Tourist First

Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Welcome to Steve Bailey's Tourist First. You can use the search function in the upper left corner of this screen to look for particular destinations. You can also simply scroll through the more than 100 postings. Or you can click on one of the terms below to find postings on a variety of topics and destinations.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Airlines' Caste System

     In recently booking flights online for us from Baltimore to Panama for January 2014, my wife and I ended up several rows apart.  Jane, who did the booking, was paying cash for her ticket and using miles for mine.  The miles upgraded me to something like "economy elite," in row 16, leaving Jane back in steerage in rows 20, 22, or 24 on different legs despite attempts to choose different seats.   We hope we can work something out at the gate so that we're sitting together.
    While it's disappointing that American Airlines is trying to turn our marriage into a class struggle, it's just a sign of the times.  In the Sunday, July 7, 2013, New York Times, the novelist, editor and biographer James Atlas wrote about the airlines' slicing and dicing of its passengers into various classes with wildly different flying experiences although all are on the same plane.  Click HERE for a link to his article.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Southeast Asia: Air Fares and More

Lao Airlines was one of several small carriers my wife and I used on our winter 2012-13 trip to Southeast Asia.

We booked all of our flights ourselves over the Internet, months in advance. Air travel in Southeast Asia is not that different from flying within the United States. Each airline's crew spoke their national language, of course, but the second language for announcements was always English.

Passengers who buy tickets online are expected to print and keep their e-ticket confirmations, which are taken to the airport and presented at check-in.  We discovered that boarding passes for Lao Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Cambodia Angkor Air and Bangkok Airways were not available online, though you might be instructed to go online the day before to confirm your flight. And, if you get to the airport early, you may have to wait to get the boarding pass there: check-in is usually not available until three hours before a flight. Though most of the flights we were on were full, we saw no sign of the overbooking that's common among U.S. domestic carriers.

Other differences have to do with routes and ticketing.  Cambodia Angkor Air, for example, had a daily flight from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, two popular tourist stops in Cambodia.  But it did not offer a fight from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap.  Passengers would have to buy a Sihanoukville-to-Phnom Penh ticket and then a Phnom Penh-to-Siem Reap ticket -- and most likely they'd have to collect and recheck their baggage when changing planes.

Vietnam Airlines had the same problem with multi-leg flights.  We wanted to fly from Danang, Vietnam, to Phnom Penh, Cambodia,  both cities served by Vietnam Airlines. We'd have to go through Ho Chi Minh City. The tickets for each leg had to be purchased separately.  In Danang, we were told we would have to pick up and recheck our checked bags in Ho Chi Minh, where we'd have an hour and forty minutes between fights.  That was fine until the flight out of Danang was delayed an hour.  Vietnam Airlines agreed to check our bags through to Phnom Penh and to expedite our own transfer (going between the domestic and international terminals in Ho Chi Minh).  It turned out that there was no one in Ho Chi Minh to help us make the flight to Phnom Penh -- we literally had to run and even then we had the wrong gate information.  Fortunately, we made the flight.  Unfortunately, our luggage did not.  I filed missing baggage forms at Phnom Pehn airport and, once at our hotel, I emailed Vietnam Airlines directly, and I think this may have made a difference.  Someone named Kim Chi  responded and said she would forward my information to people who could help.  Later, the Vietnam Airlines station manager in Phnom Penh, Tran Ngoc Tuan, emailed me to say that the luggage had been found and would be sent to our hotel.  We got our two wheelies the next day. Vietnam Airlines had placed tamper-resistant plastic locks on all the zippers, which we easily cut off.  The day without the suitcases was a minor inconvenience, but we certainly appreciated the airline's efficiency in locating the bags and getting them to us intact.

Our baggage experience on the way home was the opposite. When we went to check our bags with  Bangkok Airways at the Siem Reap, Cambodia, airport, the check-in clerk asked if Bangkok was our final destination. It wasn't.  After a 12-hour layover, we'd be flying out on All Nippon Airways to Tokyo and then to Washington, D.C.  She said she could check our bags all the way through to Dulles, even though the different airlines are not code shares.  It worked beautifully -- our bags, with orange "priority" tags added somewhere along the way, were among the first to appear on the carousel at Dulles.  And, since ANA doesn't allow check in until three hours before the flight, if we had picked up the bags in Bangkok, we would have had to carry them around for hours. As it was, we were bag-less and easily able to slip into the city for our last hours in Asia.

