Future Southeast Asia News Extra
News Extra #1: Getting train tourists beyond Luang Prabang, Hanoi bike ban, in Vietnam the planes before trains is insane, why people like old towns, and the overdevelopment of Da Lat
Welcome to Future Southeast Asia News Extra. I’m experimenting with formats for the newsletter, and paid subscribers will get this extra news section in addition to the usual weekly news.
These will be news items that I want to expand on, but there may not be enough for a full article. I have a backlog of topics I want to write about, so I figure it is better to comment on these stories while they are fresh, and I have the option of expanding on them later.
The News Extra section is similar in style to At least five interesting things to start your week by, though I will probably be fortnightly. I will leave it open depending on my travel schedule, in which case trip reports will take priority.
Here is this week’s news extra for transport and urban development in Southeast Asia.
Luang Prabang: Dispersing tourists beyond the railway
The Laos-China Railway is proving to be a popular tourism draw, with over 25,000 cross-border passenger trips in the two months since passenger services from China began.
Luang Prabang has bigger ambitions over the next two years, as the province aims to attract 3 million tourists. This target is for the end of 2025, so that works out to about 3300 tourists per day. Are there even 3000 rooms in Luang Prabang?
While it's good that Laos is getting more visitors, there needs to be a way to disperse tourists beyond the railway route. I was thinking about this when I rode the length of the railway in 2022. I stayed in the main cities on the route (Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, and Muang Xai) to see the stations and try out different train services.
- Luang Prabang Railway Station -
The stations are outside the city centre and next to empty spaces. Why not turn the train station areas into transit hubs? Move the main bus stations next to the railway stations, and then have buses timed to meet arriving trains.
Start by selecting some destinations that are nearby, and work from there. It would also help if train tickets can be bought online and in advance, and sold as a combination.
Another solution would be to develop the smaller towns on the railway line that are served by the slower local train. Have a directory of homestays where they will pick you up at the small station
This is something that Japan is grappling with as well, as they try to herd tourists away from big cities.
While Japan has the infrastructure to move people around, Laos should begin the baby steps of developing tourism beyond their main cities and getting tourists beyond the railway line.