Laos is a small exotic state in Southeast Asia. It is theoretically possible to get from Russia to Laos by car, but for this, you will first have to cross Kazakhstan and China. It is better to fly by plane to the Vietnamese capital, and a small short-haul Vietnam Airlines plane flies regularly from Hanoi to the Lao city of Luang Prabang. The air part of the journey takes a little more than an hour. The best time to visit the country is from November to February, when monsoon rains subside.
Only with a driver
Laos is visa-free for Russians. Upon arrival at the airport, it is enough to fill out a migration card and present it with the passport to the border guards. It is important to remember that the validity of the passport must be at least six months from the date of the intended end of the trip! Border guards put an entry stamp in their passports allowing them to stay in the country for up to two weeks. You must pay an airport fee of $ 10 upon departure. You can pay with both American currency and local bales.
At Luang Prabang Airport, there are no European car rental companies that are familiar to Europeans. There are none in the city itself. To travel around the country by car, you have to take a car with its owner. For trips around the city, it is enough to hire a songtheo - pickup truck with a driver. Rent will cost a mere penny. If you want to steer yourself, you can always negotiate with the driver and switch places. At the hotel and travel agencies you can rent a motorcycle for 96, 000 bales per day (250 rubles) or a bicycle for 20, 000 bales (about 50 rubles). Favorite city transport is the legendary Asian tuk-tuk. This is a scooter or motorcycle with a canopy, under which a chair is installed for two or three passengers. It got its name thanks to the characteristic sound made by a two-stroke engine. No less common are the Songthaeo pickup trucks mentioned above, acting as urban minibuses. Their covered body holds up to 12 passengers.
You can not be dispersed
The largest cities of the country are connected by asphalt roads, but in order to get to some mountain village, you need a jeep. In Luang Prabang, the quality of roads is the same as in Russian provincial cities. Laos, like us, comes from socialism. Moreover, this country is still in it now - private entrepreneurs are working here under the leadership of the Communist Party.
Lao drivers are quite law-abiding - here you will not find reckless or lovers to slip into the red light. Although, in the opinion of the Russian, it is very difficult not to violate, since the speed limit in settlements is 30 km / h, and outside of them it is quite often not allowed to drive at a speed of 40 km / h.
Such restrictions are most likely caused by a large number of mopeds, scooters and tuk-tuk on roads that do not pretend to be a high-speed driving mode and pose a dangerous obstacle to cars. In Laos, there is a sharp stratification among the owners of transport: on the one hand, a huge number of owners of mopeds, on the other hand, a small number of owners of expensive foreign cars. As a rule, they drive jeeps Toyota, Subaru, Mitsubishi, etc.
On the roads, you can often meet police officers. Drivers are frankly afraid of them, although the fines for violating traffic rules in Laos are not too high by Russian standards. If you drove into the red light for the first time, you will have to pay 48, 000 bales (125 rubles), for a second trip the amount increases to 190, 000 bales (500 rubles), the third time the culprit pays 480, 000 bales (1250 rubles) and loses the driver’s license right Is it a lot or a little? A local doctor receives 770, 000 bales per month (2, 000 rubles), and a market trader can earn up to 5 million bales (12, 500 rubles). By the way, doctors, in addition to salaries, have benefits - free communication and gasoline for their own transport.
Traffic signs in Laos are similar to the European ones, but have Asian features. For example, the STOP character can only be recognized by its hexagonal shape. What is written on a red background, the European perceives as a set of wavy lines. The sign “Children” shows a dad holding a daughter by the hand. Attention is drawn to signs on passenger vehicles - “3P”, “6P”, “12P”. They indicate the maximum number of passengers.
There are many gas stations on the roads. For a liter of gasoline, on average, they ask for 9, 600 bales (25 rubles), for diesel fuel - 8, 600 bales (22 rubles). Not only local currency, but also dollars are in use. American money is readily accepted not only in the market (handing over change also to American), but also in restaurants and shops. But the European currency is mistrusted. It can be exchanged only at exchange points.
Lizard on the ceiling
Luang Prabang is the oldest city in the country. For 600 years, it was the capital of Laos, and now has become a tourist mecca. With a population of just under 30 thousand people, the city has 30 operating monasteries, which creates a certain flavor. The abundance of monks in Laos is caused, in particular, by the fact that every male resident over the age of eight must spend some time in the monastery, strictly following the 227 monastic commandments. Someone here for a month or two, and some spend their whole lives. Undoubtedly, life in a Buddhist monastery leaves an imprint for life, forming certain character traits of the Laotians and, above all, peacefulness.
The most colorful is the central street of the capital - Sisavangwong. With many restaurants, souvenir shops and, of course, massage parlors. It is impossible to visit Asia and not do a real oriental massage. Prices and range of services in different stores are almost the same. They offer foot, head, neck massage, general massage and acupuncture. The cost of one hour of unearthly pleasure is 38, 000–48, 000 bales (100–125 rubles). An acupuncture session will cost more - 96, 000 bales (250 rubles).
Lao cuisine is very good. On Sisavangwong Street, restaurants are designed for European tourists, so the rooms are clean, the service staff is tidy.
Many restaurants are styled in antiquity - the walls and ceiling are sheathed in dark lacquered wood. The furniture is wooden, massive. At the entrance to the wall are Buddha images, illuminated by the light of electric candles. Waiters walk barefoot, and quite large lizards sometimes run across the ceiling.
Lao soup can be a herb boiled in boiling water, resembling a quinoa. Ginger is added to it, which gives the dish a special aroma and freshness. Such a soup quenches thirst well. Luang Prabang's signature dish is Lam - a meat soup with chili sauce, buffalo skin, basil and other spices.
The choice of main dishes is quite large. But especially delicious is Chikken with Lao Curry - chicken cooked with ginger in coconut milk. It is served in small bowls with boiled potatoes and carrots. A feast is impossible without rice - the waiter delivers it in a large silver cup and adds it to the plate as soon as it ends. In a restaurant in the city center, a serving of soup will cost 15, 000 bales (40 rubles), a salad - 20, 000 bales (50 rubles), a second dish - 25, 000 bales (65 rubles). Lunch with drinks will cost about 200 rubles.
Of the drinks among foreigners, the local Beer Lao beer in large bottles with a capacity of 0.64 liters is very popular. Of the strong drinks they offer local rice vodka "Lao Lao" with a strength of 50 degrees. A real dessert is a chilled cocktail of freshly squeezed papaya juice and milk. Laotians themselves prefer green tea to coffee. One should be careful with drinking water in Laos - it is better not to drink from the water supply, but to buy bottled in the store.