Security checks at each airport were similar to what travelers face in the U.S., although we could keep our shoes on there.  A small pair of scissors was found in our carry-on in Luang Prabang and confiscated -- scissors that previously made it through security checks n Washington, Tokyo and Bangkok.
 
Our round-trip Washington-to-Bangkok flights, which required a short layover each way at Tokyo's Narita airport, were on United and its code-sharer All Nippon Airways.  Each time at Narita, we had to go through a security screening again before connecting to the next flight.

Fares 

When planning our travel within Southeast Asia, I used Expedia and other travel services to find which airlines flew the different routes.  Then I went to the airlines' own websites to search for times and fares.  In each case, I bought tickets in the least expensive fare categories for the most conveniently scheduled flights. Fares on the airlines' sites were much less than prices on sites like Expedia. None of these airlines charge for checked bags as long as collectively they don't exceed a weight limit.  Our densely packed wheelies were way below the limit.  Here's what we paid for all these one-way flights:

Bangkok, Thailand, to Luang Prabang, Laos: $157 each on Lao Airlines.  One hour, forty minute flight.  Plane was a turboprop, so we boarded on the tarmac and entered the plane at the rear.  Even though some of the seats are designated first class, they're all the same except for the upholstery. None have much legroom.  Click HERE for the Lao Airlines website.

Luang Prabang to Hanoi: $145 each on Lao Airlines. One hour, fifteen minute flight. Same sort of plane.  Our original flight was cancelled after we arrived at the airport, but Lao Airlines got us onto another flight that would arrive at almost the same time.  Since our hotel in Hanoi was arranging airport pickup, we wanted to send it our new flight number.  A Lao Airlines person allowed me to use his computer in the airline office to contact the hotel.

Hanoi to Danang: $107 each on Vietnam Airlines. One hour, fifteen minute flight.  Like the rest of our flights here, this was on a jet, an Airbus.  Comfortable. Click HERE for the the Vietnam Airlines website.  Our destination, Hoi An, is about 45 minutes south of Danang by car.

Danang to Ho Chi Minh City: $107 each on Vietnam Airlines. One hour, ten minute flight. This was the first leg of our journey from Danang to Phnom Penh.

Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh, Cambodia: $222 each on Vietnam Airways. Forty-five minute flight.

Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Cambodia: $90 each on Cambodia Angkor Air. Forty-five minute flight.  Click HERE For the Cambodia Angkor website. Our other travel within Cambodia, to the Elephant Valley Project and to the coastal town of Kep, was by car.

Siem Reap to Bangkok: $217 each on Bangkok Airways. Fifty-five minute flight. Click HERE for the Bangkok Airways website.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Southeast Asia: From One Hotel to Another

     Jane and I started planning our Southeast Asia trip in summer 2012.  We bought Rough Guide travel books, we looked at articles and websites, and we spoke with people who travel there frequently or had been there recently.  We started out with one goal: Angkor Wat, the great temple in northern Cambodia.  Then a New York Times Travel section article alerted us to Kep, a crab-eating community on the coast in Cambodia.  And since it costs so much to get there, we might as well see another country -- how about Vietnam?  Then, why not Laos?  Bangkok was added because it's less expensive to fly from the U.S. to Bangkok than to Hanoi.  Finally, we had to pick hotels.  For that, we largely turned to TripAdvisor.  Every place we stayed was among TripAdvisor's top five picks for that destination.  We mostly kept our rooms below $200 a night, sometimes below $100, and all included breakfasts and some included massages.
      For someone else's Asian hotel stories, click HERE to read Susan Stellin's article in The New York Times March 17, 2013, Travel section.  Her trip was to Tokyo and Hong Kong.
      Here are how our hotel selections worked out:

In Bangkok, we stayed at the Ariyasomvilla Hotel  (click HERE for its website), a boutique hotel at the end of a deadend street  off  Sukhumvit, a major shopping street.  A sky train stop was nearby.  Two trains  and a  river ferry took us to the Grand Palace area. We stayed here at the start of our vacation, arriving at midnight after a Washington-Tokyo-Bangkok flight. We had a second-floor room with a balcony overlooking the hotel's very very quiet entrance. The photo is of our room's bathroom. The hotel's staff had the most fluency in English of any place we stayed. The rooms come with Thai-style massages (you wear something akin to pajamas for it) that involved a lot of pounding and stretching and were done on an open-air deck above the pool. This is a really pleasant and beautiful little hotel and we'd recommend it to anyone visiting Bangkok.  A lot of good street food vendors are in the neighborhood, and the hotel's health-conscious restaurant itself is quite good.  We returned here  at the end of our trip when we had a 12-hour layover in Bangkok. We had lunch and spent an afternoon at the hotel's pool.  Much better than killing time at the airport. 

