Published: June 26th 2012January 30th 2012
Main Street of Phonsavan
Excitement today as we are to fly out to Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars. Breakfast was had in the hotel restaurant and as our flight didn't leave until the afternoon we took a wander through the back streets near our hotel.
There are quite a few wats and many bakeries within walking distance of the hotel. We stopped off to have coffee and pastry at a little French bakery in one of the streets of the main road. The coffee was so horribly strong and sweet. I had forgotten they made it with condensed milk, reminded me why I only ever drink tea in SE Asia.
We wandered the streets taking photos of every day life in Vientiane until it was time to head back to our hotel for the taxi ride to the airport. As we had to return to Vientiane to catch our flight back to KL we booked to stay at the same hotel again as they offered us the same deal as we had got through Agoda for the same lovely room.
We arrived at the domestic airport which is in the building right next door to the international airport. It was a
White Orchid Guest House - Phonsavan
little bit confusing at first as to where to go but we figured it out and checked our bags in. Somehow Stephen's bag had gained 2 kilos in weight but my was still the same. He was adamant the scales were wrong and maybe they were because he hadn't bought anything from Vientiane.
Lunch was then a priority. The only food place we could see was a little local eatery inside the terminal. The food was very reasonably priced...cheap in fact....and was very, very good. The biggest bowl of chicken noodle soup and half a baguette...who could complain. All for the grand price of $2.
To go through to the departure lounge it was necessary to pass through a customs like procedure where they recorded information from your passport plus the inevitable baggage and security scan. The staff were extremely efficient and quite pleasant. The departure lounge contained a small restaurant but the prices were heaps more expensive then the little one outside. The departure lounge soon filled up as it was quite tiny and the waiting area for more than one departure. When our plane was eventually called everything proceeded very quickly. There was a particular order and it was not to be deviated from. The plane trip itself was very short...only about half an hour from start to finish. I would certainly fly Lao Airlines again.
The scenery from the plane was pretty spectacular as we climbed from Vientiane to the much higher altitude city of Xien Khouang. The plane landed at the almost deserted dusty airport...the only other aircraft there was a military helicopter. There was quite a wait for the baggage to be brought in. No fancy revolving baggage handling here. It was simply a matter of pointing to your bag and showing your baggage stub. We were chatted to be a local tout at the airport who offered us a ride into town. I can't recall what the price was but it was standard for transport from the airport. The airport is a distance from town and the tout was happy to drop us at our pre-booked accommodation The White Orchid. He would have been disappointed that we were not going to book any tours with him but we had already decided to shop around the tourist agents on the main street.
The guest house was a bit old and tired but pretty much resembled the photos we had seen and the reviews of other travels. The staff though were extremely friendly, even if some did have a little bit of difficulty with English. We met a pleasant German fellow who like us was a bit more than twenty and after striking up a conversation with him decided that we would share the cost of the tours to the Plain of Jars and other sites. The extremely pleasant Hmong guide who was in the guest house showed us what they could offer and after a bit of discussion we decided to book the tours with the guesthouse. We hired them for two days and organised our own itinerary with them. It turned out to be a great decision as we all clicked, us, a new German friend and our lovely Hmong tour guide. I think we all had a good time over the next two days.
We checked out the immediate area and the local markets as usual. We wandered into the MAG office and had a look at the photos and children's art but didn't stay to watch the videos on UXO's. I had read a fair a bit about this organisation on the internet so we were quite happy to leave a donation without viewing all the gruesome reasons for their existence.
Dinner that night was at Craters and even though it gets quite a write up we found the food to be fairly overrated and expensive for what it was, but each to there own I suppose. Phonsavan seemed a fairly quiet town so it was an early night. The temperature had also dropped and it was now pleasantly cool....not as cold as we had anticipated but it was a pleasant change from the heat and humidity of Vientiane.