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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

One Night In Vientiane

LAOS | Tuesday, 19 June 2007 | Views [1105]

We took the early morning mini-van out of Vang Viene, to continue down Route 13 to Vientiane. True to form - transportation in Laos - it took them an hour to move through the small town to pick up passengers, and then once we were 10 minutes out of town, the driver gets a call on his cell, so we head back into town to the bus station to cram in another two more passengers. Now more than an hour past our original departure time, we're off. We wound through picturesque limestone cliffs that were overgrown with lush green trees and vines - very jungly. Our driver slows the bus and cautiously approaches an area that looks like a fire, with smoke rising from the bush alongside the road, with several military personnel hanging out with big guns. Our hearts sink into our stomach, and the US Embassy warnings against taking this road flash through our minds... but we slowly make our way past them without any problem. The bus rolls into Vientiane, and drops us off, per our request, at the center of the riverside promenade. Yes, it sounds so luxurious, but it's really just a dirt strip where stalls of food vendors set up riverside seating with cheap eats. It's also close to the hub of the low cost backpacker accommodation area. The riverside promenade, it's actually not so picturesque, and it's best not to peer down the banks at the trash thats been dumped down or run off the road from recent rains. It's much more atmospheric at night with the outdoor seating with strings of Christmas tree lights make it look special and magical. Schlepping our bags through streets that were all dug up into muddy piles and sink holes, during the prime heat of the day, is not so fun. We quickly settle upon a guest house after checking out just a few. This one has no windows, but it has A/C, and is under $12 including breakfast. Fine for our one night stay in this city. We took our second shower of the day, washed our dirty laundry and took a pensioners kip under our sweet A/C, and gathered enough energy to explore the city again in the sweltering heat.

Vientiane has a very distinctive French feel, the old and well preserved architecture, along with the new construction, cafes and shops lining the street are very French. But you know you're definitely in Asia when you see all the wats, their intricately decorated figures and features rising amongst the trendy shops and cafes. It's a pretty large, dusty city (when the rain holds off), and we're here to spend one night, get our Cambodian visa from the local embassy just outside of town, before heading south to the border of Laos. Had our bus from Vang Viene arrived on time, we would have been able to get our visa same day, and leave - this allows us a day to explore the city. We're still not sure if we will be able to get a visa at the border crossing between Laos and Cambodia. Posters on Lonely Planet Thorntree seem to indicate it's been a hit or miss experience. Travelers we've spoken with along the way here also say similar things. So to be safe, we'll take the day required in Vientiane and then save the time to get the Vietnam visa (which requires 3-5 days processing here in Vientiane) for when we're in Cambodia. Feedback suggests Cambodia is the best (fastest and cheapest) place to get a visa for Vietnam. We spent the afternoon wandering the disheveled streets and checking out local art galleries and shops. By 5:00 p.m. we were being wooed into local beer gardens by little old Laotian ladies, for happy hour. Big Beer Lao bottles for only a buck! Our first stop played John Denver's medley of greatest hits, including "Take Me Home Country Roads," which prompted our sing along. Happily buzzed we walked along the riverside promenade, searching for good street vendor deals for dinner - but price fixing for food and beer here is rampant, and it's not much cheaper on the street than it is in the little restaurants, so we opted to have our traditional Lao dinner - laap with beef (minced beef prepared with onions, mint, chili) and sticky rice at a chic little local restaurant/art gallery. They bring out hot, freshly made sticky rice in little covered bamboo containers with each meal so it stays warm. You're supposed to eat the rice with your fingers, scooping up the beef with the rice. One thing we've learned along the was is it's not proper to eat your rice with chopsticks. Chopsticks in Laos are for Chinese food, and they will comment and look at you strange if you aren't eating your rice with your fingers. We were reprimanded by our guide during our hike about our funny practice using the chopsticks- however on our trek, it was more a matter of hygienic eating as our fingers were crusted with dirt and bacteria. It was a cool local restaurant setting, we sat on floor mats with cushions around a round table - like eating our food on a magic carpet.

Tags: Sightseeing


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