In Luang Prabang, Laos, we stayed at the Bellerive Hotel with views of the Mekong River (click HERE for its website). One of its decks, which are actually across the street from the hotel, is shown at left. Our second-floor room in the old (main) building had a small balcony overlooking the street and the river. The room's odd layout might not appeal to everyone.  The bathroom, a sitting area and the balcony were on one level, with the bed itself up a flight of stairs in an open loft. Breakfast is served on the decks across the street.  Luang Prabang's old quarter, which is where tourists will spend most of their time, can be quite bustling, but the Bellerive's immediate neighborhood is quiet, even though it's only a block or two from the heart of the action.

In Hanoi, we stayed in three different rooms at the Hotel Elegance Ruby. It's on a street so narrow that cars not only are not allowed, they wouldn't fit. 
    Our first night was in an eighth-floor room with small high windows. Then we left for a two-night junk cruise on Ha Long Bay. When we returned, we had this room (at right) on the 7th floor with a balcony.  The laptop computer is one of the room's amenities.  We could get this lovely and large room for only two nights, so our last night in Hanoi was spent in a very inexpensive and very small room on the second floor. The Elegance Ruby is one of several Elegance hotels in Hanoi (click HERE for website).  They're all small and all in the old quarter, which is where I think most tourists would want to be, though its jumble of crooked streets and narrow alleyways is very confusing.  Our first night, having just arrived from Laos, we needed to find an ATM to get some dong, the Vietnamese currency.   A hotel bellman walked with us two blocks or so to an ATM.  Even though we had a map, we would not have found it on our own. Then we asked how to start out to a restaurant (Highway 4, famous for its catfish spring rolls) , which was on our map. He simply walked all the way with us.   And he told the restaurant to call the hotel when we left, so that someone would go looking for us if we didn't make it back promptly (we did). 
In choosing this hotel, we read one reviewer's story on TripAdvisor. He said that he was staying here  and came in from shopping and complained that he had been cheated. The desk clerk got up and went with him to the offending merchant and got the guest's money back. Now that's service. 
Can you imagine anyone at an American hotel doing that? Or even walking guests to an ATM machine?


In Hoi An, Vietnam,  we stayed at the cozy Ha An Hotel, shown at left.  Our room was on the second floor,  hidden by a tree in the photo. The hotel (click HERE for its website) and its restaurant form a "U" around the grassy courtyard. A wall at the open end has a gate to the street.  Hoi An is a small town less than an hour south of Da Nang and within a bicycle ride (if you're willing to risk your life on the busy narrow road) of very nice beaches.  Again, this is a place that's easy to recommend: very clean, well designed, and a very pleasant staff.  One morning we asked about getting a car to take us to My Son, and it was instantly arranged, complete with snacks and bottles of water. The room had a large balcony and an unusual stone bathtub.  The breakfast buffet was probably the best of our trip, with everything from cooked-to-order omelets to pancakes to traditional noodle soups.  And several kinds of cereal.  The hotel is at the eastern end of the town's central district, but all the restaurants, bars (this town even has a good wine bar), and shops are within easy walking distance.


