Capital and Cave

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Where I stayed
Mixay Paradise Vientiane
Read my review - 3/5 stars
What I did
Buddha Park (Xiang Khouan) Vientiane
Read my review - 3/5 stars
Kong Lor Cave Muang Khammouan
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Thursday, June 7, 2012

Continuing southbound, next stop was the capital. If I hadn't needed to organize my Thai visa I would've skipped this city altogether. Vientianne, this river front city is exceptionally small with one main road leading to a mini arc de triumph Patuxai and Pha That Luang.

My timing coincided with the weekend which meant I’d have to wait until Monday to pick up the visa. Instead of sticking around here twiddling my thumbs I joined a fellow CSer, Hannah for a weekend trip to the Kong Lor Cave. Three of us set out Friday night on the local bus which dropped us in Ba Na Hin around midnight. The next morning we loaded into a shared taxi aka songthaew which took us straight to Kong Lor. This small village, thanks to the Lonely Planet is getting more accustomed to foreigners, but is still a perfect example of daily life in Laos. The farmers plow the rice fields by hand while the children pedal up and down the dirt road; equally shared with cows and ducks. The 7km cave sits inside the beautiful mountains and is worth the trek to get there. What I liked most about this cave was sitting back in the complete darkness trusting that the conductor at the back could make out where the guy in the front was directing him with only a headlamp for illumination.

I think the more blood pumping portion of this excursion happened when we returned to the capital. Leah offered to give me a lift on the back of her scooter. Unfortunately we made a wrong turn down a one way street right into a gang of police officers. Typically corrupt they stopped us expecting a payoff or they would confiscate the motorbike. In hindsight we should’ve ignored them altogether and continued driving. Instead we played their game for nearly a half hour, negotiating the price, threatening to report them, taking photos on the iphone and ultimately getting out of having to pay anything. I wouldn’t recommend this tactic but be fair warned that this is how the country operates and when they see a foreigner, they see dollar signs.

The only other attraction to see in Vientiane is the bizarre Xiang Khouan better known as Buddha Park. Together with Aza, Frank and their toddler Viggo, we endured the dusty, bumpy bus ride to this most bizarre collection of Buddha statues. Basically this place is made up of over a hundred statues depicting tableaus and scenes out of both Hindu and Buddhist mythologies. The biggest piece was the "pumpkin" inside of which were the three levels – hell, earth, and heaven. The climb up the narrow steps to the outer platform provides a spectacular view of the grounds. 
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