Soaking up the culture

Vientiane Travel Blog

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A little hungover today, but since we went to bed ridiculously early, it's a 10AM wake-up, and through the hostel we book one more night here, and the bus to Vang Vieng (VIP) for tomorrow, both for $6 each. We both have come to the conclusion 2 nights is enough here, though not in a bad way. After seeing a lot of Vientiane's sights yesterday afternoon and evening, one more day should be enough to see the rest, then get on up the country.

It's an inauspicious start to the day, as my breakfast (and possibly my medication) makes me want to vom. The doxycycline tablets start off as purely annoying, but Burg has already been sick because of them, and sometimes I feel the same, and get burnt really easily (although I do anyway!). We go on a mission so I can change a travellers cheque, but the first bank I go to refuses to do it without my reciept, luckily the Lao Development Bank will change it for a 2% commission charge, which seems to be pretty standard. From here, we follow the Lonely Planet walking tour, starting at the Patuxay monument, which is basically a big stone edifice built to resemble the Arc De Triomphe, by the French, obviously.

It's unfinished, and the Lao description of it being "unimpressive up close" is amusing, but wrong. You can climb the top for fantastic views of the city, and on a sunny day like this, you can see for miles each direction. Vientiane is small, about 200,000 people, and as a capital city it's like no other I have been to, in terms of it's tranquility, which is part of the charm of the place.

Also, Lao has ATM's! Well, VIENTIANE has ATM's, anyway. I spotted 4/5 already, and I'm sure there's more, which must have sprung up recently, 'cos some travellers we met on the way said there was 1 for the whole country! They must have decided that bowling alleys are not as essential as ATM's, and they are starting to appear everywhere. Vientiane is also home to lots more monks than any of Vietnam seemed to be, they are definitely more religious here, with monks walking the streets, on tuk-tuks, or talking on their mobiles, everywhere!!

We re-do the walking tour of yesterday, a little more sober, and go into Ha Pha Kaew, which is a centre for religious artifacts, which costs 5000d, then go back to the Riverside restaurant for lunch, which consists, among other things, of crickets, and frogs legs. The former is tasteless, the latter very good.

After lunch, we negotiate a deal with a local jumbo driver (big tuk-tuks) to take us to and from Pha That Luang, the biggest religious monument in Laos, which was built in the 3rd century, and gleams gold. It's 2000 kip for locals, and 5000 kip for foreigners to go in, showing Laos is starting to cash in on the huge number of Westerners you see around Vientiane. There is some artwork for sale as well, ranging from $100 to $400 in price, some really good, some not so...

After a day of seeing the sights, the evening is spent drinking, unsurprisingly, BeerLao. Another great sunset is followed by a wander round town, where we spot a fitness club in full swing, doing some aerobics in a street arena, then to the Mekong Restaurant, where my lack of experience with really spicy food results in me crying. After some beers at the Tex Mex restaurant, where Burg spots a ladyboy, it's home, and off to Vang Vieng tomorrow!

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photo by: skydiver