Our next stop was the Pavilion Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We stayed two nights, departed for Elephant Valley (see earlier post below) and returned for a night before departing for Kep. 
The hotel (click HERE) consists of several buildings, one of them a French colonial mansion, in a lushly planted and walled garden. Four of the rooms have private pools, including ours for the first part of our visit. The pool, shown here, was too shady for winter use (this was in January, which is winter even in Cambodia). However, the hotel's main pool was in the sun and we enjoyed it -- as we did the massages that came with the room. However, despite having a room with a private patio and pool, this was not a great hotel experience.  All the flower petals carefully placed on our bed couldn't disguise that the room  and the entire hotel were in need of refurbishing.  The bathroom was small and the shower so tiny that it was hard to avoid bumping the controls and accidentally switching from hot to cold water. For our one-night stay before leaving for Kep, we had a different room with a  better-designed shower. 
The staff, though very friendly, was not terribly fluent in English, so any unusual request would be met with a blank stare or an entirely inappropriate response. We  asked the desk to make us dinner reservations  days in advance at a very popular restaurant. The  clerk called on a Sunday, when the restaurant was closed, and noted that she was unable to make the reservation. Though we were asking for a Wednesday night, she didn't try again on Monday. We never made it to the restaurant. That said, my wife was happy when, upon  arriving for the second part of our stay, a pair of shoes she had left behind  were returned to her. And when we were leaving for the last time, a maid chased us  with a jacket that my wife had left in the room. 
The best thing about this hotel is its location, very close to Phnom Penh's version of Restaurant Row and very close to the Royal Palace.  We were able to walk out and see much of the best that the city has to offer.   There are even two wine bars just down the street. The city's Raffles hotel, by contrast, is near the U.S. Embassy but quite a walk from everything else. 



 In Kep, Cambodia, our reservations, made months in advance were at a hillside place called Le Bout de Monde, which had been TripAdvisor's top-rated hotel in Kep.  We got there and discovered that our "ocean-view" room overlooked a parking court and that the room was very dark and depressing. We left, going first across the street to look at the Veranda, another high-rated hillside hotel. It's a large and sprawling place and its pool was full of noisy children.  So we called a tuk-tuk and went down the hill to yet another high-rated hotel, Knai Bang Chatt, considerably more expensive than Le Bout de Monde and considerably more acceptable (click HERE for its website). It's right on the beach, as you can see in the photo, with great amenities like canopied lawn beds, a beautiful pool, a good restaurant and a nice spa space for massage. It's also a short walk from the Crab Market (see the earlier posting on Kep, below), which was why we were there in the first place. A Belgian man created the hotel from a mid-20th-century complex of vacation homes owned by the nation's elite in the relatively peaceful period before the country was destabilized during the Vietnam War. The hotel supports Hand in Hand Cambodia, which trains young people in the hospitality industry.
The modern, minimalist architecture is a nice change from the ornate temples of Cambodia and the nondescript boxes with odd ornamentation that seem to be the new norm.  Our bedroom, shown in photo, had a very large bathroom with a huge shower, a long wooden bench for our luggage, a good-size closet and a vanity with loads of counter space for toiletries. Best bathroom of our trip.  The thatch-roofed restaurant, the pool and one of the buildings are shown below.



























The last hotel of our trip -- and we spent four nights here -- was in Siem Reap, the city that is the gateway to both Tonle Sap Lake and the temple-filled Angkor region.  Like Le Bout de Monde in Kep, it was the top-rated hotel in TripAdvisor.  We've decided that at least some of the top-rated hotels get the rating because they appeal to a lot of bargain-hunters or because they offer a lot of amenities. 
The Golden Temple (click HERE for website) is a lively hotel, bustling with Chinese, Australian and other international visitors.  It has a nice pool, shown at right, but not enough places to sit or lounge in the afternoons when everyone returns from their temple tours or other outings. The decor is over-the-top Hindu-Buddhist kitsch, sort of a Trader Vic's on steroids. Among the negatives were a guest getting a poolside pedicure, with the technician  dipping her pedicure implements in the pool.  Another guest was smoking in the pool and tapping his ashes into water that would be returned to the pool. We had a fifth-floor room with a balcony overlooking the pool. Rooms that don't overlook the pool look at the wall of a neighboring building. As we found at every hotel on this trip, the staff was very pleasant and tried hard to accommodate every request and made a particular point of greeting guests by name. They were able to get us English-speaking guides for the temples at the last minute when a tour company couldn't, but the guides were only adequate at best. 
We think all the amenities this place offers is why so many TripAdvisor reviewers like it: a lunch or dinner in the restaurant, breakfast every day, massages, airport pickup and dropoff, souvenir T-shirts on departure, etc.  Its location, across the river from the busiest part of town but  within walking distance, is OK, but the rooms need to be redecorated and the bathrooms are quite small, with open "wet room" showers that  can get the entire floor wet.
 The manager told us that renovations were scheduled that would include the bathrooms. The breakfast  buffet was the worst hotel breakfast of our trip. 
Going to Siem Reap?  There are better places to stay, though  a T-shirt might not be included. 







