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where in the world is steph.... Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? -- Mary Oliver

Vientiane Sights

LAOS | Monday, 9 April 2007 | Views [947]

Day three started early with a quick cup of coffee before heading to the Thai consulate. I met a girl who was a Laos refugee living in Anchorage! She works at a Thai restaurant there. Conversing with her helped to quickly pass the time before the consulate opened. I was near the front of the line until a bunch of people pushed through to the front. I stewed in my thoughts until I got up to the counter. Once everything was in order I went to another building to wait to pay. Somehow my passport got called before all those people who had pushed their way to the front, I felt that karma had its way of evening the score.

            When I left the consulate it was still early and the cool air felt energizing, so I walked toward the gold stupa I could see in the distance, Pha That Luang (it’s official name, Pha Chedi Lokajulamani means World-Precious Sacred Stupa).  Later when I checked my guide book, it said the monument is closed on Mondays, but I was able to get in. The place was empty though and I was alone almost the entire time I was wandering around the stupa. I also visited several wats in the area, with their vibrantly painted decorations there was something very modern feeling about them.

            On my way to Pha That Luang, I passed an old amusement part. It looked like it closed for the evening one day and the next day it just didn’t open, nor the day after that. The place was very eerie, the bumper cars sat where the last person who had used them, left them, covered in layers of dirt and debris from the nearby trees; the grand staircase to the main building was crumbling, and the Farris wheel cars rusting. It was so strange to see everything still there in the park, instead of just empty buildings. Laos has interesting juxtapositions going on, the capital city with dirt roads, a brand new mall with women selling herbal remedies on the street outside,  rural villagers with cell phone, and an overwhelming feeling of calm and laidbackness amongst evidence of it’s turbulent past.

            I walked from Pha That Luang to Patuxai a four sided copy (sort of) of the Arc de Triomphe- Laos style. Compete with four archways and temple like reliefs on the ceiling and along the outside ledges. Patuxai was built with cement that the U.S. gave Laos for a new airport. It was never finished and (my favorite part) has a magnificent sign that states “From a closer distance, it appears even less impressive, like a monster of concrete”. Need I say more! I met a novice in the part surrounding Patuxai. He was off from school for the holiday, and was chatting with foreigners to practice his English. He came from quite a large family, and his older brother was a monk who lived in the same wat as him. He has been a novice for three years, and hoped to be a monk one day. We exchanged e-mail addresses, he is allowed to check his e-mail online, but not allowed to play computer games. I find it fascinating the different ways Buddhism has adapted to the modern world sometimes.

            I spent the rest of the day window shopping, enjoying the stores filled with beautiful woven silk products and other various hilltribe goods. I worked my way down toward the Mekong river and enjoyed dinner along its banks watching the sun slip behind some low laying clouds before setting for the evening.

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