DAY 1: SEPANG
This trip had a rough start. I had a really terrible morning. I didn’t have a lot of time before I had to leave the house. (FYI: I came from my shift at work.) It rained when I left the house – I didn’t bring an umbrella cause I only had a carry-on and I’m afraid it will not be allowed. I went to Comembo to do a last minute money change – but failed. I had to withdraw a few hundreds from BPI cause I didn’t have any smaller bill for the taxi. I had a hard time getting a cab to the airport. All these happening while raining. By the time I was able to flag a cab, my parka and my hair were drenched. Thank you kind-hearted cab driver for not minding my sorry state. LOL. It was a little traffic on C5 but once we got inside McKinley, it was smooth-sailing from there. I was in NAIA 3 in like 30 minutes.
When I got to the AirAsia counters, I was pissed because there was only one line for everyone. Like it was pointless if you did web check-in cause you have to queue with everyone else. I queued for about 45 minutes and I was done with everything including immigration in an hour. I only got to breathe when I got to the boarding area. What a morning! All I could think of then was that I was hungry but wasn’t able to buy any food.
The flight got delayed for more than hour. We left at around 2:00 PM I think and arrived in Malaysia at around 5:00 PM. Up to this point, I was already hungry and tired from all the unfortunate things that have happened. We were booked into a hotel not too far from the airport. We didn’t get to research how to go there from the airport but I remember reading that there’s a free shuttle from KLIA / KLIA2 to Mitsui Outlet Park. We figured we’d have dinner there first, then get a cab from there to our hotel. We didn’t have any ringgit on us due to my failed escapade in the morning so we did that at the airport. The exchange rate was pretty good. I mean, it wasn’t that far from my computation – which is the total opposite when Mine and I were in Bangkok.
First rule of this trip: Never doubt your research. Second rule: Don’t believe random manongs. We have confirmed the next schedule on the time table and have walked to Bay 9 to wait for the bus. When we got to the transportation bay, there was a sign that says “drop-offs only” and a guy who confused the heck out of us. He was saying that it’s only from KLIA so we’d need to get on a bus from KLIA2 to KLIA and catch the free shuttle to MOP from there. (Spoiler alert: He’s wrong!) We went back inside and asked the guy at the information desk, who confirmed that the shuttle is coming at 6:30 PM and we just need to wait for a yellow bus at Bay 9. Two minutes later, the bus was there (on time!) so we got on and enjoyed the view of the trees lined up everywhere along KLIA.
We got to MOP around 20 minutes later cause we still had to go to KLIA to pick up some more passengers before heading to MOP. We had dinner at the food court – our first meal of the day! I just had chicken rice and iced milo. When in Malaysia, must drink iced milo. 🙂 We planned on dropping by Uniqlo since they had a sale but after dinner, the sky went dark real quick so we decided to just head to the hotel and call it a night. We took a taxi from MOP to our hotel and we for there around 10-15 minutes later. The location is pretty good.
We checked in at Adiff Palace Hotel (after waiting for the Korean guy with his lengthy kuda) before 8:00 PM. We booked the hotel because they have a 4-hour stay which is really cheap. Our two friends booked that room since they will be arriving in KLIA at 9:00 PM and will be taking an early morning flight. We decided to book another room in the same hotel so we can all go to the airport together. It’s a very small hotel and the room was pretty small, too but it does the job. I personally liked their bathroom. The door was really cute. There’s also a rack where you can hang your clothes and it has several hangers. It was pretty useful for me because my jacket got super wet on my way to the airport that morning and I was able to dry it off in the hotel room overnight. They have free toiletries – I admit to taking the comb and toothpaste with me. Hahaha. The hotel is really close to the airport and that’s a major plus for us. We decided to book the airport transfer with them. It’s RM50 but there were four of us so it’s not a bad deal. There’s a 7-11 and restaurants beside the hotel and my friends told me that they have really cheap and delicious food and drinks. My friend is obsessed with their coffee. I had a pretty good sleep. It’s quiet and comfortable. Too bad, we had to wake up at around 3:30 AM cause our flight to Vientiane’s at 6:40 AM.
