Our flight from Pakse arrived at the Luang Prabang airport about half an hour early, due mostly to an early departure time, which we have found is pretty much the norm for Lao Air. We hadn’t pre-arranged transportation to the hotel so we hired a taxi with a 50,000 Kip fixed price (just over $6 USD) from a stand at the exit door. As we rode to the hotel, we started recognizing places we remembered from our trip to the city 18-months earlier.
We had read glowing reviews so we decided to stay at the Villa Chitdara 2 Guesthouse and couldn’t have been happier with our decision. It is a French Colonial style buidling located on Ounkham Rd right at the Mekong River. To us, it presents the best possible location in Luang Prabang. It’s an easy walk to many of the restaurants, shops and sights we love about the old part of the city yet is located on a relatively quite street. There is no grand lobby or Olympic sized swimming pool but it was a nice place to stay at a reasonable price (about $50 USD for a double room.)
We had room 04, which was the end room on the river side 1 flight up. The room isn’t huge but certainly more than adequate in size. We liked having the option of using a ceiling fan or mini-split style a/c. The room included a small refrigerator, flat screen TV and good Wifi service. The bathroom was modern and very clean. Looking out of the large windows we would see a quiet street and lovely river views. The breakfasts were imaginative and taking it on the riverside patio added to the experience.
But the best part of our stay at Chidara 2 was the service starting with the owner, Mr. Vong. Not only did he help with good suggestions for our daytime and evening activities but early every morning he also generously leads hotel guests to the street on the back side of the guesthouse and guides them on the correct way to give alms to the monks. We went with him on a couple mornings and during a break in the procession of monks, he took us onto the grounds of the temple that was across the street and shared some of his infinite knowledge of the monks’ daily life there.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention how friendly and helpful the rest of his staff also was. Every one from the university kid who manned the desk at night to the young lady that responded with a smile every time we asked for more coffee in the morning were terrific. One other note: prices and service on laundry was also very good at Chitdara 2.
Since we had spent a week there on that previous trip, we had already recently done most of the excursions that most tourists typically go on while in Luang Prabang. We’d gotten up early to see the monks collecting alms, been to the Pak Ou Caves, the whiskey village, several weaving villages, the Kuang Si Falls, walked the 328 steps to the top of Mount Phousi, been to the morning and night markets, several temples and spent a night in an elephant camp. So this trip was more for just a relaxing time and for going back to a few of those things that we had enjoyed the most from before.
The first evening, we met some people from the Vat Pou Cruise we had taken in Pakse for drinks at a water front bar on the Nam Khan river and then dinner at Tamnek Lao on Sakkarine Road, the main drag in Luang Prabang. More on that and other restaurants at our Luang Prabang Restaurants page.
The next day we got up early and went with Mr. Vong to give alms to the monks. We hadn’t bought anything to give and while that is not a necessity, we did want to do something so we found a little store that was already open and bought some cookies and small cakes to give and we settled in for the procession, part of which you can see in this video.
After a lovely breakfast at the hotel and fueled by several cups of coffee, we walked the 2 blocks up to Sakkarine Road to visit a few shops and in search of an ATM machine. We found several down near the Royal Palace Museum, also on Sakkarine Road only about a block or two from the morning market. We did a little shopping including at a couple stores we had bought nice things from on our prior trip.
After lunch and a short nap we hired a tuk-tuk to take us to Ban Xieng Lek weaving and paper making village. It is a only a few kilometers from town so it is possible to walk or take a bicycle over the bamboo bridge to get there but we anticipated buying a few things and thought having the tuk-tuk would be a lot easier. While the walk would have been about 1.5 miles, the tuk-tuk ride was much longer but it did give us the chance to see more of the city.
There is a small museum with a shop near the entrance to the village but we saw better things at the different workshops we stopped in as we took a leisurely stroll through the village. We bought a few pieces of the locally produced mulberry paper and a few pieces of silk including some in the traditional Ikat (aka mutmee) pattern. Note that in most shops, prices are very much negotiable.
Click here to see a short video we shot inside a show room at a very nice textile store in Ban Xieng Lek.
That evening we met our friends from the cruise again for dinner; this time under a tent at a no-name restaurant serving Lao style bar-b-que soup and then detoured by way of the night market on the way back to our hotel.
The next day, we set off for a 1-day visit to the Jewel Travel Elephant Camp.