A week in the Laos Capital - Vientiane
Trip Start Mar 18, 2009
134Trip End Jan 12, 2010
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So on Sunday when we arrived in town we were a bit sleepy and made the most of Vientiane's wonderful bakeries, hot choc and pastries before a powernap.
First stop on Monday was the International Clinic as I needed some anti-biotics - we're making a habit of visiting clinics in each capital city, we'll try and make this the last time ! To celebrate we went bowling and I actually won the first game (Paul won the next 2). The floor was uneven and pitched the ball to the centre, which is very helpful. But not as helpful as the pin collecting machine which tended to knock over any pins I failed to hit on my first attempt - a couple of times I had to bowl my second ball down an empty lane. Hence my top score ever !! Later in the week we also went for a swim in the Vientiane swimming pool.
Vientiane is full of wats (Buddhist temples) and we toured 7 of them, my favourite is Wat Si Saket, it reminded me of Japanese temples and it was full of Buddha statues - over 7000 ! Lots of wats mean lots of monks around town and they are great to watch wandering around under their umbrellas, taking a nap, we even spotted a cool monk in sunglasses.
We went to the interesting national museum, an odd collection of dinosaur remains, ethnic minority groups and war memorabilia. It used to be called the revolutionary museum and we could tell - it was a little anti-French.
Vientiane has a huge concrete arc du tripmphe style building, a big landmark and from the top there were good views of the little city and the musical fountain below. We came back at night to watch the musical fountain - it wasn't bad, but better was the people watching.
On Wednesday we chartered a tuk-tuk out to Buddha Park (I want my dad to note that we bartered the tuk tuk man down 90,000 Kip from his original offer, we're getting better at it!). Buddha park is a totally bizarre collection of hindu and buddha statues in a small park 24km out of town. We really didn't know what to make of it, it was very odd, but a nice place for a picnic and we got out first glimpse of Thailand across the Mekong - another 2 weeks before we actually cross the border.
Today we walked 10km to and from the Pha That Luang stupa, a huge golden statue which is a symbol of Buddhism and Lao sovereignty. It is surrounded by more wats, inside of which are murals depicting the life of buddha - certainly more cheerful than the Christian murals in Albi cathedral. From the photos you can tell it's rainy season, it's grey, but still warm and we've had some great thunderstorms.
Vientiane is lovely. Most places shut down around 10.30pm and it's a sleepy place. We saw lots of tuk tuk drivers, street food sellers and monks asleep in the afternoon. We did see a couple of girls who looked very much like hookers on street corners at 8pm, but apart from that it seems like an innocent place. When we went to the market to buy some new t-shirts, it was silent inside, a complete contrast to any other market where we've been shouted at "You buy from Me !!". In Cambodia the only cars we saw were Toyota Camrys - there were thousands of them, here we've seen all sorts, Lamborghini's to beetles.
The enduring symbols of Laos for us will be yummy sticky rice, served in bamboo dishes and Beerlao. Everywhere sells beerlao, we drove passed the Beerlao brewery and saw walls of crates ready for dispatch. Perhaps that's why everyone's asleep ?!
Where I stayed