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Vientiane- Laos

VIETNAM | Thursday, 13 January 2011 | Views [472]

For a whole section in the Lonely Planet guide, you could be forgiven for thinking that there would perhaps be more to do in the Capital of Vientiane. However, this is a little stretched from the actuality of what this place has to offer. In an attempt to revive this negative beginning, it is important to note that the vibe of this place is pretty damn nice. We had arrived here from noisy and hectic Hanoi with the hope that Laos would be a little more laid back and a little friendlier to the white, tall strangers. We were not disappointed. Sitting back, marveling at the value of a Big Beerlao and letting time become a concept that seems useless is a small pleasure in life that I hadn't yet discovered on this particular trip so far.

In terms of what to do, you can go on the 'Walking Tour' but this is really just a glimpse at some relatively modest temples on the sides of roads and a few 'Handicraft' shops which offer local hilltribe artifacts at huge markups. So, we attempted the 'Talat Sao' market which sounded promising. It is actually the Laos version of a shopping mall and has many technological gadgets from 2007 to offer. The riverfront is actually pretty nice, with a number of chilled out beer gardens and cafes that serve everything from sushi, French cuisine, Italian everything and for some reason, a lot of Israeli kebabs. Vientiane is not the cheapest place though and expectations of saving a few dollars in Laos are quickly diminished when you do the Maths. Its still cheaper than Australia, its just not what you expect in Asia. 

A couple of main highlights include the free exercise equipment that sit near the Mekong riverfront. I spent a nice morning doing some stretches and muscle toning with the locals (who all gave me some very puzzled looks as they were kind of taking it easy, more of a social event, and I was trying to burn off my BeerLao consumption in only 60 minutes... I looked ridiculous.)The constant battle to keep the early morning mosquitoes out of my face was possibly more challenging than the Cross Country Trainer but still, it felt quite refreshing to watch the sunrise and get the blood pumping. Another highlight includes the Wat So La Pruang massage/ sauna place which is about 3km out of the main town. As you walk down a forested pathway and hear the birds call out to one another it feels like you have slipped off the map somehow and have discovered a little private oasis... unfortunately Lonely Planet encourages others to come and visit your oasis... bummer! Once here you slip into a sarong, stuff your possessions into a drawer and enter a herbal sauna that is so strong you feel like a Lipton teabag. Still, it feels awesome. After this you sip some herbal tea whilst relaxing to the sounds of the forest and prepare yourself for a grueling hour of massage and relaxation. It was tough but somehow we got through it. One piece of advice though, avoid stuffing your face at lunchtime prior to the massage- as stated, it is very relaxing and the skilled staff members will twist and turn your limbs in some ways which can be very demanding- you could easily end up adding your own essence to the herbs which I think a few of us did (always worth a giggle into your pillow.)

After a day though, it was time to move on and we did exactly this... Vang Vieng was our next stop and we were pleased to find that most of our comrads from the Hanoi to Vientiane sleeper bus were all on the same wavelength. It was now time to party! 

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