Trip Start Jul 25, 2006
Trip End Dec 20, 2007

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Tuesday, August 29, 2006

So after 12 days in Luang Prabang we decide to head to Laos' Capital city, Vientiane. We took a 10 hour bus ride through beautiful, lush landscapes and passed many of ethnic hilltribe villages. Luckily, we had the best seats in the bus, behind the driver, and did not need the sickness bags that were being passed to the passengers in the back. On the downside, we saw each and every close-call with other buses and cars. At least a dozen times, we would be cruising at an even 100km and come across a herd of cows drinking water out of potholes in the middle of the road. While maintaining speed the driver would honk his horn, the cows would look up as if they had seen this a hundred times, and we would barely miss the herd as they slowly got out of the way.

The bus did run over a chicken early on in the journey. A foreshadow, we thought, of what was to come ... only many, many near misses, swerves, horn honking all the way to Vientiane.

So here we are, our fragile selves in tact and we decided to face danger, risk our lives today as we rented bicycles to see more of the city. A good dose of exercise, sweat, dirt and smog (besides Ernie's wobbly bike wheel and chain coming loose) was the worst of it. We biked to Lao's most famous Wat, That Luang, and stopped to climb seven stories up Patuxai "Vientiane's Arc de Triomphe" with 3,000 kip (30 cents) paid and spectacular views of the city all around. Then we biked 3km out of town (wheel still holding tight!) to a Wat where one could indulge in traditional Lao massage and steam sauna (lemongrass, lavendar, bamboo leaves), which we enjoyed, thank you, for a two hour experience, 8 USD total!

The funniest incident of the day was while we were biking toward Wat Pha That Luang. We had entered the football-size parking lot, which was empty and was promptly stopped by a man with a safety orange vest and a whistle. In the far distance, we could see the Wat but the man with the whistle wanted us to park our bikes by his little trinket stand and have us walk during the hottest part of the day across the huge empty lot. Normally, we would have paid the 25 cents and walked, but we were responsible for the bikes and I wanted to get across the vast, sizzling desert of a parking lot as quick as possible. I (Ernie) told him we only wanted to drive by the Wat and we would be back to park the bikes. He reluctantly agreed, as long as we did NOT drive our bikes inside the large Wat complex. We made it to the Wat entrance and to our surprise we saw bicyclers biking around the Wat complex and seemingly enjoying themselves. I realized this was our chance to join the other bikers in their fun and told Maija to join me as I jumped the gate with my rented bike. Maija looked over her shoulder and with worried look said "The man with the orange vest is running over here and he's blowing his whistle!" I told Maija to hurry up but she was frozen, put into a trance by the whistle of the law. Well, I (Ernie) wasn't going to leave Maija to defend herself against the orange whistle man and after a heated exchange we left the front entrance, our tails between our bikes, and entered the same Wat complex through the side entrance and joined the fun as we biked around with our fellow cyclers.

We have arranged our visa to Vietnam and bought airline tickets to Hanoi for the 31st.

Maija: Firstly, Ernie's tale is silly and I cannot confirm, nor deny anything. Secondly, he's going to get only a bowl of sticky rice for his BIRTHDAY next week...

HealthWatch M and E: Both are doing well, eating loads of super local fruits and fruit juices with no ill affects. E's back is sore from the twisty turny bus ride, but some extra massage may help. All is well!

M and E
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