Take Me To The River

Vientiane Travel Blog

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Phra That Launy
I really like arriving by train, though that's not something you can do when travelling to Vientiane as the railway stops at the Thai border, though it does look like it will be very soon open all the way to Vientiane.  It's not just the journey by train which is great, lots of space to move around and easy to see the country, but arriving is more fun; railway stations, even here in Asia, always seem to be places of grandeur which airports and bus stations just can't match. 
After our previous success with Thai sleeper trains it seemed easily the best way to reach Laos from Bangkok, leaving at 9pm and scheduled to arrive at 9am.  This time we were only 1 hour late (previous best overnight trip has been 2 hours late) which still gave  us plenty of time to complete border formlaties and take a taxi for the final 20Km or so from the Friendship bridge across the Mekong into Ventiane.
Arch d'Triumph
      
We had not originally planned to come to Laos, but we have heard so many good stories about the country it definitely seemed like it was too  good to miss. The Laos border formalities seem to be easing as were purchased our visa easily and quickly (you are meant to have a photo for the visa application but the officials seem relaxed if you didn't) and found that it is now valid for 30 days rather than the 15 days we had thought; it is worth paying for the visa in Kip or US$ though as the Baht exchange rate is not great.
The LP describes the country as laid back and intial impressions seemed to confirm this.  Vientiane is a charming city with a distinctly French feel, both in the architecture and the cafe atmosphere serving French style dishes.
View of Vientiane
  Pleasing is that the relaxed attitude also extends to the tourist  touts who seem happy to accept no for an answer and are some of the lowest pressure salesmen I have met for a while. 
Vientiane is full of places to stay but is also busy with visitors so the guest houses near the centre seem to fill up quickly, particularly those with a travel guide recommendation under their belt.  After trying a couple and finding them full, we take a room at the Saysouly guest house for 70,000 Kip; the room is basic but the location is great, the place has a rustic charm and a good balcony where you can sit out. 
That evening we have a beer at one of the cafes overlooking the Mekong and then eat at supposedly one of Vientiane's best restuarants, Cote d'Azur; we are not disappointed and have a great meal washed down with French wine followed by French cheese - this is the life!
The next day we take a quick tour of the city.
Wat
  Phra That Launy is impressive  even though I know it to be a  20th century replica of the  original; the Arc d' Triumph better than I had expected, though the view from the top is nothing special. There are an incredible number of Wats in Vientiane, so many that seeing them all would take a few days in itself!  We decide to look at one and choose Wat Sisaket which is a good pick as the cloister has thousands of buddas quite unlike any other temple I have seen.  I also want to see the National Museum and manage to make it just in time as it shuts at 4pm.  About half of the museum is dedicated to the revolutionary struggle since the 1950's which interests me;  Julie has other ideas and goes for a massage instead.
 
skippyed says:
Hey Malcolm, will be a trip down memory lane reading your Laos blog! You must go to Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. The bus trip between Van Vieng and Luang Prabang is spectacular scenery. Van Vieng is lovely with limestone peaks. From Luang Prabang you can take a 2 day trip on a long boat down the Mekong back to Thailand.. I did it and it was an experience!!
Posted on: Mar 11, 2008
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Phra That Launy
Phra That Launy
Arch dTriumph
Arch d'Triumph
View of Vientiane
View of Vientiane
Wat
Wat
The Black Stupa
The Black Stupa
Wat Sisaket
Wat Sisaket
Wat Sisaket
Wat Sisaket
Vientiane
photo by: skydiver