Laos Lout: Vientiane

Trip Start Nov 26, 2004
Trip End Dec 11, 2004

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Sitting on a quiet bend of the Mekong River, Vientiane has been inhabited since the 10th century. Having been conquered and ruled repeatedly by the Khmer, Vietnamese, Burmese and Siamese, the meuang, or fiefdom, of Vientiane was drawn into the Lao kingdom of Lane Xang (one million elephants). In 1560 King Setthathirath moved the capital of his kingdom there from Luang Prabang. When the French arrived in the late 19th century they found Vientiane virtually abandoned. Nonetheless, it was selected over Luang Prabang to be the capital of the new colony, and once more Vientiane was reborn as a city. OK that's the history lesson over...

Paul (Canadian) and I rolled into town, again crammed into some sort of mini-bus with other Ferang (foreigners). It was a bit crazy seeing traffic lights again. Haven't seen any since I left Chiang Mai. The city is probably looking as smart as it can as it recently hosted an ASEAN summit and all foreigners were not allowed into the city for a week or so. I didn't mind as "The Vang" was a great place to chill for a while until the city "reopened". We found a guesthouse overlooking the river. Vim was the landlord there and he made sure we weren't Israeli before he let us have the room. Apparently he finds Israeli's rude and messy! "No buddy, just UK and Canada here!" He liked his footy too and we chatted about the Premiership a little despite his broken English.

Vientiane is the quietest capital I've visited so far out here. It's almost as if there's a curfew or something. Well most of the bars shut at 10.30/11ish so nightlife was hard to find. Paul and I decided to hire a moped for the day as it's the standard way of getting around. Everyone has these things, even the schoolkids! They just motor on into school. We kinda felt like Harry and Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber only not as stupid obviously! It's great just buzzing around shouting "Sabadee" at the locals. They look at you in confusement at first but once you break the ice, those smiles crack open on a lot of faces!

We had one big nite out in the city. We hooked up with an English couple that Paul had met along the way and had a few Beer Lao trying to tell the difference between the girls and the chickboys. We tried a few "local" bars to get away from the other Ferang. One Karaoke bar was dead and the singing awful. Paul thought it was a brothel. I doubted that! We tried another bar which was much busier with terrible line dancing and singing. Again Paul thought it was a brothel. I didn't think so. A local girl tried her English on me. Her name was Tuk. I wonder if her surname was Tuk too! Think I offended her when I pointed out what I thought was a tattoo on her arm turned out to be a large birthmark! Ooops! Then these Lao guys came up to us and spoke with full on Aussie accents! They left Laos when they were 7 years old and were brought up in Queensland! They were visiting relatives over here. Crazy guys!

They invited us out for more drinks that night at a local nightspot. We jumped on the back of their Uncle's pick-up and whizzed around the city until we found somewhere that was open. They had a quick word in Laos with some of the bouncers and we were in, free of charge. More Beer Lao!!! Paul got lucky with one of the local ladies. They somehow communicated without her speaking a word of English! No need for chat up lines then!

Last day in Vientiane we sped over to Patuxai (Gate of Triumph) which is reminescent of the Arc de Triomphe of Paris. It was made in the 1960's with cement donated by the US for the construction of the airport. It's quite impressive from a distance but close up you can see how rough and incomplete it is. We had a wander to the top of it for views of the city. Had to fight our way through the local school kids and the odd monk though!

To round off our day we finally made it to the Beer Lao Brewery which was a little way out of town. We'd been looking forward to this for a long time. Unfortunately our tour of the plant was quite rapid as our guide was busy and had a lot of work to do. But still we got to see the amber nectar being created! Unfortunately there was no free beer which was just as well as we were quite hungover. We did however get a free sticker! Woo-Hoo! Can't wait to get it on my bedroom wall!

We left Vientiane on an overnight bus south. You'll here that one shortly...
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