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Luang Prabang - overrated - a haven for older tourists

UK
Level Contributor
488 posts
240 reviews
Luang Prabang - overrated - a haven for older tourists

I dreamed of visiting Luang Prabang prior to my visit. For me, it encapsulated everything I pictured about Laos - beautiful dreamy countryside, simple kindhearted people, a place devoid of tourists with monks walking the streets. This was perhaps Luang Prabang circa 2002 - now, welcome to, as another TA poster commented, the Laos disneyland. Perhaps, not quite as bad as that, but imagine my surprise when I discovered that Vientiane was far more interesting! The place everyone comments about saying, 'oh, don't bother with Vientiane if you don't have much time'.

Vientiane did not have as many tourists and it felt more undiscovered and unique. The main street in Vientiane is far more atmospheric and authentic than LP and more interesting at night. You can pop into a temple in VT without barging through a thousand others click-clicking and paying for the privilege. You can talk to ordinary smiling Laos people and drink beer without staring at other tourists.

Luang Prabang is undoubtedly beautiful and the sight of the monks on alms giving at 6am is humbling despite the frenzy of tourists snapping into their faces and disrespecting their ancient traditions. Luang Prabang is still magical. But four days is too long there - three days is more than enough time to see the town. The main street is full of tacky adventure tour shops, guesthouses and unauthentic restaurants. A lot of the town is geared towards the middle-aged traveller who wishes to spend exorbitant amounts of money dining in fine restaurants and staying in nice hotels.

I decided early on in my stay that LP was not the real Laos, but a tourist enclave designed to assuage the appetites of bourgeois Europeans looking for their ideal of the 'exotic'. How sad, but perhaps unsurprising given its UNESCO heritage status. All I hope is that VT is not spoilt in a similar way. Despite the above, I still enjoyed my time in LP - anyone interested in volunteering should check out the Little Mouse bookshop which arranges for English teaching and sending books to disadvantaged areas. There are still things to do off the beaten track such as cycling across the main bridge and discovering other temples.

Falls Church...
Level Contributor
1,281 posts
265 reviews
1. Re: Luang Prabang - overrated - a haven for older tourists

so what is the matter with older tourists????? I am one of them & I can assure you we are not interested is staying in expensive hotels & eating in expensive restaurants. We like to meet locals & get to see the real countries we are in- not a fancy tourist viewpoint.

We have traveled all over the world ( have YOU???) & we have been able to do this BECAUSE we travel economically.

We will be in LP in a few weeks & I will report on my finds.

Frankly, your age is showing in this post. Why should we older people trust YOUR travel opinion when you do not have the travel experience those of us older do? We travel independently, lived abroad for 7 years & probably have MORE travel experience than you are old.

Be careful what you say here- you are offending a lot of us older folks & it doesn't have a place here on this forum.

Just my opinion of course.

For those of us older folks out there- I WILL report my findings here on TA on LP & everywhere else in our 6 week tour of Asia! We will be in Bkk, CM, CR, LP, SR, PP & Singapore & our trip starts January 18.

Kurashiki, Japan
Destination Expert
for Kurashiki, Cambodia, Myanmar
Level Contributor
16,139 posts
92 reviews
2. Re: Luang Prabang - overrated - a haven for older tourists

About time someone finally feels the vibe of Vientiane! Good on you, Londoner! :-)

Re: the Disneyland factor-

try visiting during the off-season and you will revel in the solitude. You can avoid the mini-vans of package tourists stopping off to get that Kodak moment with the monks and also avoid the throngs at the night market.

Re: the age bracket comment- I have noticed heaps more hippy-type folks in their 20s there than older folks, probably people heading to/from Vang Vieng to do some tubing. The older visitors are at least more quiet and don't seem to feel they need to drink till all hours of the night or go looking for drug-laced milkshakes...

lewes uk
Level Contributor
10,730 posts
206 reviews
3. Re: Luang Prabang - overrated - a haven for older tourists

Interesting post, so your view of Luang Prabang is that;

"A lot of the town is geared towards the middle-aged traveller who wishes to spend exorbitant amounts of money dining in fine restaurants and staying in nice hotels."

