Around the World in 80 Emotions !!! travel blog

Vientiane Promenade

National Museum

Wat Si Saket

Wat Si Saket - 2

Vientiane Street

Pataxai

Pataxai - Inside view

Pataxai - Outside View

That Luang

Buddha Park

Buddha Park - 2

Ellen & Fran

Nong Khai Market

Sala Kaew Nu

Sala Kaew Nu - 2

Sala Kaew Nu - 3

Vientiane from Thailand

Tha Thang Waterfall

The Picnic Ladies

The Mekong

Wat Hin Mak Peng


Leaving Vang Vieng, my next destination was the Vientiane, the capital of Laos situated on the banks of the Mekong. I had been quite looking forward to visiting the city but ended up slightly disappointed because the promenade along the banks of the river was being completely rebuilt and it was just a dusty and muddy building site. This meant there would be no sipping Beer Lao watching sunsets from riverside restaurants.

Nevertheless, Vientiane still had some things going for it though since in addition to some interesting local temples/sites, it had a good mix of international restaurants, you could get really good espressos and cappuccinos and it was possible to get the same days Bangkok Post newspaper by about 3 in the afternoon. A very nice change after weeks of bad Nescafe coffee and 3 day old newspapers !! On my first morning in the city, I took the opportunity to get my bearings, before heading to the Lao National Museum which contained a some interesting historic finds but also a lot of good photos of the Lao's battle for independence from both the French and a Lao puppet government set up by the Americans during the Vietnam war. The photo titles were particularly interesting as they had a very strong propaganda tone, continually referring to the French and US imperialists and their war crimes (which to be fair was partly true) !! I also took the chance to check out the Talat Sao market and visit Vientiane's oldest temple Wat Si Saket, which is the only temple built in the early 19th century that was not destroyed by invading Thai armies. That evening, I decided to check out one of the local "western" restaurants enjoying a good Lao meal in the garden of "Paradise".

Thursday was an "I can't make my mind up what I am going to do today" day so I spent most of the morning just messing about in the centre of the city, eventually stopping in a bookshop to pick up some stuff for my upcoming trips to Cambodia and Vietnam. That afternoon, I did finally get myself a little organised visiting some more of the local temples and walking out to Pataxai, a 4 arched sort of "Arc de Triomphe", which is located on one of the main avenues in the city. It is possible to climb to the top but the views were actually quite limited when you got there as the city is almost completely flat. That evening, I took the opportunity to check out one of the local Japanese restaurants where in honour of my former Japanese colleagues, I had the Okonomayaki with Pork and Shrimp which was very good. Friday, saw me hire an other motorbike so I could head out of the city to a local Buddha park full of weird and wonderful statues built by a local guru, Luang Pu, in the 60's and 70's. As it was only 30km away, I decided to take a scenic route along the Mekong river which turned out to be a mistake as most of the route was unsealed and full of muddy puddles. Fortunately, I manage to keep the bike upright and after enjoying the unusual sculpture park took the direct route back.

On Saturday, I woke early and decided to use the extra hours to catch the start of the Aussie Rules Grand Final which was been shown in a local bar. Having seen what was eventually voted "AFL Goal of the Season" at the MCG back in June, I felt obliged to check out the final match of the season. This turned out to be a very close match between St Kilda and Collingwood, ending up a 68-68 draw only the 3rd draw of the history of AFL Grand Finals. Unfortunately, I actually ended up missing the end of the game as I had arranged to meet up with former colleague Ellen and her friend Fran who are also travelling around the world. It was nice to see Ellen again and she was looking great having spent almost 9 months in Central America, Peru, NZ, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. She had some great stories from her trip as she had a particularly rough time travelling through Indonesia but she was still positive about the experience. After spending over 3 hours catching up on our trips and sharing the latest Molex gossip, we took a break for a few hours before meeting up again that evening for some more food and drinks. There the conversation got a little more serious as we talked about our plans for when we returned and what we considered the highlights and lowlights of our tours. Unfortunately, for the girls their trips are coming to an end this month whereas I am fortunate enough to be continuing for another while yet. Still it was an enjoyable evening and we ended with a promise to keep in touch as we will both be travelling through Cambodia during the coming weeks all be it in different directions.

My plans are taking me back south to Bangkok in Thailand where I will meet up with my friend Brian, so on Sunday I decided to take the bus to Nong Khai on the other side of the Thai-Lao Friendship bridge. The 25km trip which would take about 20 minutes in Europe because of our open borders, took almost two hours here as on each side of the river we had to get off our bus and queue for about 30 minutes to get though Lao and Thai customs. Nevertheless, it was all fairly efficient and by lunchtime I was sitting on a terrace bar enjoying the views from the Thai side of the Mekong. That afternoon, I picked up a bicycle and headed out to Sala Kaew Ku Sculpture park another park built by Lao, Luang Pu, who had escaped into Thailand after the communist Pathet Lao took over Laos. This park turned out to be just as crazy as the first and again well worth a visit. SO that evening, I celebrated my return to Thailand with a meal of traditional spring rolls at Daeng Namnuang, an extremely popular Vietnamese restaurant on the banks of the Mekong.

On Monday, I took the opportunity to head west out of town along the Mekong. My destination was the Than Thong waterfall which in itself was fairly unimpressive. It still turned out to be an interesting trip however as I ended up being invited by 7 local women to join them during their picnic lunch. Conversation was limited as only one of them spoke English but they still showed lots of interest in me as in this part of the country, they are not used to having seeing many “farangs”. Eventually, after eating some excellent food and having my photo taken multiple times, I said my goodbye as I had to get back to Nong Khai in time for my night train to Bangkok from which I am presently writing this blog.

More news of my time in Bangkok to follow !



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