in the middle of the jungle even though we were right in the middle of the city.  This is where we got our first chance to try traditional Lao barbecue.  Our waiter lifted the center tile of our table to reveal a small pit where he put a cement block filled with burning coals.  After setting a hot plate shaped like an upside down bowl on top, he poured soup in the ring around the plate and set a big chunk of animal fat in top. He put baskets of raw meat and vegetables on the table next to us and instructed us to start cooking!

IMG_2467
Surprise hole in the table where the coals go

First you put vermicelli noodles and vegetables in the soup, then set the meat on top to cook.  It was a little time consuming but also quite fun.  We were given buffalo, chicken, and pork along with a large assortment of veggies.  The food was decent but what really got us was the peanut tamarind sauce they serve on the side…yum!

IMG_2468
Big hunk of fat in the middle in to grease the hot plate!

After dinner we walked across the street and down a small path to a well known backpacker hangout called Utopia.  After getting a couple of Beer Laos at the bar, we sat down in the center space where they have a bunch of mats and lounging pillows on the floor to hang out on.  The place was really large; it also had a sand volleyball pit, a deck overlooking the river, and scattered tables all in a jungle like setting.  They also played some half way decent down tempo music (for the most part) which was a welcome change from most bars in Southeast Asia!  We had a lot of fun here, and ended up hanging out with a big group of people from Brazil, Italy, the UK and a dozen other countries.  Unlike in Vang Vieng, we had the sense (and we were just tired) to leave before going over the top, and called it a night around 11:30; a relaxing but good start to our stay in Luang Prabang!

Sandwiches: 45,000kip ($5.54 USD)

Shake: 10,000kip ($1.23 USD)

Water: 5,000kip ($0.62 USD)

2-Beer: 20,000kip ($2.46 USD)

Joma Cafe: 30,000kip ($3.69 USD)

Lao Lao Garden: 123,000kip ($15.14 USD)

Utopia: 50,000kip ($6.15 USD)

Accommodation: 130,000kip ($16 USD)

Total Spent: 413,000kip ($50.83 USD)