And we middle-aged travellers spend ages slagging off Vang Vieng as a place full of young people only interested in drink, drugs and pizza...

thank heavens for the generation gap eh? Interestingly, it's hard to say which place has changed more in the last decade so I think we're about even.

I love Vientiane too, I promise not to spoil it if you don't... lol

UK
Level Contributor
488 posts
240 reviews
4. Re: Luang Prabang - overrated - a haven for older tourists

OK, with hindsight, my choice of words wasn't the best. Of course, there are many older tourists who do not fit into the spend a lot of money category. The problem is probably more with package tourists. I agree with the comments about Vang Vieng - one of the reasons I would never go there. Yes, I can see how going off season would be better. I was surprised though, because Siem Reap is touristy but it doesn't exude the same somnolent artificiality of LP. I much preferred the main drag of Siem Reap to the pretence that is main street in LP. I am convinced that if LP was not listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site, not so many people would bother visiting.

UK
Level Contributor
488 posts
240 reviews
5. Re: Luang Prabang - overrated - a haven for older tourists

By the way, DianeER, you may wish to check my travel map on TA before making assumptions about the extent of my travelling experience :)

Kurashiki, Japan
Destination Expert
for Kurashiki, Cambodia, Myanmar
Level Contributor
16,139 posts
92 reviews
6. Re: Luang Prabang - overrated - a haven for older tourists

Londoner-

Did you get a chance to take the ferry across the river and explore the little villages & temples by bicycle? Or walk around the less-visited temples behind Mt Phousi? The package tourists don't head there, very lovely indeed.

UK
Level Contributor
488 posts
240 reviews
7. Re: Luang Prabang - overrated - a haven for older tourists

Yes, I did venture across the main bridge by bicycle and turned left to find a couple of temples and deserted country roads. It was lovely to be away from the crowds and off the beaten track. Unfortunately, we didn't do the other route turning right further on which is meant to be very interesting too!

Australia
Level Contributor
62 posts
8. Re: Luang Prabang - overrated - a haven for older tourists

Hi Londoner016,

As i will be in Laos next month I thank for your well written, honest and insightful post re Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

By the way as a well travelled older person I did not take offence to your reference to older tourists and often travel without a camera.

As for those tourists who spend exorbitant amounts of money maybe they do so because they can and maybe this helps the local economy.

To avoid some of the problems you found annoying could I suggest travel to parts of North Africa, and/or Myanmar.

Travel with care.

Christchurch, New...
Level Contributor
739 posts
10 reviews
9. Re: Luang Prabang - overrated - a haven for older tourists

I myself have read Londoner's reports with much interest and this one is not an exception. I've never been to LP (I wish soon) and this is the very first time I've heard the place is overrated and for older tourists. Well, everyone has his own preference. I'm young and wanting to experience LP myself. Thanks for sharing.

Paul

newcastle
8 posts
1 review
10. Re: Luang Prabang - overrated - a haven for older tourists

Myself and four friends visited Luang Prabang in late October. If this is Disneyland give me more. Luang Prabang is the real deal. It was the former capital of French Laos - the architecture is a joy to the eye. Vientiane on the other hand is communist machismo on steroids - down to the faux Arc De Triomphe on the revolutionary avenue. We stayed at the Beau Rivage Hotel - a smart, small establishment run by an Aussie. We had booked in for three nights. HE told us we could see the best of the city in half a day. And he was right. He even let us cancel our extra nights without a penalty.

Of course Luang Prabang is popular. It goes with the territory. If you're a Londoner you surely understand. We caught the slow boat from Huay Xai via Pakbeng. Mostly young backpackers who seemed to enjoy themselves. Did you travel out to the waterfalls and Moon Bear Santcuary? We would return to Luang Prabang tomorrow and the day afterwards. A unique city offering a truly wonderful perspective of Laotian life.

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