DAY 2: VIENTIANE
Glad that everything’s more smooth-sailing that morning! We woke up just in time for our airport shuttle and we even had time to take selfies at the hotel!
We didn’t have any problem with checking in, we just went straight to immigration. Everything was done swiftly and we even had time to buy some breakfast. I love KLIA 2! 🙂
Another 3 hours and we’re in Vientiane! I slept during the whole flight! Yaaaay. They’re an hour behind so it wasn’t even 9:00 AM when we arrived.
Wattay International Airport is a really small airport. It reminds me of Clark Airport before its improvements. First order of business is money exchange. The exchange rate is also pretty good! Ok, a tip before going to Laos if you’re coming from the Philippines, bring USD. They won’t be able to change PHP to LAK. We’re lucky to have seen a tuktuk outside the airport. Ok, here’s the tricky part. In Vientiane and in Vang Vieng, there are two bus stations – depending on where you’re going. We pointed to a bus station on the map we printed out but it turns out that it’s a different bus station. The one we need to go to is the North Bus Station since we’re going north – to Luang Prabang. The North Bus Station is actually farther. At this point, we were confused whether we’ll go to the bus station or just go to the B&B we booked for our last day and just buy tickets from them. The tuktuk driver insisted that we go to the bus station first and after much deliberation, we agreed. We bought tickets at the bus station, the sleeper bus to Luang Prabang costs LAK130,000 each (that’s around PHP780, cheaper than the sleeper bus to Bicol!). We asked if we could leave our bags at the bus station but we looked around and there’s no place to do that. The guy at the bus station told us we can leave our bags in the bus – we didn’t think that was safe at all.
So we went back to the tuktuk driver and decided to hire him for the day until 6:00 PM. We agreed to his price of LAK500,000. That’s a lot of money I think but there were four of us so we only paid LAK125,000 each. Technically, it’s his income for the entire day so we thought it was fine. If we didn’t have our bags with us, it would be easier to do the city tour since we can just rent a bicycle and go around the city with that. But since we have out luggage with us, that would be difficult. At least we were relaxed inside the tuktuk and he already knew where to go so it was convenient. Looking back at it now, I would still value convenience over trying to save a little money but having a hard time touring Vientiane. Also, it was so hot during that time. So in the end, he took us back to the city and started the tour. The tuktuk driver could only speak English very very little and there are times when communication was really difficult but we got through it. We even managed to have small talks from time to time.
First stop was Lao People’s Army History Museum. There was no one else around. There was no guard, maybe because it was Saturday? I’m not sure. When we got inside, there was a girl who provided us tickets but she only spoke Lao. (Admission fee is LAK5,000.)There was another girl who I think is the tour guide but I think she can only speak Lao as well that’s why she didn’t escort us around. There’s a locker where you need to leave your things, you can’t take photos of anything inside the museum. Anyway, we were on our own. They just turned the lights on on the second floor so we can roam around the museum. Honestly, I don’t know a lot about Laos’ history. All I know is that it was colonized by French and up until recently, they’re a communist country so they’re just opening their country to foreigners. I’m not even sure if I got that right. I got to know the country a little thanks to the many photos (with English captions that are pretty understandable), although some of them are still only in Lao so we don’t really have a good grasp on what happened. We can’t really figure out when they actually became independent from France cause I think they got colonized over and over again. There was also a period where in they were in a war with Vietnam and Thailand. This is why Laos is heavily influenced by Vietnamese and Thai culture as well. I guess I’ll just read up on Wikipedia some time to get to know Laos more. When we were about to go, a Korean guy approached us and knew we were Filipinos by the way we were speaking to each other. Turns out, he lived in the Philippines for 12 years and even went to Brent in Baguio and finished college in Benilde. We ended up talking for a while – he was really talkative but very insightful. He’s well-travelled and he was the one who told us about this other waterfall in Luang Prabang, which is Tad Sae. Really super glad we met him! We had to say goodbye to him cause we were all getting hungry. LOL.
