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Why you can’t listen to anyone else about travel

Typical smiling faces in North Vietnam

We heard so many mixed things about Vietnam that we weren’t quite sure what to expect when we arrived. Some people spoke very highly of it. But even in those cases the endorsements were usually qualified, as in “I love Vietnam, but . . .” or “It’s beautiful, but . . .”

Other folks dispensed with the “buts” altogether, claiming that “the northern Vietnamese HATE westerners” at worst, or – at best – “they aren’t very friendly.” On one thing most people seemed to agree: “Everyone tries to rip you off in Vietnam.”

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Things to do (and not do) in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang at Night

Leafy green and surrounded by water, Luang Prabang in northern Laos mixes aging French Colonial architecture and resplendent Buddhist temples with a laidback atmosphere that begs you to linger. And that is exactly what we did, for nine straight days. During that time we discovered some of the ins and outs of this UNESCO World Heritage designated city and compiled them into a short list of things to do and not do when in Luang Prabang .

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An Unexpected Detour in Luang Prabang: The Emergency Room

One place you won't find reviewed on Tripadvisor

One place you won’t find reviewed on Tripadvisor

“No Beerlao.” The advice to abstain from the popular local libation came with the over-the-counter antibiotics sold to us at a pharmacy in Luang Prabang, Laos. If only that were the extent of our problems.

Two days earlier, our stay in this tranquil riverside oasis took a worrying turn when Brian developed an alarming-looking patch on the back of his neck—what we assumed to be some kind of insect bite, a light brown spot surrounded by enflamed red skin and sprinkled with pustules. We set out for a pharmacy to try and get some help figuring out what it might be, only to find the place shuttered in the late afternoon. A printout tacked to the door noted a 45-minute break for lunch, which had passed hours before.

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Crossing the Nam Khan

Temporary bamboo bridge Luang Prabang, LaosOn our first day in Luang Prabang, Laos, we discovered these cool bamboo bridges that they erect over the Nam Khan river during the dry season when the water level is low.

So what’s a traveler to do when he finds a rickety looking bridge in a new town? Cross it, of course, to see what is on the other side.




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