The Capital of Slow

Trip Start Apr 07, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Thursday, April 26, 2012

We arrived at the border at 5:30 in the morning and waited till 7:00 when the border opened. We paid a dollar to exit Vietnam and jogged the kilometer to the Laos border in the rain to apply for the 36 USD visa in the customs building, done in 3rd world fashion during a power outage. The bus then took us to the north bus station in Vientiane at 15:00 (total of 25.5 hours). Laos appeared a bit more jungly, and at times like a savanna. Many houses in the countryside are on stilts, or the base is concrete and the upper floor is made of wood for monsoon season.

We took a 20,000 kip (2.50 USD) tuc-tuc ride into Vientiane center, accompanied by a weird but nice Australian guy, a Buddhist monk in orange robes and some locals. There were some good paved roads, but the city was small and dusty. Although Vientiane is the capital city of Laos and located on the Mekong River, it was small, kind of dead and the river was all dried up all the across to Thailand. The city seemed like an old cowboy town, not a lot of people, really slow-paced lifestyle, and everything seemed to open at 9 or 10 in the morning and close at 7 or 8 at night. Almost always in Laos, when you go to a restaurant and order something – it could be something you don't even have to cook like yogurt and granola – and it would be thirty minutes to an hour before it arrived at your table. It’s like no matter what, there is always only one cook in the kitchen, and even he is always taking it slow and taking breaks often. No locals seem to mind, but for us it definitely would have transitioned between new and interesting to inconvenient and frustrating pretty quickly.

We stayed in the Youth Inn 1 on Francois Ngin Rd., close to the "river" for 80,000 kip (5 USD per person) 30,000 kip extra in order to get A/C. The food in Laos was underwhelming, the Papaya salad was plain and not very fruity papaya, even though we heard so many recommendations for it before, but hopefully Thailand’s will be better. All the street food looked really stale and like meat that we really didn’t want to test our bodies with.
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