Close your eyes. When you hear the word ‘honeymoon’, what do you think of? Long walks along wind swept beaches, candle lit dinners overlooking a majestic blue ocean, some sort of tropical paradise, right? How about a landlocked communist country in the middle of the monsoon season? My fiancé was skeptical, but I managed to convince her. Despite (or because of) its geopolitical remoteness, Laos proved to be just as romantic as your standard honeymoon destination, if not more so.
We flew into the capital Vientiane hoping to explore its laid-back French colonial charm and eager to see the sights. The only problem was: the city was closed. That’s right, the entire city was closed.
Apparently, still in wedding bliss, we failed to hear the news that the Asian branch of the World Economic Forum, ASEAN, was meeting in the capital and because of this, no foreigners could enter the city. Since Laos did not have the proper amount of police to guard foreign dignitaries, it solved the problem by simply not allowing foreigners out of the airport. And so, our first introduction to Laos was having our passports taken from us, and waiting for hours in the airport terminal (the size of only the most remote terminals in the U.S.) with other confused foreigners. We were rerouted to the UNESCO world heritage city of Luang Prabang in Northern Laos, a city surrounded by mountains and famous for its historic Buddhist temples.
We arrived in Luang Prabang and were dropped off at our hotel, the Sala Luang Prabang.
Sala (a series of boutique hotels in Laos), which was the perfect place for a honeymooning couple. Our room consisted of a clean wooden floor, wooden beams, soft white linens, and a surprisingly romantic mosquito net all bathed in an iridescent light. The Sala confirmed my hope that it was possible to stay in romantic accommodations at very affordable prices (roughly USD$40/night).
After cleaning up and resting, we began to explore the city at night. Walking out of our hotel without a real destination, we headed up a side street and were pleasantly surprised. In front of us was a nighttime street market run by the women of the northern ethic minority group, the Hmongs, who come into town every night to sell their silk textiles, handmade silk dresses, wall hangings, blankets, Buddhist paintings and Beer Lao t-shirts. The street was literally blanketed in multi-colored cloth.
Adding to this, each vendor plugs a rice paper lantern into a socket hidden nearby, creating a surreal light against a nighttime backdrop. We walked up and down the street, taking in the array of colors on display. Naturally, we succumbed to the allure and after a quick back and forth of bargaining, we were the possessors of a few silk patterned items (and a few Beer Lao t-shirts).