Pak Beng

Our boat, with the hotel in the background

We had a drive from Muang La to Pak Beng. Pak Beng is the midway point on the Mekong between the Thai border and Luang Prabang. It is therefore used as a staging post for ferries running this section of the river. There is nothing much to see except the mighty Mekong and rural Laos life. It is what it is, a staging post

We stayed at the Sanctuary Pakbeng Lodge Hotel overnight, then took a boat down river to Luang Prabang

Sanctuary Pakbeng Lodge

I should have been wary about a hotel that employs a " Sales & Marketing Manager" to reply to all reviews on TripAdvisor, trying to highlight only the good things about the hotel and ignoring the bad. Madam, I have nothing good to say! I did not see you or any other manager during our stay, there was nobody to care. You want to get out and look after guests staying in the hotel, rather than sitting in an office and doing PR replies

New hotels appear to be being built in the area, which may offer guests a better option for accommodation

This hotel is built in two halves, with some 20 rooms in the original hotel, and 10 newer rooms in a remote area above this higher up the hill. This annex is unmanned most of the day and the promised tuk tuk was never to be seen for transport to the main building, nor are there the means of contacting the hotel reception: no staff and no phone.

On arrival we found that the reception was a good trek from the car park, carrying our bags along corridors and down stairs to get to reception. There a bad tempered man told us we were in the annex, and had to transport our bags back up stairs and along corridors to get to the car park and a tuk tuk to take us up to the annex, where I had to haul our bags up another set of steep stairs to get to our room

Bedrooms are modern , but small, being not much bigger than the bed, with an open plan wash basin area and a cupboard (I jest not, it is a cupboard) as a shower, and another cupboard as a toilet.

The annex is not manned from after breakfast until 5pm - so you cannot get lunch, food or a drink. In fact you cannot get anything as there are no staff and no phone to call reception below.

Dinner is a fixed menu, but you are not privy to what the menu actually is, as nothing is written down, and the staff do not speak English. They plonk down a bowl of nondescript soup, followed by stone cold pork, vegetables and rice, followed by an inedible pudding. Beers were 35 kipp - outrageously expensive for this class of hotel, and they are cynically exploiting a captive market

The junior staff do try to please, but the management really do not care. During dinner for example a "suit" , who claimed to be the office manager, sat on his laptop playing computer games, and not budging to walk round to talk to customers - when we bearded him, he seemed surprised that we thought that he should have moved from his computer.

I was glad to leave this hotel. A more basic hotel that offered charm would have been a better alternative here, rather than this money grabbing approach that lacks any appeal at all.

 

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So we had a walk round Pak Beng in the evening and again in the next morning It is not a big place to walk round, but the temple was a bit further than we thought. Monks begging alms in the mornings are not an exact science, they do not run to an exact schedule. Anyway we did manage to find these two in the cold light of dawn - Louis enquired as to why there were only two, and was told that the rest (a dozen or more) had gone somewhere else that morning. Basically the monks walked down the street, and every so often someone, usually a lady shopkeeper, would offer them food, and would get a blessing in return.

The elephant has virtually disappeared from "the land of a million elephants", as Laos was known 500 years ago. One only sees the odd one theses days, and that only in a few tourist areas where they are used for rides for tourists.. There is such an "elephant camp" opposite Pak Beng, and they bring a few elephants down to the river at dawn and dusk.

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It was an 8 to 9 hour trip down the Mekong to get to Luang Prabang. We had an enormous boat just for us. Complete with beds to lounge on. As always in Laos the day started cold with low cloud, but by midday it had cheered up somewhat. We had two breaks ashore and lunch was served on board

A stop at a Khamu village was strange as around 50 children appeared to see us arrive - no adults. Then the children just melted away. We were told that they were checking to see if we were of the type of tourist who brings sweets for children, and when they saw that we were not, they lost interest

A stop at the Buddha cave neat Luang Prabang, claims to have, and doubtlessly does have, thousands of Buddhas.

We enjoyed the lunch as we motored downstream. Many hours after leaving Pak Beng, we pulled into Luang Prabang in the late afternoon. We passed countless buffalo along the banks of the Mekong, the odd gold panner, not as many native villages as I might have expected, no town, the odd tourist boat and commercial boat on the river but not many, and we knew we were getting back to tourist land when we saw a few elephants

 

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On to Luang Prabang

Our Cambodia and Laos Holiday

All Our Holidays