The Capital

Trip Start Jan 01, 2011
Trip End Mar 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
Youth Inn 2

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Monday, January 24, 2011

On Sunday we traveled from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, which is the capital of Laos. The drive was just over 3 hours and was much easier than the day before. The roads were a lot flatter and straight. There were places where the concrete had turned into a rocky road, but that wasn't terrible.

Just before getting out of Vang Vieng, we stopped by a cave and paid our 2,000 kip entrance fee. We crossed a swing bridge over the river and then got to the cave entrance. Apparently, it was an extra 15,000 kip to go into the cave - we all thought the 2,000 kip covered it. It would have been nice for the guide to explain this, but she was the worst guide we have had on this tour, so it wasn't surprising.

Once in Vientiane, we checked into our hotel. It was late afternoon and quite hot in the city, so we found a restaurant to have lunch and to spend the afternoon at. Later on, we had some street food for dinner.

On Monday, we spent 2.5 hours getting our Thailand visas. When you enter over land, you only get a 15 day visa, whereas if you fly you get 30 days. You can't extend the 15 day one. We arrive back in Thailand on February 3 and aren't leaving until March 1, so we would be over. The penalty is 500 Baht or $15 a day each which would add up quite quickly, so the time spent was well worth it. Even better was that the Thailand tourist visas are free until the end of March, which means we saved $30 each!

The Thai Embassy was very organized. When we arrived, we took a number (we had 311 and they were on number 109!), filled out our forms and then waited a couple hours in the shaded tents for our numbers to be called. Once we had put our passports in and gone to another building to collect our receipt, we walked back to our hotel. On the way, we stopped at the Patouxay Monument, which is Vientiane's victory monument built in 1962. The story associated with the monument is quite entertaining. The Americans had given Laos concrete to build a new airport, but instead, they used it to build their version of the Arc de Triomphe! The monument has never been finished and up close is not very appealing.

In the evening, after it had cooled down a bit, we walked along the Mekong River on the city's new boardwalk. The river is very low right now. There is a large sandbar in the middle of the river, but usually there is water on both sides of it. Right now, there is only water closest to Thailand. Apparently this is due to a drought in China, which has resulted in the Chinese not allowing water through their dams upstream.

Tomorrow, we are going to pick up our passports and then wander along the river.
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