Capital or town?

Vientiane Travel Blog

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The Presidential Palace

People i met here, who contributed to and improved my trip: Juliana (Russia)

We arrived into Vientiane off the sleeper bus from Pakse around 6.30am. We caught a tuk tuk into the centre and the first thing to strike me, was how it seemed nothing like a capital city. It had a small town feel about it, and i guess this isn't surprising when you consider that only 200,000 people live here. We wandered around for an hour before we found a nice guesthouse to dump our bags in.

Our first day here was spent trying to find the Phillipines embassy, but after walking around for 3 hours and been completely lost, we gave up.

Patuxai
Sods law dictated that the second we stopped looking, we found it! It was more like a grand house and we were given a reception to match. Cold water was brought to us silver service as we filled out our visa applications, followed by some lovely pamphlets on what there is to see on the archipelago. They were going to issue the visas on the spot, but just as we were paying, we asked what day the visa would begin and we were told with immediate effect. It was a real disappointment, not only for us but for the lovely man, who was so chuffed that we wanted to visit his homeland. He told us if there was anything he could do to further help us, then we should contact him and it made me think that this IS the best embassy in the World. I can truly say i'd never experienced such hospitality from an embassy before.
Pha That Luang

On our way home we walked past the Presidential Palace and stopped in a cafe by the river for some Dinner and drinks. It had been a long day, so we called it a night earlier than normal.

The following day we took in the sites of the city, first off visiting the Black Stupa (That Dam). After this we went to Patuxai, which was built from French money that had been given to improve their airport. We climbed the monument, set in a roundabout, for unrivalled panoramic views of the capital. After this we went to Lao's most important religious site, Pha That Luang. Disappointingly, it actually looked much more impressive from a distance, as when you got up close, you could see the peeling paint that revealed a black undercoat. Whilst walking between these sites, we also encountered several impressive wats and temples.

Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)

With the central areas covered we caught a local bus to Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park), where we met 2 western hippies. They annoyed me a little bit, as they were preaching to me about how they had connected with the people, learnt the language and stayed away from all the tourist areas and they had only lowered themselves to come to Vientiane to get a Chinese visa. As they tried to communicate with a monk on the bus, we soon learned that 'learning the language' meant they had actually learned about 10 words (Hello, Thank You, How much etc etc). Thus the entire conversation occured in sketchy English. The bus driver then stopped to buy himself an ice-cream and most of the passengers followed suit. I couldn't blame him as it was a scorching day, but can you imagine a bus driver doing this in your country!? This gave us the opportunity to witness how they had learned Lao customs, as even more amusingly they discarded their rubbish in a ladies shopping bag, mistaking it for a bin! Clearly they had gained a much better idea of the country than even i could have imagined!

Anyway, back to Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)! This really was a pretty incredible place.

Argh, a crocodile! Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
Created by a yogi-priest-shaman, who had merged Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, mythology and iconography. There were all kinds of stone carvings, in many different shapes and form, which made for a fascinating afternoon. We walked around and also had the opportunity to climb some of the structures for an interesting birds eye view over the site. Tired out, we headed back to town and had Dinner by the river, followed by a couple of beers on the balcony of our room, watching the ladies of the night strut their stuff!

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The Presidential Palace
The Presidential Palace
Patuxai
Patuxai
Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang
Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
Argh, a crocodile! Xieng Khuan (Bu…
Argh, a crocodile! Xieng Khuan (B…
An interesting scene outside a tem…
An interesting scene outside a te…
Another colourful temple entrance
Another colourful temple entrance
The Black Stupa
The Black Stupa
The view from Patuxai
The view from Patuxai
Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang
Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
Julia getting gobbled up at Xieng …
Julia getting gobbled up at Xieng…
Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
Julia at Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
Julia at Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
Me measuring up to standards at Xi…
Me measuring up to standards at X…
Julia at Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
Julia at Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
It wasnt me! The sculptures at Xi…
It wasn't me! The sculptures at X…
Vientiane
photo by: skydiver