After a day and a half spent in Bangkok Airport trying to get to Laos while flights were being cancelled left and right, We finally made it… but to Chiang Mai!  For some reason, Thai pilots have a really hard time landing in Luang Prabang.  (They almost wouldn’t let us off the plane but a quick call to the American Embassy made sure that an international incident was averted – not kidding)

So Chiang Mai it was and we had to make the best of it and make the best of it we did – then came Luang Prebang!

1. BEST AIRLINES

LAO AIRLINES
www.laoairlines.com

If you are planning a trip to Laos, only fly with Lao Airlines.  For some reason Bangkok Airways just can’t get it right.  Our flights were cancelled but somehow Lao Airlines was landing fine!

2. BEST RESERVATIONS MANAGER

MR. ERIC RUSTON
Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel
Rue Chao Fa Ngum, Banthatluang, Luang Prabang, Phone: 856 71 254609
While Bangkok Airways was messing us about, Mr. Ruston agreed to save a room for us whenever we made it to LP.  Not only did he do that, but he upgraded us to a suite the second night of our stay.  The hotel staff was really stellar.  They prepared an HERBAL BATH for us – no the Cypriot and I didn’t know what it was either.  We opened the door to our bathroom and found the lights had been dimmed, at least 20 candles were lit and the bath was running.  Honey was left by the side of the tub – we weren’t sure what we were supposed to do with that so we just left it.

3. BEST MEAL OF THE TRIP

LES 3 NAGAS
Sakkarine Rd, Luang Prabang, 071/253-888www.3-nagas.com
Before the trip, everyone was like OOOOHHH Thailand – you will gain so much weight, the food is so good….well actually we did not have one good Thai meal. Our meal meal BY FAR was here.  The chef, Yannick Upravan, offers a Lao menu and a Western Menu.  We ate from the Lao one, as we were in Laos,  and everything we ordered from the fried rice wrapped in lettuce leaves, to the lemongrass-marinated chicken, to the chicken, pork & buffalo skin curry was INCREDIBLE!  You do pay for it but it is worth it!

4. BEST BITS: SHOPPING LUANG PRABANG STYLE
Concierge.com and other websites all list the main stores (OckPopTok, Caruso Lao Home Craft, Kopnoi, etc) but you kinda have to like Thai silk – which I don’t – and they are all super over-priced.

Here are a few that I thought were worth it:

NAGA CREATIONS
Sakkarine Rd – the main drag
French-born jeweler Fabrice Munio creates contemporary pieces of jewelry from silver, semiprecious stones, and local silks and sometimes cicada shells. It is really lovely stuff and I could not resist buying a piece.

ME TE SAI
Ban (Village) Aphai, Phone: +856 (0)71 260654
www.matesai.com

Really different Thai Silk items all made locally – beautiful colors – greys and blues.  Not the typical garish fuchsia and greens.

5. BEST MUSEUM IN LP

THE TRADITIONAL ARTS & ETHNOLOGY MUSEUM
www.taeclaos.org
This random museum at the top of an unpaved road leading up a small hill is a treasure trove of history and information, as well as having a great cafe and fabulous shop.  A gaggle of geese crossed our path as we entered, one even nipped at my heels, giving it the whole random Asian middle of nowhere feel.

Plus an added bonus:

6. BEST COOL DOWN

JOMA BAKERY
Th. Chao Fa Ngum
Near the Post Office, on the main street
This cafe and bakery is on every one’s list but what they don’t tell you is that their MINT LEMON FREEZE DRINK is a must! Forget the brioche and baguettes – they do not cool you down in the heat…but this is a winner!