Laid back with a Capital L
09.06.2012 - 12.06.2012 38 °C
Vientiane feels more like a rustic little town rather than the capital city of the country. You only need a couple of days to see the main sights and eat the good patisseries and baguettes that the French left behind.
From Luang Prabang, we first stopped in at Vang Vieng which is famous on the South East Asia circuit for its river tubing. Sitting in a tube, floating down the river whilst stopping at all the bars along the riverside is a tempting prospect, although not a very traditional Lao thing to do. There are horror stories floating around about people who die thanks to the mix of alcohol, drugs, waterslides, zip lines and shallow water. In fact when we were in Australia, we saw a 60 minutes feature on the ‘most deadly place in South East Asia’. Tanya wasn’t keen after all of this negative press, but I still wanted to give it a go, figuring that you have to take all of these things with a pinch of salt.
When we pulled into Vang Vieng the weather was pretty atrocious though and considering doing it by myself in torrential rain, I gave up on the idea and we set off the following day for the capital. For what it’s worth, everyone that we have spoken to afterwards had a great time doing it and said as long as you are sensible about where you are diving into the river (watch other people do it first) then you will be fine. The town itself is pretty funny too, with all the bars in town showing Family Guy and Friends episodes as people recover from their hangovers and injuries (it’s not as dangerous as they say, but it’s still not 100% safe either).
The river without tubers
In Vientiane we found ourselves a nice guesthouse for a really cheap price thanks to a tip from another tourist on the street. We just hung around the river area for the day and got another nice sunset over the river as the locals were all out enjoying the markets.
Grabbing some bikes in the morning, we headed out to a couple of the main sites. First stop was the Arc de Triomphe of the south. After getting independence the Lao government built an arc in the style of the Parisian equivalent. Just to rub it in a bit more, they made sure this one was slightly bigger than its French forbearer.
Next stop was the Pha That Luang which was very golden, and surrounded by other temples and Buddha images. This was a little further out of town than we were expecting, and consequently we were sweating more water than the Mekong and found some refuge in a coffee shop with airconditioning before heading back to the centre for some great baguettes.
We left in the morning heading further south and initially was worried about the comfort of the journey after starting the first 40 minutes in a tuk tuk style van before finally changing to a bigger bus.
Daniel – There is a theme that we have found in Laos, everywhere and everyone is incredibly laid back and chilled out. That feeling is embodied perfectly in this capital city which is a world away from the hectic metropolis’ of Bangkok, Java and Phnom Penh.
Tanya – As Dan sais, an easygoing city but starting to feel like we need to do something a little different...