Friday, April 10, 2009
30 hours to Vientiane
Since I had started my journey to Laos (from Nan in Thailand) 28 hours passed before I actually had a visa and was standing on Laotian soil.
The next challenge was getting into the capital - Vientiane. The first large bus I saw had many local in it already, and even though the lady in front of it told me I could not use it, I sat down inside anyways. After all I have been lied to many times, for the sake of making money of a foreigner ... eventually though I came to realize that she was not trying to make money, but the bus was indeed pre-booked for a tour from Thailand - oopsy ...
The near by minibus gladly took me - and didn't even charge me the "foreigner" price :) After I gave up my seat for a monk, the locals had big smiles for me as wll ... and pulled me away from him, since women are not supposed to touch monks (especially the foreigners, which might be even more "dirty")...oopsy again ...
40 Minutes later I arrived in the bus station outside of town ... didn't like the tuk-tuk drivers and started walking the 3 km ... just to realize that I was too exhausted to make it into town and settled on 40 Baht ($1) to get me to my hotel. Unfortunately the hotel changed ownership since my book was printed and had raised there prices considerably (from $6 to $12). To stay true to may budget-traveller status I gladly declined and made my way back onto the street to find another place. The next stop was Mixay hotel - $6 a night - single room - very clean :))) I was happy that I had finally arrived after about 30 hours of travel ... and took a nap to celebrate my luck :))
Vientiane is located right at the bend of the Mekong River, who separates Thailand and Laos in the north. When sitting in one of the many river cafes you can see Thailand just across the river :) The capital of Laos is a quaint and easygoing place and has a small town flair. Since this country has been attacked so many times, most buildings are fairly new - only one temple survived the centuries of wars. Surprisingly enough there are many travellers stopping here and the city is well equipped to handle them all with many restaurants and accommodations to chose from. One of the nicest leftovers from the French are the many bakeries offering croissants and baguettes ... very yummy.
After walking the city later on this afternoon I returned to the hotel and ran into a Canadian that crossed the boarder with me ... I joined him and an Irish couple that did the same, for dinner at the Mekong and we decided to test the Laotian beer: Beerlao :) After a couple of bottles by the river, we moved up to a nice restaurant(great pineapple pancakes) and to Beerlaos pitchers. Once they closed at 11:30 we ran out of beer, but into some local on the street, that insisted on us trying their home made rice wine (bad idea)... and afterwards decided to check out the only club in town still open (located in the only skyscraper in town)... were, of course, we could continue our testing of more Beer Laos. I reckon we did a great job toroughly testing the local beer, but unfortunately were all useless the next day ...
I did make it to Vientiane history monastery the next day - Wat Sisaket - the only temple spared in the catastrophic sack of the city in 1828 ...and across the street to Haw Pha Kaew - once the king's personal Buddhist temple, now functioning as a museum or art and anti quiet ... afer checking my e-mails and calling my grandparetns I was ready for another nap :)
The sunset over the Mekong river was simply beautiful and a perfect ending for my stay in Vientiane.