The Monster of Concrete

Trip Start Dec 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 03, 2011

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Friday, January 7, 2011

Started the morning, scouting the city centre for a bank willing to cash my traveller's cheque. Western Union and Laos Development bank branches now refused to transact due to my missing signature on my passport (although the branch in Phonsavan gave me that transaction). Finally found BCEL bank after returning back to where I started, that not only put through my cheque but with only US$1 commission. Siam Bank wanted US$5 per cheque which made me walked the extra distance, determined to not get ripped off.
Settled for a chicken congee breakfast near BCEL bank and was not at all surprised at how close it tasted like the chinese version. First stop was to Talat Sao local market, with ample photographic opportunities of traditional medicines to wet market butcher stalls. Working my way up north, I arrived at Patouxay or the Victory Monument which is one hell of structure. Patouxay, the centrepiece of Vientiane - also an iconic landmark to Laos. For 3000 kip, you can venture up to the rooftop for sweeping views to all of Vientiane. On Patouxay grounds, you can rest and relax admiring - to quote the communists "The Monster of Concrete", it being built by the french colonists.
Trekking up a further 6 km north, I arrived at That Luang in sweat. With the ridiculous vast parking space, you get the hint that this is no ordinary temple. The main attraction of That Luang is the magnificent stupa said to be buried a breastbone of Buddha himself. Now headed south, there was no respite from the scorching sun but I finally made it to Sisaket Temple, supposedly Vientiane's oldest temple. It contains over 300 buddha images, most hailing from the 14th century Vientiane. Wat Prad keo, the ancient looking temple across from Sisaket Temple was an absolute eye feast - a looming almost towering timber structure supported by colonades with intricate cravings. It once housed the famous Emerald Buddha statue (now in Bangkok) before it was looted. The premise now just contains historical artefacts and buddhist relics. The architecture of Wat Prad Keo left quite a deep impression in me - a somewhat sinister one.

By 3pm I had completed my to-do list in Vientiane and bought my 7pm overnight bus ticket to Savannakhet. It was a long afternoon at the internet cafe and early dinner at the chinese cafe before the lorry pickup took us (a french couple, a german vietnamese girl and an elderly caucasian grandfather with his Laotian teenage granddaughter - no..really, she was his squeeze. You will tend to see this alot in this part of the world) to the southern bus terminal. The rest of the group were heading to Pakse. The bus fare to Savannakhet costed me just as much to get to Pakse which is twice the distance. This unfair pricing has deterred many from stopping at Savan which I think is a shame. The VIP buses were definitely much more comfortable as it got further southern Laos. My spacious seat can recline and I had got a blanket!
After a few nods, I saw Savannakhet at 5am. Temperature was low but not chilly fortunately. Slept on the bench at the terminal until the day broke at 630am with a lone tuktuk driver looking for business.
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