Sunday, March 3, 2013

Southeast Asia: Images of the Divine

         On trips to Europe, Americans inevitably end up in church after church, cathedral after cathedral. These buildings with their ancient histories, ties to an ancient religion, frequent ties to royalty and their centuries of accumulating great art, are quite naturally what most tourists want to see. It's the same in Southeast Asia with the wats, pagodas, stupas and other religious structures, most populated by images of Hindu gods or of the Buddha.
         Below are some photos from our December 2012-January 2013 trip to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.   (Keep scrolling, scroll some more, and then hit "older posts" for more photos and info on our progress through the region, ending with the great temples of the Angkor area in Cambodia.)















Above: Both photos are of the White Buddha, an off-the-beaten-track Buddha in Bangkok.  When we first went to the Grand Palace, an official-looking person told us the palace was "closed for prayers" and advised us to take a tuk-tuk tour and waved a driver over to us.  It cost only $1 and involved stops at shops where the driver would have gotten a commission had we bought anything. The temple with the White Buddha was the only real "attraction" we saw on this tour.  The only other visitor at this temple was a man from Singapore who had fallen for the same scam.  Nonetheless, a lovely Buddha.




Left and above: The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok. It dates from the 1500s.  This Buddha is 43 meters long and 15 meters high.  It's entirely clad in gold except for the bottoms of its feet,
which are oddly stylized.  Wat Pho is practically  next door to the Grand Palace.  The nation's revered  Emerald Buddha (it's really jade and is tiny compared to the golden ones) can be seen but not photographed at Wat Phra Kaew at the Grand Palace.




















Above: Not all Buddhas are ancient.  New ones await buyers at a Buddha outlet in Bangkok.
Below: A decidedly older Reclining Buddha at Wat Arun, a giant stupa across the river from Wat Pho and the Grand Palace.

Left: In one of the many temples in Luang Prabang, Laos, a deceased revered monk is presented as the Buddha.

Below: This Buddha barely fits in its tiny, free-standing temple on the grounds of a wat in Luang Prabang. Notice the golden painting (stenciling?) on the walls.



























 Left: One of the two Pak Ou caves, about 12 miles up the Mekong River from Luang Prabang.

Below: What draws visitors to the Pak Ou caves are the nearly countless Buddhas that have been left in them over the years.  Some are so covered with dust, dirt and cave debris that they're hard to see. Ones closer to the entrances to the caves are better maintained.


























Below left: A Hindu god at My Son, Vietnam.   Below right: A shrine of some sort in Hoi An, Vietnam.























          Phnom Penh, Cambodia, also has its share of shrines, wats, stupas and other religious buildings.


























Above: A shrine tucked into a wall at one of the Phnom Penh's major wats.
Below: Statues on the grounds of the Silver Pagoda, so named because its floor is made of silver tiles. (Photography was not allowed inside the pagoda.)

             

My photographs of Angkor Wat and other temples of that region are in earlier posts.  Keep scrolling and  hit "older posts" to see them.   Below: A group of Buddha figures at Pre Rup, one of the Angkor temples.


Thailand: Bustling, Busy, Bangkok

With a population approaching 10 million, Thailand's capital city is bigger than New York or Los Angeles.  It  seems to be a city much more focused on the future than the past, though it protects a lot of important old buildings.  Its speedy elevated rail system whisks riders above the congested streets.  Descend to the street from a rail platform and you're in a world of fast-walking locals squeezing around vendors selling everything from small Buddhas to massage oils and Viagra.

In the March 17, 2013, Travel section of The New York Times, Thomas Fuller offered advice on what to do during 36 hours in Bangkok.  Click HERE to read to his article.  Our trip occurred before Fuller's article appeared and we did not stray too far from the most popular tourist areas.  Here are some snapshots from our few days in Bangkok in December 2012.


























Above: This VW van shows up around 7 each evening, parks on a sidewalk and creates an instant open-air bar. It has a full menu of cocktails.

