Arriving at Luang Prabang bus station, I felt super excited. I immediately had the feeling that I will love the town. We decided to share a tuk-tuk with 2 french people from the bus station to the city center for 15,000 kip per person. My thought at the time was that it was overpriced, because the distance is only around 2,8 km away. Oh well, because we were all tired from the 11 hours overnight journey on the sleeper bus from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, which started 8.30 pm and arrived at around 7 am, it was all right. Taking the tuk-tuk was better than walking.
We got dropped off exactly in front of Joma Cafe in Luang Prabang and decided to stroll down the alley next to it. I decided to stay at TT First House guesthouse, which was ok, but not amazing. Taking a shower was the first thing that I really wanted to do after checking in to the hotel. Afterwards, before heading out somewhere to find food to eat, I decided to check out the laundry place and drop off some dirty clothes. The first laundry place that I entered said that it was 18,000 kip per kg, that is expensive compared to the rate of 10,000 kip per kg that you can get in Vientiane. Walking further down the road nearer to the Mekong river, I found one guesthouse with a sign “Laundry 9,000 kip / kg.” All right, I went in.
Before I took off my sandals and entered the guesthouse, I heard a man yelling out at me. He literary said, “wait! wait! wait there!”. And I waited. I waited quite a while basically until he had finished his job arranging bicycles outside the guesthouse and arranging clothes to be dried out in the sun. It was quite a long wait, I can tell you. Without smiling and saying sorry for making me wait (for so long), he rudely said “come! Miss! come!”. I was unhappy with his attitude, but maybe he was having a bad day. He took my plastic bag of laundry, weighed it, give me a receipt, asked for the money and said “take 6 o’clock!”. I tried to be positive, smile and try to be as sweet as I could be saying the magic word (the only lao word I can say expect Sabaidee), “Khob Chai!!”. He didn’t even smile at me! He was rolling his eyes and acting busy (or he might have been really busy!). My excitement of arriving at Luang Prabang decreased. It was a shame actually that one laundry man at a guesthouse can ruin your mood.
Strolling around the alley I decided to give a ask about motorbike rental for going to the Tat Kuang Si waterfall the next day. I was surprised. The motorbike rental here is 130,000 kip per day (and it was 70,000 kip per day in Vientiane), it was ridiculously expensive. I walked around several alleys just to found out that the motorbike rental price were all the same! Oh it might be a motorbike rental mafia somewhere in Luang Prabang. Again, my excitement for this lovely town decreased. At that point of time, I started to think that Luang Prabang was a tourist trap! Locals or anyone who works in tourism industry is just trying to rip you off left right and center. I understand that people are trying to make money, but it is just not nice when it is more than the normal price that you know you should be paying.
The next day, I was checking out at the reception in guesthouse. I basically asked how much it usually cost for a tuk-tuk ride to the waterfall and a tuk-tuk ride to the Na Luang bus station. I knew that she couldn’t speak proper English, but she did understand and was able to reply to me. After I asked my questions, she started to act as if she couldn’t speak English, just smiling oddly and saying “No.. No… No…” repeatedly. Umm.. It must be whatever mafia is going on somewhere in Luang Prabang.
Luckily after a bad experiences here and there (I don’t want to tell all of them!) on my first and second day in Luang Prabang, my mood slowly improved and by the third day I started to like Luang Prabang. The initial plan of only staying 3 days in Luang Prabang ended up changing and we stayed 6 days there. So it was good, right?
Have you ever have a bad experience(s) when first arriving in a town and it affected your perception of the city? Share your story with me!