Ms Skinnyfat

A Food & Travel Blog from Singapore

Luang Prabang Laos Guided Tours or Free & Easy

By Wednesday, October 21, 2015 , ,

Random musing about knowledge, power, and money. I'm old school but knowledge is everything. And that is why sometime i would go for selected guided tours on my trips just to learn a bit more. I don't like the idea of leaving my entire itinerary to someone else as there is no flexibility and well i'm just too Type A la. So while on our sleepy holiday in UNESCO World Heritage Site namely Luang Prabang Laos, we did 2 such tours. 
If you travel like i do, and are not quite convinced, here are 3 reasons for going on a guided tour in Luang Prabang specifically. Actually it kinda applies to most guided tours anywhere in the world.

1. Find something that fits your needs
I knew exactly what i wanted to see and didn't want all the nonsense frills (you know the typical visit to some crappy souvenir shop) so i went searching with something specific in mind.
In Luang Prabang, I wanted to visit the Pak Ou Caves and Kuang Si Waterfalls in a day. I shopped around the various tour agencies, some provided separate tours to the 2 spots and that would waste more time (not that there's much to do) and cost more as well. So finally after all that snooping around, we found Green Discovery Laos which fit the bill and we had an English speaking guide who accompanied us. Oh plus they are quite legit (i'm such a sleuth thanks to all the CSI i watch).
2. Comfort & Convenience
If i'm not paying for comfort and convenience, i don't know why else i would want to pay for a guided tour. On our tours, a private pick up would come for us at our hotel to our next transfer/destination. We headed out to the Pak Ou caves in a swanky private long boat (it's teak and brand new).
Huge boat and just 2 of us and the guide and boatman. 
As there wasn't anyone else who signed up for the same tour, we paid 95USD (things are mostly priced in USD here) each for a party of 2. If more people sign up, the price/pax will go down. Think of it as a private tour.
So anyway, it was raining on the day of our tour and i can totally imagine how miserable it would be if we were one of these poor sods in the cold wetness. 
Being the well prepared travelers we are, we brought our own towels and umbrellas. I mean we were going to the waterfalls after all. So anyway we could get cleaned up on the boat and in the car so it was a comfortable excursion despite the horrid weather. 
Lunch was also settled by the guide and we ate at one of the local restaurants at Kuang Si Waterfalls. Food was cooked fresh and it was tasty and cheap. S didn't trust eating at the local spots so we ended up paying tourist prices at the more established restaurants. But with the tour, he didn't get a choice. I was openly gleeful about it. Yay to grilled meats! 

3. You are interested in knowing more than what's written on the info boards
Many of the sights are far away from the city center and you'd be super bored and annoyed if you were to travel 2.5h on a lousy boat to a cave with statues and scanty English descriptions. While i'm not a huge history buff, i learnt some interesting facts about Laos.
Like how Buddhism was brought into LP in 16th century and the country stopped animal worship thereafter. We also learnt that the buddha's hand posture mean different things and how it relates to the history of the caves. Surely one could have found this info online but would you go to that trouble preparing for a holiday? I guess not. Plus, what's the purpose of traveling if you can just read everything online right?
We also did another tour to the Elephant Village, a lovely spot for rescue elephants. There are 14 elephants on the compound and they only work 4-5h a day as compared to the crazy hours if they were logging. These elephants even get off days where they get to roam about in the jungle. Plus they also get daily medical checks. 

So anyway i got my mahout training here. Not bad hur? It's really expensive to keep these elephants (about 20k/yr for the young ones) so your contribution will help. 

Of course, there are also other places/things that you can/should totally just visit on your own here in Luang Prabang.

Daily alms giving procession at 6am
Visit some Vats (temples) 
Vat Vixoun, Vat Xieng Thong, and Vat Sene are the top favorites. They are all the same to me. #sorrynotsorry
Climb Mount Phousi for the best view of the city
It's a mini work out with the steps but it's the best spot for a sunset over the Mekong. 
Shopping at Phousi Night Market
You know you want those backpacker pants which you'll never wear out back home.
Get diarrhea at the Night Street food market with all you can eat buffet for 15000KIP. I warned you. Even the locals advised against it. Unless the food is hot. 

So yeap, my thoughts on guided tours. So would you join one? Or are you the full wing it sort?


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  1. Awesome blog post with great photos to company, may i know when did you visit Luang Prabang?

    Hamid @ laos tour