Vientiane: Capital city of Laos

Trip Start Sep 20, 2006
Trip End Dec 16, 2006

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Tuesday, October 10, 2006


We caught a bus from Vang Vieng to the capital city of Laos, Vientiane. (They all sound the same, I know.) It was meant to be on a private mini bus, the one which was parked outside the tourist booking office. As usual, they lied. Some racked off old, crappy mini bus arrived, then proceeded to drive around the THREE streets of Vang Vieng for 45 minutes, adding even more time to our journey. They have absolutely NO concept of time here, and every journey time they tell you, we have learned to add at least one hour on, or two to be safe.

After suffereing from travellers diarrhea for the last few days: fever, nausea, and the rest.... I was really not looking forward to a mini bus ride. Espcially as when we got on, the windscreen wipers squeeked incessantly!!! Which only added to my trauma.

We arrived in vientiane at about 1pm and stayed at a place called Joes guest house. Everywhere here is about 3 times as expensive as anywhere else in Laos - and nowhere near as nice. For a twin room, with shared bathroom it was $8 USD. Where as usually it is about $6 for twin with bathrrom. For twin with bathroom it was $13, which, travelling-wise, is quite a lot. We decided to do the shared bathroom thing as they weren't that bad. But then it was all a bit too much for me and I was also suffereing from the old travellers fever, as I mentioned, so I said I'd pay the difference for an ensuite.

We had a wander around the town, checked out the local market (which was just closing), the shops (generally rubbish) and points of interest (few and far between) and decided the city was the worst place we had ever been in our entire lives (with the exception of Blackpool, I think, the others disagreed). It is the dirtiest, most untidy, most unattractive city I have ever had the misfortune to visit. We stayed overnight, got up early and have booked our bus ticket to Vietnam for that very afternoon. Unfortunatley the bus journey is to take 17+ hours, so thats nice. I'm very much looking forward to this. Especially with a dodgy belly.

I shared a room with Donna last night, who loves cats as much as me. In the middle of the night we heard some cats fighting. We looked at each other, then it started to sound really bad. And it didn't stop. We were getting a bit upset by this stage as it actually sounded like their limbs were being ripped from their bodies. e got up and went to the window and we could hear a mans voice through all the cat crying. I shouted, "Stop it!!!" or something of that nature. The man said something and then all the noise stopped. It was absolutely horrible and sounded like they were in a lot of pain. I have no idea what was going on and can't even begin to imagine what he might have been doing to them, if he was just killing them it wouldn't have lasted that long. Donna couldn't get it out of her mind for ages.... for me, I pretended it hadn't happened, a la mum... and will not be eating ANYTHING from a street seller, or anywhere else that looks slightly dodgy.

We met a guy last night in our hotel called Karl, who was sitting with some of our trekking friends the evening we came back late from tubing in Vang Vieng. He saw us in our room, as we had the door open and he said he recognised us. We had a bit of a chat and he came with us today to book his bus ticket to Vietnam and will be joining us on the bus tonight. We also dragged him round the local indoor market, which was the only highlight of the whole city, and really only because Gill & I got lost from the others and had a real laugh trying loads of shit clothes on and taking photos of each other -and not actually because it was any good. Gill and I traipsed off on our own and spent ages just finding the shittest things we could and trying them on, and then taking photos of ourselves. To the amusement (and sometimes bemusement) of the locals. I bought a couple of things I liked the look (but it was probably market fever). The market sells everything you can think of, though hardly any of it is any good..... but it's there all the same: fridges, hair straighteners, stationary, earrings, animal teeth AND skulls, food sellers, real gold, genuine oriental antiques, fake gold, machetes, jade figurines, elephant tusks, mobile phones, hand made clothes, ball gowns, meal worms... oh the list is endless!!! Nothing has a price on and when ask how much anything is, they say ten dollrs. After a hesitation of about 1 second they say 9 dollars. Then they may say, special price 7 dollars. We'd barter with them and maybe offer 4 dollars and they ALWAYS laugh at you. So we walk off and then they'll call you back and say- ok lady, and just accept what you've offered. You get used to it. OR you can just have the amount of money in your hand that you actually want to spend (ie the 4 dollars), and this is usally enough to promt them in to taking it.

This morning, after booking the bus ticket, we went to a place called 'Ma Jo Bakery'. It was really nice inside and smelt like starbucks, which I would usually hate, as I hate the smell of coffee but it was much more preferable to the smell of the city. It had nice leather chairs and cool lights, and sold nice bread, pastries, hand made sandwiches, lasagne and proper coffee for the girls. It was great! It even had a proper toilet, with nice tiles and toilet roll and a hand dryer! I was very impressed, so much so I even took a photo.

The capital of a country, I think, should represent the country as a whole. It should be the best it can be and be welcoming and pleasant to be in. You should be able to go and see things of interest and the people should take pride in it and keep it looking clean. The government should take pride in it and MAKE SURE it's kept clean. Vientiane has none of the above. Wandering round it, it is clear why there arean't many westeners. There is one road, by the main fountain (highlight of the city, small roundabout-like fountian, which doesnt work anyway) that is home to several more upmarket restaurants and cafes. They are slightly more western and cater to our tastes more. The price reflects this obviously, but generally, everything in this city is about 3 times the price of anywhere else, even the tuctucs! I would not recommened it to anyone and would personally even rather be in Luang Prabang, coz at least it's clean and doesn't torture cats under my window.

We are heading off to Vietnam at 5.30pm tonight. We reach Vin in Vietnam at about 1pm tomoro afternoon. Pray for a pleasant bus journey for us Aunties!

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Comments on

Hi there!
Heya Dan, glad to see ur just about surviving! you make me laugh! don't think i'd be able to put up with half the dodgy toilets etc. u have. i'm liking the idea of a bag of weed on a menu however. anyway, try not to get kidnapped or anythin.
love ya, Beth x

mekongnam on

welcome to Asia blondie
I read ur blog and it seems u missed the best of Vientiene. We saw great trad. Lao dances and had front row seats for about $4. the place was almost empty. I spoke to the director about better marketing. nobody knows about this little theater near the river. there are some great old temples certainly worth visiting. much of Asia is a mess by wester standards and hearing or seeing an animal in distress in the 3rd world is to be expected sad to say. well if u went to Vietnam Im guessing u been had. and Cambodia were u step my dear if u want to keep that foot. as for the rooms being too high..u cant get a place to pitch a tent for $10. in the US. I have been living and traveling in Asia since 1997 and rarely get sick because Im very careful what I eat and drink. take care, mekongnam

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