LUANG PRABANG AIRPORT
A little disoriented (who knows what the hell time zone my body’s on) after a brief overnight in Bangkok, Bagzillo (my trusty Hartmann traveler) and I land at Luang Prabang. I have my two passport photos on me, so we snag my visa quickly and are out the door in 20 minutes. If only O’Hare was as efficient.
I hail a taxi, they take one look at me — blonde, American, female (in other words, a sucker) — and beckon not one of the multiple air-conditioned mini-vans just sitting in wait for a passenger, but a tuk-tuk. Whatever. After years of traveling I’ve finally learned (somewhat) to just go with the flow.
The check-in staff at the Lotus Villa is sweet, and the hotel couldn’t be better situated. I booked the property because it is rated high on Tripadvisor and it costs next-to-nothing.
And you get what you pay for. Not that my room is bad — the walls are paneled in deep red wood and I have a balcony — but my mattress is cast from stone and I can see and hear my neighbor’s 14-inch tv set from my window. It could be worse: my poor neighbors can see and hear me using the toilet if I don’t fully shut the bathroom door.
I lie back on my slab of a bed and fall into a long, deep slumber (coma?) just like I always do when I arrive in Asia.
WHY LUANG PRABANG?
A lot of people ask, “Why go to Luang Prabang?!?” They’re flummoxed by the thought.
Well, for one, because Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A traveler can hardly go wrong sticking to that list.
But, in short, Luang Prabang is just one of those unique, wonderful destinations that the world is on the brink of discovering (and possibly ruining in the process). I fear it’s reaching a sort of tourist tipping point that will strip it of the very charm that draws people to it in the first place.
Despite my unsupported apprehension regarding this trip, I really am a left-brained person, and I seek algorithms and statistics to either determine my travel plans or validate them. One formula I apply when determining where to go — and when — I’ve internally dubbed The Sweet Spot. Graphed-out, it’s the point at which a destination’s infrastructure (an upward sloping line as it improves with time) converges with the deleterious effects of tourism (a downward sloping line).
I don’t have the stamina for a destination that’s too removed from civilization (I like my hot showers and cold beers) yet I don’t want to be sharing it with thousands of other sweaty tourists in fanny packs and bright white sneakers either. Luang Prabang, from what I’ve read and heard, is in the Sweet Spot.
MY SWEET SPOT LIST
Past the Sweet Spot
- San Miguel de Allende
In the Sweet Spot
- Sri Lanka
Not Yet in the Sweet Spot
- Ogasawara – Shoto, Japan: the only way to get there is still a 25-hour ferry
Do you agree? Disagree?