We had lunch next. Our tuktuk driver took us to this cute little place called Mari Rose Restaurant. I just love this place! They had welcome drinks, which is like gulaman here in the Philippines. After a while, they gave us a whole pitcher so we didn’t have to order drinks. When we finished that pitcher, they gave us another one. Seriously, we only had to pay for food. Their food is also really affordable. We all ordered different kinds of fried rice and it only costs LAK15,000 per plate. I asked for fried egg which only cost me an extra LAK2,000. The owner also speaks English so it was easy to ask for things. We also met her very cute pug, Puki. She also taught us a few Lao words. Ok, just one – Nang nang, meaning sit sit! Haha. Definitely had a satisfying first meal in Laos.
Mari Rose Restaurant is located in That Luang Village so went to That Luang next. We actually didn’t know what that place was when the driver took us there. It was a very large place. Like there’s a main temple – That Luang, then there’s another temple across the street, then beside it was a huge house – I don’t know who lives there or what its purpose is – but it’s super beautiful. And then across the open plaza, there’s another temple where there’s a reclining Buddha. I wanted to roam around some more but it was after lunch, I was full and it was super hot so Celine and I went back to the tuktuk not long after.
Our next stop was what I’ve been waiting for all day – Patuxai! I’ve been seeing the signs all day so I just couldn’t wait for it anymore. So Patuxai is not just an Arc de Triomphe replica, there’s also a park around it where people can bike around, or just chill and read a book. You can also go on top of it to view the whole city. We didn’t do it though, knowing how lazy we are. Hahaha. We don’t like stairs. LOL. Too bad, it was never finished. It looks beautiful just as it is nevertheless.
Next stop was Wat Prakeo. It’s another temple, and you could go up to view the whole place. Again, since we hate stairs, we didn’t go up. We just went around, took photos and went on to the next temple.
We went to Wat Sisaket next – this is definitely my favorite out of all the temples we visited. They have really old stupas inside the temple and they’re just randomly placed in between the monk’s houses. It was pretty cool. It is also home to 38,000 different Buddhas.
Next stop is the Presidential Palace. This is quite a disappointment. Sure, it looks nice from the outside but that’s just it, you can only look from outside the gate, you can’t go inside. At least our Malacanang Palace or even the White House has some areas that are open to public.
Another one of my favorite during our Vientiane day trip is That Dam. It’s too bad I can’t get a nice picture with it though. Everything was against the light and I looked like a patient because of my face mask. My cough got worse that afternoon.
At that point, we though we’ve had enough day tour and we went to at least two more temples but we didn’t really enjoy it anymore. Celine and I had some afternoon drinks at Cafe Amazon – Laos’ version of Starbucks. Ok, what’s great about Laos is that they definitely support local stores. They don’t have foreign restaurants and stores like 7-11, McDonalds, Starbucks etc. Probably the only well-known franchise I’ve seen is Dairy Queen. Oh, and they do have Lotteria, which is located beside Samsung. Makes sense since they’re Korean companies.
After getting refreshed with some cold drinks, we went to the baywalk to watch the sunset. From there, I knew that this would be a very relaxing trip. Watching the sunset from the Mekong River is just one of the best things ever. This was purely accidental. We wanted to watch the sunset in Luang Prabang but we ended up doing it in Vientiane on our second day. The location too is quite interesting because if you look on the other side of the Mekong River, you’re looking at Thailand. I though that was pretty cool.
We then proceeded back to the bus station for our 8:00 PM overnight trip to Luang Prabang. We got there pretty early so we washed up a little bit at the toilet, I changed into more comfy flipflops. We then had a simple dinner in one of the cafeterias there while waiting to board the bus.
I am pretty impressed with the sleeper bus situation in Laos. It’s a lot better than the sleeper bus we tried when we went to Naga. Not that we weren’t satisfied with that but this experience was just so much better. They encourage people to leave their bags in the cargo area of the bag so it wouldn’t take too much space in the bed. It’s organized because they give you some sort of ticket for baggage claim so rest assured, it’s safe in there. Before boarding the bus, you have to take off your shoes or slippers cause the bus is carpeted. They will give you a plastic bag for your footwear. They also came with snacks and blanket – this is the best part since I decided not to bring one for this trip. I slept not too long after and it was definitely comfortable. When I woke up again, it was already 6am and we were in Luang Prabang. ^^
Photo credits: Aside from mine (of course), Celine Ann Flores and Minerva Adagao.