Running for a good cause

LUANG PRABANG 30 August 2018: Luang Prabang’s 6th Annual Half-Marathon that follows a scenic course through the World Heritage town is set for 21 October with organisers promising record registration of around 1,600 runners.

Since the event was established in 2013 it raises annually in excess of USD55,000 to support the Lao Friends Hospital for Children that cares for more 15,000 children.

Scheduled in late-October as the rainy season weakens there are three race distances; a 7km fun run followed by a two distance main race allowing runners to complete a 14-km, or 21-km half-marathon distance.

Amongst the 1,600 runners from around the world expected to take part this year, is Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York, granddaughter of the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II. Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York supports charities related to children and will also be joining the cultural activities surrounding the race.

Hotels and flights are relatively easy to book in October before the main tourist season gets underway a month later.  But flights and rooms are filling up fast so the bargains are getting scarce as the race date approaches.

Luang Prabang is easy enough to reach from Vientiane and Bangkok on direct flights, but for runners travelling from other regional gateways such as Hong Kong and Singapore, they face longer travel times and a change of plane in Hanoi, Vientiane or Bangkok.

There are direct flights to Luang Prabang from Bangkok Hanoi, Siem Reap and a couple cities in China.

The half-marathon organiser cites Vietnam Airlines, Bangkok Airways, AirAsia, Thai Airways International and Lao Airlines has having international flights to Luang Prabang, while Silk Air has a flight that makes a stop in Vientiane on the return sector.

Many of the runners will also fly to the Lao capital, Vientiane, on direct flights from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and then connect with a domestic flight.

Bangkok Airways and Silk Air are sponsoring airlines but their flights are not the cheapest.

Out of all the Bangkok-based airlines flying nonstop to Luang Prabang AirAsia has the cheapest fare at USD340 flying out of its home base Don Mueang Airport.

The flight departs at 1430 and arrives at 1600 in Luang Prabang. The return flight departs Luang Prabang at 1630 and arrives in Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok, at 1755.

Thai Smile’s best offer on the same route, but out of Bangkok’s Suvarnavbumi Airport, starts at USD376. Bangkok Airways’ best offer, also from Suvarnabhumi Airport, is USD383.

Out of Singapore there are no direct flights to Luang Prabang, although Silk Air flies Singapore-Luang Prabang-Vientiane-Singapore that makes for a lengthy return flight home after the race.

AirAsia again has the cheapest fare from Singapore at USD655 with an end-to-end flight time of six hours and five minutes and a change of flights in Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok. The airline does offer a “fly thru” service so bags can be checked through to the final destination.

In combination with Thai Airways International through a codeshare agreement, Bangkok Airways will get you to Luang Prabang from Singapore for USD700 with a change of plane from TG to PG at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Flights from Hong Kong are of a similar duration, about seven hours of travelling time to Luang Prabang with a stop for a change of airline. Hong Kong Airways combines with Bangkok Airways to offer a roundtrip fare of USD731 via Bangkok.

Bangkok Airways and Cathay Pacific also combine to get you to Luang Prabang and back for USD720 via Bangkok with a slightly longer travel time of seven hours and 25 minutes on the outbound sector and eight hours and 20 minutes on the return flights to Hong Kong.

Factor in around USD800 for the roundtrip journey from cities that don’t have direct flights to Luang Prabang.  Fares are estimates for an outbound flight 19 October and the return trip on 22 October the day after the race using Skyscanner.

Despite a long list of hotel sponsors, only one, Belmond La Résidence Phou Vao, jumps off the page with an accommodation package for runners.

The five-star resort’s package comes with daily breakfast for two with a pre-race four-course, carb-heavy dinner and a 90-minute signature SIP SEN Lao style massage in the resort’s Mekong Spa, pre or post-race.

The hotel’s Luang Prabang Half Marathon package is priced from USD430++ per night*, based on two people sharing. 10% of the package price will be donated to the Lao Friends Hospital For Children.

*+10% service, +11%VAT