After a one hour and 40 minute flight, with propellers whirring along nicely, we descended from the clouds to the city of Luang Prabang in Laos. The plane lined up for the runway, and as it touched down it began skidding to the right. A look of terror crossed Mrs Wombat's face, she really is a nervous passenger! The pilot corrected the plane, we came to stop and here we were.
There had been some massive rain and of course there was no aero bridge, so we wandered aimlessly across the tarmac to the terminal, with all passengers just following the next one like sheep. There were no barricades, no safety barriers or staff monitoring and directing. Planes were taxiing in mere metres from where we were walking, quite surreal.
The Visa on Arrival system is new to us on this trip, as it is not a requirement to enter Thailand. We had completed our research and knew how much this would cost for both Cambodia and Laos, as well as the requirement for passport photos for both countries.
Armed with said money ($30 US each) and a passport photo, we follow the queue through the process and basically understand what is going on.
We check the board to ensure the visa amount hadn't changed, nope all good. I knew the money had to be correct as no change is available, notes must be in perfect condition or will be rejected. Therefore I was rendered speechless when the less than friendly official asks for $31 each. I mutter my annoyance to Mr Wombat as I fumble around for the extra money, pay the man, and move to the next queue. It appears the extra dollar each is a processing fee. Hmm........
Finally through the official proceedings and out to collect baggage, to discover it looks like our bags have been tampered with. We notice heavy duty straps have been removed and replaced in a different manner on 2 out of the 3 checked in bags.
My motto has always been to leave bags on the carousel if there is something suspicious about them, but really, it would have been pointless in this case. Nobody would have cared, so we take them off and inspect them. Yes, clearly the straps had been removed and replaced. All bags were locked, no cuts or tears. We head out of the terminal, keen to get to our guest house and to check our luggage more thoroughly.
A driver is waiting with my name on a sign, is is great. We are tired and it is dark and we weren't looking forward to hassling with a tuk tuk driver in a strange city. This is a shuttle, there are 7 of us onboard and we are dropped off at our various guest houses.
We are the last to be dropped off, we are greeted at the entrance to an older but beautifully maintained guest house and presented with a freshly squeezed fruit juice each.
After being given a map with the key things marked on it, a run down of where to eat, supermarket, morning wet market, temples, points of interest and breakfast times, we were shown to our lovely room to settle in. We then headed out for a bite to eat and a quick look at the best night market I have seen! After the craziness of Cambodia, Luang Prabang is like a breath of fresh air. So quiet, there aren't even any street lights.