Luang Prabang Airport
Our flight to Luang Prabang
was 8.55am the next morning; therefore our guide would pick us up at 6.45am from the hotel. We had a quick 15 minutes breakfast (as breakfast at the hotel only starts from 6.30am) off we went to Hanoi Noi Bai airport.
It took a long time for the immigration officer to inspect Charlie’s passport. I knew something was not right. The immigration officer left his desk with Charlie’s passport. He came back and told Charlie to wait aside then started to inspect my passport. Mine was OK but I told him I would have to wait for Charlie. Another immigration officer turned up, using his not so good English, explaining to Charlie he could not come back to Vietnam with his “multiple entries” visa.
Luang Prabang Airport
We tried to show him the 15 days allowance and the mistake of same day departure/arrival date on the visa; his didn’t like it! This took awhile because he did not understand a lot of English! He then brought us to the immigration office and told us to wait. He won’t let us leave but our plane was going to leave soon!! Another immigration officer turned up with the passport, using his better English telling us that Charlie could not come back to Vietnam with his visa. I was panic; therefore I called the travel agent and asked her to talk to this immigration officer. After a few minutes, problem solved! She told us she had arranged another single entry visa when we come back to Vietnam. I am so glad we had a tour booked with the local tour operator to help us with this problem as none of us speak Vietnamese! It was that easy, after all the explanations and waiting.
Luckily we still had about 5 minutes before boarding. It was funny when Charlie told me he was panic too because the immigration officer is an older person and Charlie thought that he might hate American. Or the American might have killed his family during the Vietnam war…
It was a smooth one hour journey. Once we landed, already I could feel the heat. It was 37Cº/99Fº dripping with sweats walking towards to Luang Prabang Airport. It is not as big as Hanoi Noi Bai Airport. There were only one immigration counter and one conveyer belt for baggage claim. We had to find a counter for Charlie’s application for visa on arrival. It was easy, we saw it the minute we entered; it was on our left hand side. We were the first in line. Filled up and submitted the form with one passport size photo and $35 in cash.
Vat Visoun "gate"
There was one guy behind us looked confused, I was trying to help him by telling him this is the line for visa application before going to the immigration but he raised his hand to stop me from talking. Charlie told me not to bother, if people do not wish you to help them, let them be. I saw him waited in the line for immigration check and 10 minutes later, he was back to our line! If he would have listened to me, he won’t have to waste so much time. Perhaps man always thinks that woman can’t help. When we were waiting to collect our passport, there were this Australian couples applying visas with no photo. I was like : you don’t want to piss these immigration guys off, not a good idea. I was surprised to hear the following conversation: “We don’t have a photo” “We will have to fine you!” “How much?” “One Dollar!” I was like: What??!! Our photos cost more then $1 .
We could kind of feel that the Laos people are lazy, I mean not bad lazy, they took their own sweet time to do things, never rush. Here is why I said that: When we submitted Charlie’s visa application form, the officer took it and waited for awhile (which I still don’t know why) then he went back to the room and started to continue his movie. Yes, he was watching movie from his computer. Then there were two more officers entered the room, one took care of the application line and the other one went inside the room. I forgot how long it was, finally, Charlie got his visa and we then proceed to the immigration line.
Our guide Mr. Kent greeted us with his big smile. He is so tiny! His English is better then the Hanoi guide though. As it was only 10am in Luang Prabang, we could not check into the hotel this early.
Watermelon Stupa - That Mamok
Mr. Kent brought us to visit Vat Visounnarath or Vat Visoun, the oldest temple in Luang Prabang. It was built in 1515 and rebuilt in 1898 after the invasion of the Chinese Black Flag Army. There were a lot of golden Buddha statues inside the temple but the one that caught my eyes was a stupa outside the temple. The local named it as That Makmo, in Laos’s language mean Watermelon, built by the queen of then king. We also learned a little more about the different meanings of Buddha statues with different gestures. For example, a Buddha that holds up his both hand means “Stop the War”. Buddha with both hands down means “Asking for Rain”.
Another thing that caught my eyes was a long bridge like wooden thing in a shape of a 3 heads dragon placed inside the temple. According to the guide, the people pour water on it tail and the water would flow through the body and comes out from it heads and down to some Buddha statues that placed underneath it heads. This means to “bath” the Buddha. I find it very interesting indeed.