Buddha Park and Postage

Trip Start Sep 09, 2011
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Trip End Jun 29, 2012


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Where I stayed
Naphavong Guest House
What I did
Khopchaideu Bar

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Friday, October 28, 2011

The drive down to Vientiane was a bit better than the one to Vang Vieng, but still fairly nauseating. Laos is really beautiful with lush green rice paddies, and some surprisingly pretty houses, and fortunately I was able to look out without feeling too sick this time. There is still quite a French influence on some of the architecture, and it was really interesting to see that there is a lot of new construction going on. Apparently China has established a good relationship with Laos, and many Chinese workers have been shipped in to try and help develop this fellow communist country.

When we arrived in Vientiane though it was in all honesty a bit of a let down. It's not very pretty, but it also seems quite 'lo-fi' considering it's the capital city. It's sort of quaint, and our hostel was next to the Chinese quarter, so we had some nice food to choose from, but it didn't seem to have a lot going for it.

The manager of our guest house is called Michael, and he was extremely helpful. One evening we came back very late and he basically was asleep just inside the locked door waiting for us to return so that he could let us in. Bless him. He also really helped us with bookings things for when we arrived in Vietnam as his brother runs a hostel in Hanoi.

We decided on our first full day there to try and find an internet cafe in the hope that we would have better luck than we had in Luang Prabang... sadly what Vientiane lacked in pretty architecture, it made up for in clothes and accessories shops, and we were sucked into them with absolutely no way of escaping their lure. I ended up buying the most beautiful leather bag, but for a bit of a tidy sum... I felt that heady mix of guilt and jealous ownership of my new pretty thing almost immediately, so decided I would post it home as soon as possible to make sure I didn't dare return it. Playing the 'I shouldn't have bought this, but it's so pretty and I love it, but I can't afford it, but I want it and it's mine...' game is not good long term. Best to just send it home so that I can't rationalise my purchase. You should never rationalise buying a beautiful bag.

This was easier said than done (the sending it home, not the rationalising) and the 'Post Office Mission' is now legendary as taking the longest time in history for anyone to post anything, anywhere, ever. However, I retrospectively have to give Laos credit as it arrived home super fast, whereas Thailand Post has been really temperamental.

We had managed to meet up with friends from Luang Prabang, and had travelled with Coco, Kate and Aoife down to Vientiane from Vang Vieng, so as a group of 9 we tried to get a Tuk Tuk out to the Buddha Park, or Wat Xieng Khuan. 'Xieng Khuan' means 'Spirit City' and it is an area with many sculptures in that merge the philosophies of Buddhism and Hinduism. The designer was exiled to Thailand after creating it, which seems really sad as the statues are really beautiful.

The TukTuk driver crammed us all into his tiny little vehicle, and had to stop 5 minutes later because with us all onboard his top speed was slower than walking pace. Literally. Someone overtook us on the pavement. 

Fortunately another larger tuk tuk was able to take us out there. It took about an hour, and the road was absolutely horrific; full of potholes. The park itself though was amazing. Really interesting mix of sculptures, and two weird shrine things that you could climb up and into. One of them you had to enter by scrambling through a kind of scary mouth before climbing up to the top inside. Like a few tourist places in Asia you have to pay extra if you want to take a camera in, but it was worth it.

Annoyingly sitting peacefully on the grass and musing the world and... stuff... I got bitten many times by little anty creatures on my legs, leaving them covered in red lumps. Attractive. I certainly did not pay extra for that.

In the evening it was Halloween and we all met up for drinks. We met an Aussie called Jake who then came with some of us once the bar we were in shut (at about 12) to find somewhere else to have a drink. And would you believe it? The only place open... the bowling alley!! Admittedly this one looked a lot fancier, and had a karaoke bar upstairs

The karaoke is kind of like Singstar in that the singer is scored at the end. The scores seem entirely random in my opinion as some of the worst singers seemed to score higher or the same as better ones. We were up for having a go, and the guy running it came over and said that he had English songs. We asked which ones, and he said "Write the name of song down and I'll see if I have it." We pointed out that there were millions of English songs, and after one attempt at this system and him not having any of our choices we realised that this could go on for some time and gave up.

After a very scary tuk tuk ride back to our hostel, where the left back wheel essentially detached from the vehicle, and stayed on with... I don't know, might as well have been dental floss and chewing gum... we packed our bags in preparation for our flight to Hanoi.

We were all tired and grumpy when we got to the airport, and used our leftover Kip buying drinks and chupa-chup lollies to try and wake ourselves up. Not totally successful... Bec fell asleep across 3 chairs in the departure lounge! The aeroplane was a small propeller plane and Bec was quite nervous about going on it. Compared to some of the tiny planes I have flown in to get to the Isle of Man it might as well have been a jumbo jet, so I was a lot less concerned. After an hour of waiting... not really a delay... more 'Laos Time'... we were up, up and away, and heading for Vietnam. Finally I could say I was flying into 'nam!

 
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