Alive in Lao

Posted: December 7, 2008    Categories: Laos

My one hour flight arrived in tact and saved me the agony of a 40 hour bus ride. The flight was 100% westerners.

The experience going through the Hanoi Airport was one of the worst I’ve had on my trip so far. I got my ticket from the travel agency in my hotel. There are small travel agents all over Hanoi, so this shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Lao Airlines doesn’t do e-tickets (surprise) so I got one of those old paper tickets with carbon paper.

When I arrived at the ticket counter, I handed them my ticket and they said one of the layers of carbon paper was missing. Please remember that they various layers of the ticket are identical. They are copies of each other. Also, there is no way of knowing what a proper paper ticket consists of, or if you don’t have one.

So I get taken aside at the check in as they call people trying to figure out what to do with my missing layer of carbon paper. I don’t know what happened, but eventually they let me on.

I get to the security checkpoint and I had a small scissors in my camera bag. like a super tiny one you use for your nails. The actual cutting area of the scissors was like 1cm. The only reason I point this out is that I’ve gotten on board flights with my Leatherman the last several flights I’ve been on (accidentally I might add). So, buh bye nail scissors.

Inside the security area near the gate, there was no ATM or money exchanger, which I sort of assume to find in most international airports. This made for fun times when I arrived in Laos.

Laos, like Vietnam, is in theory a communist country. They require a visa for everyone visiting (unless you are from Japan), but like Indonesia or Papua New Guinea, you can get a visa on arrival. I don’t understand the whole “visa on arrival” thing. I get that they want an extra $30 from tourists. Just charge a fee. The visa ends up taking an entire page in your passport and they collect no information which isn’t on the arrival card.

The fee for Americans is $35 (most countries pay $30. Canada however was charged the most at $42. What did Canada do to piss of Laos??) They take US Dollars just like in Cambodia, but I wasn’t able to exchange my Dong at the Hanoi airport and I had no Laotian Kip on me. They also don’t take credit cards. So me and about 10 other people have to go past the immigration check point to the ATM and come back to pay for their visa. It took about 30 min to get through immigration, and I wasn’t the only one in this boat. It would have been easier to get a Laotian visa in Vietnam.

My hotel is really nice. Maybe the nicest I’ve had on my trip. I’m paying more than I had hoped at $40/night, but a similar room in the US or Australia would run well over $200/night easily. I’m only here for a few days, so I’ll enjoy it.

I arrived after sunset so the Luang Prabang night market was in full swing outside the door of my hotel.

The Town of Luang Prabang also marks the 50th UNESCO World Heritage Site I’ve visited on my trip. Expect a list of my favorites soon.

I only expect to be here for 2 days before heading to Vientiane.

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