You can find more travel links and stories of different places in my camera obscura.
I don't really have any right to claim extensive knowledge of Laos. I present it only as a side trip from Cambodia. If you are reading this early in 1999, the limited information here might at least be fresh.These suggestions are based on my experience at the end of 1998. I flew up from Cambodia, where I live, just after Christmas and left Vientiane on the first plane to leave Laos in 1999, which is "Visit Laos Year". No special treatment on the way out though.
Lao Aviation is said to be one of the most dangerous airlines in the world, with antiquated planes only a loose nut away from falling out the sky. Could be, but they haven't had a crash since 1993, helped no doubt by having so few planes. It's rumored that the United Nations and the Australian Foreign Office forbid their staff from flying on Lao except in emergencies. Domestic flights are said to be the riskiest, as the planes are never checked by technicians at a real airport such as Bangkok's.
Worse than the state of repair of the planes, which didn't bother me a bit, seeing as the none of the ones I was on hit the ground before they were supposed to, is the requirement that you reconfirm your flight from Luang Prabang the day before, and the ludicrous and ignorable instruction to get the airport two hours early.
Reconfirmation takes place in a small office where there is no booking computer (despite the extraordinarily low inter-provincial phone rates), just a mob of people and some guys with handwritten lists and a single telephone. If you don't have much time in Luang Prabang, you will resent spending any of it here.
To/from the airports: Vientiane's Wattay Airport and Luang Prabang's airport are both only ten-minutes from town by taxi. Drivers will attempt to charge you several dollars, but 5000 kip is enough, less if you share. There will be one guy who speaks some English; tell him where you are going and he will make sure your driver knows how to get there.
See also my Camera Obscura, where there are links to lists of Internet access points in Southeast Asia and the world.
In Luang Prabang there is yet another variant on three wheeled transport, a motorbike with a bench seat attached on the side, with an outboard wheel holding the thing up. It's like a lateral sidecar with a little roof on it. You feel a bit like you're sitting in a garden swing--one that's bouncing along the road at 40 km/hr.
In any case, just wave them down and then say where you want to go (or point the way) and pay reasonably at the end: about 1000 kip for any ride under ten minutes or so. All of them, like the aging taxicabs, are neatly and officially labeled with their height, width and length and the maximum number of passengers. This could not be more unlike Cambodia, where I have witnessed eight human beings riding a single motorbike and legal license plates are seen as a bit of a curiosity.
In another mark of sophistication,bicycles are available for rent all over Luang Prabang for next to free. There are also several places to rent motorbikes, at about $7/day. Two of them are within steps of Lao Aviation, another is near the museum.
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