A Capital City, Believe It Or Not

Vientiane Travel Blog

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Pha That Luang

It's hard to believe that a capital city can be so quiet. I'd expect High Wycombe on Christmas Day to be busier than this. Mind you, it has only got a population of around 500,000. It was actually a very welcome change from the pandemonium that is Hanoi, especially after the long bus journey.

The five of us that had checked into a dormitory together in a guesthouse overlooking the Mekong River got some food and sampled a few bottles of the infamous Beerlao. There isn't that much in the way of night life, but what was around definitely had a Western feel to it, with a mixture of backpackers, expats and what I would guess were 'sex tourists' frequenting the bars.

The following morning the guys that I had met set off for Vang Vieng, the backpacker haven a few hours further north.

Patuxai
I wanted to check out Vientiane for myself, even if I had been warned there isn't much to see. I was glad I did; I managed to easily fill a day sight-seeing. After some healthy bartering with a tuk-tuk driver over a fare, I was taken a few kilometres out of the city to the most famous temple in Laos, the magnificent golden Pha That Luang. On the way back, I asked my tuk-tuk driver to drop me off at Patuxai, a concrete building that resembles the Parisian Arc de Triomphes. Up top you get a good view of the city (even though there isn't much to see), but I was surprised that, even in a city monument, the insides had been converted into a shop catering for tourists.

I took a slight detour to the largest market in Vientiane, Talat Sao, where I sampled a local dish, laap sin (beef) and sticky rice.

That Dam
It wasn't great, to be honest, which isn't really a surprise when you see the state of the cows over here. Best play it safe in future: stick to dog. I stopped off to take photos of a few wats - of which Haw Pha Kaew was my fave; it's been converted into a museum for religious objects. I finished my walk along the promenade, overlooking the Mekong, but it wasn't the most impressive of sights. Then I had the challenge of finding a cash machine to get some Laos kip. I had some dollars to use, but cash isn't easily accessible in Laos; cash machines have only been introduced over the last few years and are scarce, to say the least. I found one eventually, and could finally chill out on the riverfront with a mango shake.

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Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang
Patuxai
Patuxai
That Dam
That Dam
Buddhist monks at Wat Si Saket
Buddhist monks at Wat Si Saket
Washing day at Wat Si Saket
Washing day at Wat Si Saket
Buddhas at Haw Pha Kaew
Buddhas at Haw Pha Kaew
Dragon sillouette at Haw Pha Kaew
Dragon sillouette at Haw Pha Kaew
Mural at Haw Pha Kaew
Mural at Haw Pha Kaew
View from Patuxai
View from Patuxai
Window and ceiling at Patuxai
Window and ceiling at Patuxai
Impang Temple
Impang Temple
Nighttime in Vientiane
Nighttime in Vientiane
Vientiane
photo by: skydiver