Vientiene, The City That Always Sleeps

Trip Start Mar 11, 2007
Trip End Jul 27, 2007

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Vientiene is the capital city of Laos.  You would never guess from the pace of the place--it is one sleepy capital!  We took a sweaty 6 hour bus ride through winding moutain terrain.  Our booking in Vang Vieng was for a "VIP bus".  VIP;  very inconvenient to pee, very impatient porter?  I don't know what the acronym was, but it certainly was not deluxe travel.  We were told that there would be a toilet and air conditioning on board.  Gotcha, you silly gullible foreigners!  Even so, I enjoyed seeing the little villages and scenic hills we passed through.

We met an Irish couple upon arrival who succinctly said, "Well, Vientiene, it's great.  But there's not much to do."  It IS quiet, but in a good way.  Maybe we're just lame, but it was nice to kick back and wander around without feeling like we had attractions to visit and things to do. 

The first night we met up with the Irish couple and went to a bar along the Mekong river to watch a championship soccer match between Manchester United and Chelsea.  It was a big match (I'm not sure, a European cup or something?)  In any case, it was nice to chat with some new acquaintainces.  The big conversation stopper was when we revealed our age to the early 20-somethings.  Another girl we were drinking with was a Canadian who was only 18 and volunteering at an elephant conservation camp. 

We did another walking tour of the area and visited, you guessed it, many wats.  We think of this as the warm-up or appetizer to our touring of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Another famous stop in Vientiene is the Pha That Luang.  It is supposed to be a symbol of Buddhism and Lao sovereignty and was commissioned by a king in the 16th century after the capital was moved from Luang Prabang to Vientiene.  Once again, we rented bikes to peddle to the area located about 4 km from town.  It was good to get a little bit of exercise although the bikes were a bit of a road hazard. 

There is also another well known monument at the end of a long European-like boulevard, the Patuxi.  It resembles the Parisian Arc de Triomphe, but has four archways rather than two.  See the photo for the humble sign  posted under one of the arches.  A lot of locals hang out here listening to the pop music blasting from speakers.

Like in many other cities, many of the businesses make good use of their limited space;  a hair salon-restaurant, an antique store-travel agency, a drug store-bike rental.  This multi-tasking mentality was also evident amongst the tuk-tuk drivers: 
"Tuk-tuk today sir?" 
"No thanks."
"How about something else?" *wink, wink*
Imagine if all the yellow cab drivers in NYC were drug dealers also!

True to form, we went for a nice dinner the last night in Vientiene.  A cozy little French place where they had great brick oven pizza (French?) and an awesome cous-cous meat stew.  It was my favourite dish at an old haunt of ours in Brooklyn called Robin des Bois.  But this version was so flavourful--'Cous cous Royale', you have been dethroned.

After experiencing the various forms of slow but thrifty tranportation, we decided to speed things up a bit and book the rest of our SE Asian travel by flight.  [Gasp!]  The extravagance!  Actually, we got a great deal for three flights from Lao Airlines.  We had heard a lot of negative things about this airline, and while the plane was not the most modern flight machine out there, we had a very pleasant experience and easily arrived to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
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amoy on

do it all
you have both made me happy by going to Cambodia to see the temples. Enkoy and take in all that it has to offer, The children are the greatest I am filled with longing now' Enjoy, enjoy!!!!

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