Travel and Escape : Self-Designed
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Travel Time:
October 15-23, 2007

Peripheral Information:
This is the beginning of the dry season as well as the middle of the rice harvest (which last approximately 2 weeks depending on how many family members help with the harvest).
It can still be hot and humid with occasional rains.
The Full Moon festival at the end of Oct. offers candle lit bamboo boats built by the monks which are floated down the Mekong!

Laos has two seasons; the wet season runs from around May to October, and as with many Southeast Asian countries, the wet season is characterized by a downpour for a few hours a day rather than all day torrential rain.
The cool dry season runs from November to February and the hot dry season from March to April.
Mid-October through December may be the best time for active travel as the rivers are still higher and good for river travel and the air is cool and days are relatively clear.
Reviewer Background:
This was the last week of a month trip to SE Asia which began with PATA in Bali, then on to my International OD program in Singapore, then 10 days in Northern Vietnam. I hesitated to even go to Laos and am so glad I did!! I spent the entire week in Luang Prabang and loved it.

Review:
I arrived back last night from a month in Bali, Singapore, Laos and Vietnam. I spent a full week-a lifetime-in Luang Prabang, Laos and loved every minute of it.


Each morning I woke at 6 am and went to my guest house porch to watch the monks passing with the alms baskets. Daily morning fair-trade coffee at a cafe along the muddy waters of the Mekong river. Days were spent biking to local villages or nearby waterfalls and Wats (temples). Afternoon massages and evening conversations with monks and listening to 5:30 pm chants before enjoying tasting local Lao dishes wrapped in banana leaves, accompanied by sticky rice and a big beerlao.


While in Luang Prabang, I stayed at AMMATA GUEST HOUSE 37 KHUNSUA Rd Phonheung village tel (856-71) 212175 or 020-7607304 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (tell them Kathy Dragon says hello!) which I LOVED for $15/night..room 4 on the 2nd floor is a corner room with a nice view of the monks each morning from the lovely porch. Simple rooms have AC. No fridge or tv (or safe...see below!). Great little staff...wonderful pots, flowers, plantings everywhere and outdoor tables to relax at. No breakfast (really, what do you want for $15??. Make sure to go to Saffron Cafe along the Mekong for the best fair trade coffee in town. In the evening try the Big Tree Cafe (smile@bigtreecafe.com) for lunch or dinner. Mi Ja just opened the restaurant and it is very good. Her husband is a photographer so check out the gallery.


My first two nights I had booked Ancient Luang Prabang Hotel across from the night market on the main st. Beautiful rooms and great staff as well as wonderful bakery/mac cafe attached..downside was the rooms on the front are VERY noisy though they offer a private balcony. All rooms have AC, fridge, tv. No safe (why would you need it in LP??). Rooms online are approximately $40 plus booking fee.


Other great places for dinner include Tum Tum Cheng (or Tum Tum Banboo-they have two restaurants now) and Tamarind, both which offer great Lao food as well as cooking classes.The Three Elephant restaurant and Blue Lagoon Cafe (best service in town) are both good. I loved the Sala Cafe...I was the only customer and enjoyed a Lao BBQ (you must experience this...you cook the food on your table with sort of a BBQ/WOK contraption that allows you to steam the veggies and cook the meat/fish.


Other places to stay: For a lower budget, I looked at the Lao Wooden Housee (brand new and very nice) at $30+/night and the Senesouk House (opposite Vatsene temple) at $25-35. The Sayo Guest House has large rooms with very high ceilings (one of the old french houses) and now has two properties, one on the water and one across from one of the Wats (temples). Rooms are from $30.


A must is the SPA GARDEN (they also own the Aroma Spa on main street) which offers more upscale massages than us generally found in LP (fyi: $3/hr Lao massages are not for me...I tried one!). For $15 the aromatherapy massage was excellent and I added another hour of back and shoulder for $5 more.
Best Time to Travel:
Dry Season beginning Oct.
Operators:
North by Northeast Tours
Finally...:
I would definitely go back and spend more time in Loas, heading to the North and visiting the hill tribes in that area as well as the eco resorts.

Reviewed by Kathy Dragon

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Monday, December 19, 2005
Review:
As a frequent guest on my tours once said, before you travel anywhere else you always have to ask yourself, "why not Italy". With incredible diversity of scenery, terrain, food, wines, and SHOPPING take a look at some of our favorites when planning your next visit.

A few places we recommend.. In Florence: Great small B&B/family residence with beautiful rooms in the heart of Florence (no elevator so light on the luggage) Locanda de Ciompi For more of a hotel experience, we recommend the Hotel Silla, excellent service, rooms, terrace and good location. Good restaurants in the area for a local experience: Osteria dei Benci, Osteria del Bricco.

Off to the Hills! Great hill villages in Tuscany away from the crowds: Montefollonico: very small but with 2-3 EXCELLENT restaurants, wine bars and shops. Our good friends property outside of Montalpulciano, you can walk to Montalpulciano for lunch (about 2 hours), come back for a nap, have an aperitif on the deck and enjoy some of the best food we have tasted in Italy. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Website: Locanda la Costa Manager: Paolo & Paola Masini For a bit more action, try the home of Brunello Wines: Vino Brunello di Montalcino! In Montalcino: more Italians vacation here than americans so it is a lively, delightful hill village. Great restaurants, wine bars, shops, a castle (with Burnello tastings offered) and great access to all the more popular tourist villages (Sienna, Montalpulciano, Pienza etc) We enjoy.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

And finally, for a fascinating unique stay visit the town of Bagno Vignoni (old Roman Spa town with the water-filled square) here we recommend Locanda del Loggiato Very small B&B with 6 wonderful rooms. Owned by two sisters. At night enjoy their wine bar across the street.
Send us you personal favorites: Tour companies, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, places you would tell your (good) friends about...

Best Time to Travel:
May/June
September/October
Anytime!!

Reviewed by Kathy Dragon

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