Buddah at Wat Sisaket
So at breakfast in Luang Prabang today we were chatting with a couple from Australia whom we met the other day that are also staying at Sala Luang Prabang. We have seen them at breakfast and around Luang Prabang each day, even at the Three Nagas restaurant last night.
They mentioned that they too were flying to Vientiane today and then on to Pakse to take a boat trip. Hmm... When we had booked the river cruise, Karyn had told us there were two other couples and we had seen their names, one German name and another that, in Karyn's words, had to be English, Aussie, Canadian or American.
Imagine their surprise when Cindy asked the woman if her name was Rosemary. It ends up that Brent and Rosemary Blank are one of the other couples on the boat! Talk about six degrees of separation.
Wat Sisaket in the Rain
Since we were skunked the other day, we thought we would spend the morning at the Palace Museum which ended up being nice. After that it was a hot flight to Vientiane. We tried to check the status of our change request for the flight to Siem Reap both at the airport in Luang Prabang and in Vientiane to no avail.
We cabbed Into Vientiane which so far seems to be the only real "city" in Laos and checked in to the Mali Namphu guesthouse which Cindy picked out and is actually kind of a budget place. Not bad but not what we have grown accustomed to.
Somehow, we were low on Kip so we exchanged some money for more millions and walked to the Mekong for a beer and the sunset.
We ended up talking to an English guy named Jamie who currently lives in Hanoi and has been an expat in SE Asia for many years including Vietnam, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Thailand and here in Vientiane. Well it ends up that he is in the moving and relocation business which is what a family friend, Bill Reinsch in Bangkok, does. Of course it ends up that he knows him. Weird.
Patouxai Monument in Vientienne aka "The Vertical Runway"
We sat watching the sunset and enjoying Beer Lao and chatting with him. He told a number of funny stories about Vietnam, my favorite of which was that the Vietnamese word for complicated is "Phucked Up" or some such thing. Apropos.
We ended up having dinner at a fancy restaurant called Kua Lao, including musical and dance entertainment.
There was some big business party celebration thing going on in the back room where the men were having some kind of competition to see who could drink the most Lao Lao whiskey through a straw from a communal vessel. Pretty weird. We neglected to participate, instead opting to watch reruns of Entourage at the hotel.
Patouxai Cieling Mosaics
We awoke to pouring rain but by the time we had finished breakfast it started to clear so we head out to see the sights. Now I said Vientiane was a city compared to the villages we have seen in the rest of Northern Laos, however it seems to still have many dirt roads and an eclectic mix of old colonial buildings, wooden houses on stilts and newer concrete buildings. Just about everywhere you walk are unmarked gaping holes in the sidewalk, often several feet deep into the drainage system - you definitely need to keep your eyes open. This place would be a litigation attorney's dream.
We walked to a really nice local temple called That Sisaket with the typical cloister of seated Buddhas surrounding the main temple.
This one had thousands of miniature stone and metal Buddhas in niches within the walls. The main temple had very detailed but deteriorating frescoed murals.
Pha That Luang Entrance Gates
New! this should launch in a separate window but if it doesn't hit back after viewing the video Wat Sisaket in Vientiane
Up the street a bit was a bustling market selling everything under the sun including house wares, fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, fish, bugs and lots of DVDs. We ran into Brent and Rosemary again in the jewelry market and they told us about a good French restaurant that they ate at last night - perhaps another "splurge" meal tonight.
We were about to walk up to Patouxai Monument which is Vientiane's version of the Arc de Triomphe, when Cindy started feeling ill.
Not wanting to suffer a "Milt vacation incident", we quickly headed back to the hotel, Cindy squirming a bit and occasionally moaning all the way. Luckily we made it in time.
Vientienne's Pha That Luang Golden Temple
After a rest we walked back to Patouxai Monument and climbed to the top for a view of the city. As we climbed the steps, all the electricity went out and we stumbled up in the dark. It was a nice view from the top and worth the thirty cent admission. Supposedly it was built with cement donated by the US to build our airport so local expats call it "the vertical runway".
We started the walk up to Pha That Luang which is supposed to be the most important monument in all of Laos. It was really hot out so lunch and a beer was in order first and we had a really good meal at a touristy little place where we were the only customers.
Refreshed after lunch, we walked up the street to Pha That Luang, a huge, golden Stupa rumored to house Buddha's breastbone.
It’s quite an impressive sight as you walk up from the distance with giant golden spires glimmering in the sun. It used to be surrounded by four temples, two of which remain, Wat That Luang Tai and Wat That Luang Neua where the head monk in Laos resides.
When we got back we checked email and our buddy Noy pulled through and told us we were booked on the earlier Siem Reap flight on the 22nd and that we needed to go to a Lao Air office so they could put stickers on our paper tickets. Unfortunately the office was already closed so I guess we will try again tomorrow.
We ended up having dinner at "Le Cave" (how appropriate as this is one of our favorite restaurants at home - this one has no lighted plastic display trolleys, cheese bread or Frank Sinatra impersonator) and the food was French and good. Cindy had a steak and wine and I had grilled prawns and Pernod - how colonial!
Tomorrow we have to get up at 4:30am for our flight to Pakse so I am off to bed.