Still unsure about Vientiane, I was glad my Dad had arranged a tour for us today which will hopefully put my uncertainty to rest. It was 8am and we were on the back of yet another Tut-tut heading off into the unknown, literally as my Dad failed to let us in on where we were going. He likes to do this quite a bit; he’s a stickler for surprises.
So we are bumping around, inhaling all the yummy car fumes and taking in the sights on our way out to our first stop. We passed the Beer Lao brewery (I asked for some free tasting but I guess they didn’t hear me), the sweet, sweet smelling tobacco factory (I’m an ex smoker and like a sniff every now and then), the coffee factory (mmm another favorite) and the many rice paddies. We arrived at our first stop which happens to be the Friendship Bridge. We pay our fee (yes that’s right a fee to walk on a bridge) to check out the bridge which joins Thailand and Lao over the Mekong River.
The Friendship Bridge - A gift from Oz
To our surprise this bridge was donated by the Australian people in 1994 and it cost $42 million dollars (so that’s where my tax dollars went to! At least it was a worthy cause). Kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when you find out that your country did something nice like that. A bit shocked by this, it made the visit to the big block of concrete so much better.
Our next stop is Buddha Park also known as Xieng Khuan which means Spirit City.
After a rather long and bumpy ride on the Tut-tut we were so glad to of arrived at Buddha Park. The name of the place pretty much gives it away as to what you will find and there were so many statures. The most interesting stature I found was the big pumpkin looking thing, which had three layers. I found out the layers represent Hell, Earth and Heaven. You enter through the big demon mouth and climb the stairs from Hell though to Heaven. On each level there are sculptures representing each level. At the top or Heaven you get a great view of the entire park.
With our heads and backsides a bit sore from the really bumpy road out to Buddha Park, it was a relief to be back on proper roads. It was now the middle of the day, stinking hot and we were only half way through the tour when we arrived at the Sisaket Museum.
Again another temple full of Buddha’s but I really liked the architecture and the history of this place. In the centre is of the museum is The Sim (Ordination Hall) where you can leave donations for the restoration of The Sim.
Arriving at our next stop, we were greeted by some locals selling Finches which you release for good luck. Not wanting to see the birds kept in such small cages I decided to pay for one to be released. I’m a sucker for birds. J Located here is the stupa Pha That Luang. Intrigued by this stupa I was disappointed to find out that it was closed, oh well I guess we’ll just have to spend some of our hard earned Kip at the markets and come back another day to check it out on the inside.
We had already passed the Victory Monument on the way to the Pha That Luang and I was impressed with this French type monument with a bit of Asian flair.
Arriving at the monument I was so drenched in sweat that the large, green, gross looking pond at the front of this monument was looking very inviting at this point, but once we stood under the monument it self it was like somebody had turned the air conditioner on. Ahhhhhhh Coolness! But before I could cool down too much I decided to climb the stairs to the top to check out the view. Hoping my knees would hold up I started to make my way up the many flights of stairs, after a few levels I was taken aback by the markets located inside the monument. Hmmm! Making my way past the markets I eventually got to the top and checked out the view but not before sitting down to rest the dodgy right knee.
Finally the tour was at an end and it was now beer o’clock oh and a nice refreshing shower. Hmm which do i have first?