The house of Mit's family.
Most of the tourists donâ€™t like the Lao capital Vientiane at all and use it only as a stopover on their way to Vang Vieng or Luang Prabang. I mean, itâ€™s for sure not an amazing city, but there are definitely at least some spots worth a visit. Me and my friends Pavel and Sergej had another reason as well to stay here a bit. This is the hometown of my good friend Mit whom I met during my exchange semester in Japan, a really nice guy who let us stay at his familyâ€™s house and invited us to celebrate Lao New Year together with him and his friends. This was an offer we gratefully accepted of course, whatâ€™s better then to see how the locals live their lives far away from our own country.
The bus drive from Luang Prabang was damn long (9 hours), but hell, what a magnificient view.
Especially in the first half of the trip. The bus was only half full, that gave me the chance to change my seat every time I discovered a good spot I wanted to catch with my camera. Just had to be careful not to bump into the guy with a shotgun sitting close who was supposed to protect us against eventual bandit assaults. This little guy with the unfriendly face looked like he would more likely kill all the passengers in the bus by mistake then shoot one bandit.
Sergej and me in our room at Mit's place.
However, we arrived tired but safe in Vientiane and Mit came to pick us up. The house where he lives with his family (mother, grandmother and some others) is situated right next to a temple area. Quite unusual right? But wait for the rest. It was a 3 floors house and the rooms in the basement were used as a kindergarten leaded by Mitâ€™s grandma if I understood well. Some kind of family business? Donâ€™t know, but Laos is still a communistic country ( you donâ€™t really see it except for the red flags with a hammer crossed with a sickle from time to time) so I donâ€™t know how this sort of stuff works there.
Should have maybe asked Mit, but I didnâ€™t really want to involve him into an ideological dispute.
Me with my Lao friend Mit. We met for the first time in Japan 2004.
The room where the 3 of us slept was on the top floor, a really big room with our own bathroom and a TV (Sergej enjoyed sooo much watching a Russian channel, guess he was a bit homesick). Definitely more then we could expect.
So, whatâ€™s interesting to see in Vientiane? One of my favourites was definitely the Arc de Triomphe which looks like a Lao version of the original in Paris. Looks quite interesting and like by the original itâ€™s possible to get on the top from where you get a pretty good view above the city.
Mit's grandmother helping kids by preparations for the New Year celebrations.
The national treasure of the country is considered to be the golden stupa Pha Tat Luang, but I think the two temples in the city â€śWat Ho Prakeoâ€ť and â€śWat Si Saketâ€ť are much more impressive. If you ever visit Vientiane donâ€™t miss the â€śBuddha parkâ€ť which is actually outside of the city. For fans of historical places this place might be a big disappointment (the statues are not older then 60-70 years), but the whole place with its big number of statues evokes the atmosphere of old Buddhist legends. The biggest statue of all is the one of the lying Buddha. He looks like heâ€™s just taking a rest, gives you a good inspiration when youâ€™re a bit tired, hehehe.
Between the things we wanted to try in South-East Asia was a good massage, no matter if we got it in Thailand or in Laos.
Mit as many of the Lao people goes for a massage regurarly so he took us to the place he usually visits. I donâ€™t think the stuff saw often foreigners here because they seemed a bit surprised. Fortunatly we had Mit with us as nobody could speak English here. My two coward travel mates wanted me to go alone, they would get a massage another day. Chicken!! They were just afraid the massage could be too painful (according to what I heard from Mit it usually was). I couldnâ€™t backup anymore and didnâ€™t really plan to do that. I paid the ridiculous price of 2,50 USD for an hour and had a last look at that 2 chicken Pavel and Sergej. But before I followed a tiny Lao girl to one of the rooms Mit whispered into my ear a magical word that was supposed to protect me against any harm. I undressed and the tiny girl showed me where to lye down. I tried to exchange some words, but the response was giggling and head shaking. Whatever I tried it made her giggle, never expected somebody would find me that funny. The girl was tiny but obviously stronger then she looked liked, ouch. It was time to say the magical words from Mit: â€žkoi-koiâ€ś. Aaaahh, she nodded and the pressure on my muscles and bones became less. Mit, my life saviour. The expression â€śkoi-koiâ€ť means â€śsoftlyâ€ť by the way. The time passed by quickly and when I went out Pavel and Sergej laughed that I had a big smile on my face I just wasnâ€™t able to get off for a couple of minutes.
This is supposed to bring luck.
Was I high?
My co-traveler Sergej taking pictures of school kids.
The best part of our staying in Vientiane was probably joining Mit and his friends during the New Year celebrations. Funny Lao people, they really celebrate New Year 3 times: the international one, the Chinese New Year in February and their own Lao New Year in April. The Lao version is the funniest. The people splash water on Buddha statues and on each other as well. Sometimes it becomes a real water fight, of course for fun only. We thought we were ready for it after we bought little water pistols in Luang Prabang, but the only thing we achieved was the kids laughing at us, they had these huge water pump guns, aaaahhhhh. It was a war we couldnâ€™t win, but we fought like lionsâ€¦wet lionsâ€¦extremely wet lions. Being foreigners the kids chose us as the funniest target. Our group was driving from one temple to another (we did 9 that day, had to do at least 7 and it should stay an impair number, tough rule, haha), us and some of our new Lao friends were sitting on the deck of the pickupâ€¦an ideal target.
We were completely wet already before we arrived at the first temple, hahahaha!!!!!! After that it didnâ€™t matter anymore. Mit warned us before a bit what we had to expect. Was definitely a lot of fun.
My co-traveler Pavel with Mit.
Mitâ€™s friends would like to have us staying longer in Vientiane, but we had to catch our nightbus to Pakse in the south of Laos that evening. Before we got prepared Sergej discovered that he forgot his passport in the pocket of his trousers while we were outside in the craziness of the Lao New Year celebrations. Of course it got completely wet. Gosh, I still have to laugh when I remember that pictures of Mitâ€™s grandma and mom drying Sergejâ€™s passport in front of a ventilator, hahahaha. So nice of them.
The national treasure of Laos!
As Mit wanted to spend a little bit more time with us he decided to join us to south Laos. We expected it would make the travelling much easier, but actually we almost missed our night bus as Mit confused the place of the departure, hahaha. However close it was, we managed suddenly. There we went for some new adventures.