Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is home to 600,000 people, although walking around the center of town you'd never know it! The lack of traffic gives the place a really sleepy, small town feel to it. Having made the journey here packed into a small minibus without air-con, we were grateful to step into our cool hotel and take an air-conditioned room. Well worth the extra $3/night!
The french influence is in evidence everywhere, from the colonial style architecture to the numerous coffee shops and bakeries catering for the many expats and tourists, desperate for a cup of good coffee! Walking around we quickly discovered that it is also very hot here. Much more so than anywhere else we have been to in Laos. Of course this meant frequent stops for iced coffee and made cold white wine absolutely vital for lunch and dinner. Not good for the budget but very enjoyable. We had a particularly nice meal at a place called Le Silapa - the guy contributes money to needy kids for every bottle of wine you drink, so we thought we would help his cause! He was a really nice man and the food was the best we have had so far on our travels... not bad for GBP20!!
After a few glasses of wine and our lovely meal, we returned to our room to find out that our curtains had not been put up as promised... so Jonathan inquired at the front desk and the man came upstairs with the curtains...this man, who had a brilliant smile, came up to Jonathan's waistband - read: he was VERY short. So the two of them, Jonathan slightly tipsy, started inserting the pins into the curtains so they would hang. Both of them stood up on the edge of the bed to hang them (which was a funny site anyway!!), but the poor little man was catapulted off the one end of the bed due to the difference in height (and weight!) between him and Jonathan... all three of us could not stop laughing - and he wasn't hurt... maybe that's why all the kids laugh at my giant of a husband??
The main boulevard truly resembles the Champs Elyeeses in Paris - at the end there is even an "Arc de Triomphe" which is called Patxubhai. After some pass-by visits to Wats and sunset views across the Mekong... our routine has been largely food based! This of course was only interrupted by a brief "incident" where we almost fell into an open sewer - it seems as though the concrete slab covering one of the sewers was interested in playing see-saw with us - much to my particular fright given that I had already fallen into a manhold once in Barbados!
And sadly, we will leave Vientiane with a slightly sour taste in our mouths... and it has nothing to do with Lao people! Jonathan was doing his bit for Franco-English relations tonight at dinner when he sent some fish back at the French Restaurant we went to - it was honestly the worst fish ever and it wasn't fresh. The owner, a French woman, insisted that the fish was fine and we should pay for it - which Jonathan refused. When he insisted on the poor quality of the fish, the French proprietor became very frazzled and asked where he was from... when he told her England she muttered something under her breath (probably Engleesh Piiig!!) and then she said she knew the fish was fresh because it came from France... Jonathan, trying to smooth over the situation as she was ignoring him at this point replied by saying that it probably came from the English side of the channel! Anyway, we take the good with the bad and just for the record (Jonathan would like it known!!!!) we didn't pay for the fish in the end!
We are off to Vietnam on Saturday and will say it again - we love Southeast Asia!!