After a fun filled 4 weeks in Vietnam it was time to dodge the horrendous 36 hour bus and jump on the flash packer Vietnamise Airline flight to Vientiane- the capital of Laos. 1 hour later we landed in Lao People Democratic Republic, the only landlocked country in South East Asia. We had decided to book a little guesthouse to stay in advance who offered free airport pick up- result. Apparently an eager guest ahead of us told the driver there was no one else left in arrivals from the Hanio flight thus we missed the free pick up and had to fork out $7 on a taxi after waiting patiently for 45 mins.We are still not entirely sure that this is true, we suspect the driver forgot to come for us. Never mind the staff were apologetic and offered us discounted bus tickets to our next stop.
Another set back was the ‘centrally located’ guest house was not very central. We had a good 20 min walk to the quaint centre of town. The vibe in Laos is so chilled we didn’t let the walk phase us even the dogs were too lazy to bark at us.
Situated on the banks of the river Mekong and only 1km from neighbouring Thailand, Vientiane is a very quiet capital city. There seemed to be more restaurants than people, similar to Blackheath in a London. After getting our bearings we started to do the hit-list of sights starting with the COPE Visitor Center.
After that we headed to see a pair of temples, Wat Si Saket and Hophakaew Museum, that were opposite each other. Karen was unprepared and had shorts on- tut tut. Thankfully she was offered a sarong to wear to cover her knees, free of charge. Very generous unlike their Thai neighbours who charge for such a privilege. This was where we witnessed our first Laos wedding photo shoot. This was an untraditional wedding, a western groom marrying a local but still following local culture of photos at the city’s main attractions.
Both still recovering from the mad week in Vietnam of Halong Bay and trekking in Sapa we enjoyed chilling in Vietiane we needed some relaxation. We quickly became regulars in Joma Bakery, enjoying fruit shakes, free wifi and studying our Lonely Planet China. We had some planning to do, a full travel itinerary is required for the visa. Long lunches and chilled our evenings at the fountain listening to live music was enjoyed.
We squeezed in a little more culture including the Victory Gate- a copy of the Arc de Triomphe, the Black Stupa and Pha That Luang. Two interesting facts about the Victory Gate – It has four gates instead of two and it is slightly higher than the Arc de Triomphe (to trump the French!).
Re-freshed and ready to party we headed on the VIP bus to Vang Vieng.