Left: A restaurant set up in a covered parking lot. During the day, it's full of cars. When the cars leave, carts bring in charcoal and propane grills, folding tables, folding chairs and chests of ice for chilling drinks. We had two kinds of whole fish here, one grilled and one steamed and both excellent.





Right: A broom vendor pushes his cart on Sukhumvit, one of the city's major shopping streets.  In the background you can see the street going beneath a raised highway. Toll roads built above the city allow relatively quick drives to the airport even from the heart of downtown.




Above:  A longtail boat zips along the Chao Phraya River, a waterway filled with commuter ferries, tourism boats and other watercraft.  The longtail boats have propellers mounted at the ends of long drive shafts that are connected to what looked like old automobile engines. The engines pivot, swinging the drive shafts and propellers to steer the boats.  We saw these in Cambodia, too, but only in Bangkok did we see how fast they could go.  Very fast, at least as compared to everything else on the river. And very noisy, too.


Right: The sidewalk outside the Grand Palace. The white towers are stupas.


Below:  Several photos inside the grounds of the Grand Palace, which is a former royal residence now used only on rare ceremonial occasions.













































The Grand Palace is a must-see for any first-time visitor to Bangkok.  It's like Versailles in being almost unbelievably ornate, in being totally over the top.  Here, however, the royal residence itself is not open to the public.







Sunday, February 17, 2013

Laos: Timeless Luang Prabang

   Above and left: Theravada Buddhist monks go out at dawn every day to solicit alms from the faithful, such as the seated woman above. Handfuls of sticky rice are thrown into the monks' baskets.
    We were told that the monks don't  eat the rice, so perhaps this done for the sake of tradition and maybe for  tourists.  Most visitors get up early at least once during their time in Luang Prabang to see the procession.





      Luang Prabang is the former capital of Laos, which was a kingdom for centuries before being overrun by the Khmer, Siam, Vietnam, China and finally the French, which made it a  colony in the late 1800s.  In 1904, the French built a new palace in Luang Prabang for the king. It's now the Royal Palace Museum.  The capital of today's Laos, a nominally communist country, is Vientiane, which we didn't visit.   The Laos that visitors experience, at least in Luang Prabang, is one of active and spirited commerce in the shops and street markets, active and spirited expressions of religious faith in the number of temples and in the respect with which monks are treated, and a joie de vivre in daily life.
     Here are some snapshots from our time there in December 2012.






Right: Steps leading to the top of Phousi, the sacred hill in the center of old Luang Prabang.  These steps are just across the street from the Royal Palace Museum.  At the top of the hill is That Chomsi, a Buddhist stupa whose golden spires can be seen for miles.

Below: The view from That Chomsi.


































The old part of Luang Prabang is a peninsula created where the Khan River flows into the Mekong. The Khan's flow varies greatly with the season.  During the rainy season, a ferry crosses it between the old town and a more rural district on the other side.  Each year during the dry season, the family that operates the ferry builds a bamboo bridge at the same point and charges pedestrians a small fee to cross.  On the other side is, among other things, a restaurant called Dyen Sabai, which consists of a number of bamboo huts overlooking the Kahn River.









Left and below: The bamboo bridge over the Kahn River.

















Below:  Dyen Sabai has a lengthy two-for-one cocktail hour, which can make the walk back across the bridge a bit more challenging. This is just one of several huts.




























Although Laos is controlled by a communist government, we saw what appeared to be a lot of free enterprise in Luang Prabang, which has three major street markets:  a daytime Hmong market that seems to focus on T-shirts and other mass-produced goods; a morning market that focuses on vegetables, meats, and other food products; and a night market that has a lot of handicrafts as well as T-shirts.  We bought hand-embroidered cloth books for children and some other craft items at the night market.  Below are some photos of commerce in Luang Prabang.



Left: Sausages are sold from a rack in the street.









Below: A young woman in the very early stages of weaving a silk scarf on a loom.  Handwoven silk scarves and other items are sold in the night market and in shops all over town.
























         
Right: A woman pours batter from a kettle to make coconut pancakes at the morning market in Luang Prabang.  They're about the size and shape of madeleines.  Six cost about 25 cents. Piping hot and slightly molten in the center, they're better than Krispy Kreme doughnuts.


Below: No crowd at closing time at  the night market, which sets up every night on the main street.