2.2.6: Vientiane

Day 98: Vientiane

In the morning I went to get my laundry done as it was becoming something of an emergency. I went to a hostel that David had decided to stay in and got my laundry done there. I left the guesthouse that I stayed in last night and went to a place that was recommended in the Lonely Planet which was a bit more expensive but it was much nicer. I met with David a bit later and we went for a walk around town and had a beer by the riverfront.

98.1. Big communist building (L) and the That Dam stupa (R).

In the evening we met at the Nam Phu fountain and were supposed to meet with Derek and Delphine but they didn’t show. David and I decided to treat ourselves and so we went to a nice French style restaurant and had steak and red wine. After dinner I went back with David to his hostel and we joined a Swiss guy called Mathieu and his friend from France who were playing chess outside. I played a couple of games with Mathieu and lost.

98.2. Sleeping tuk-tuk driver, all part of the high pace of life in the capital.

Day 99: Vientiane

I was up early this morning and met David outside his hostel at 7:30. We went for breakfast and then went to the riverside to hire mountain bikes from a rental store we found yesterday. We cycled out to Xieng Khuan, which has a park containing many modern Buddhist and Hindu statues including a huge reclining Buddha and is about 25 km out of town. On the way we stopped off at a huge temple that looked amazing in the morning light.

99.1. Huge temple near Vientiane.

We arrived at Xieng Khuan about two hours after we set off and stopped for a drink before going into the park. The park was great and had many quite surreal looking statues set within a beautiful garden. One of the sculptures was shaped liked a turnip which you can go inside through a large mouth. Inside it has three levels representing hell, earth and heaven. We were there for about an hour before we decided to go and have noodle soup for lunch at a place by the river just outside the park.

99.2. The large turnip sculpture from outside, inside and the view from the hole in the roof.

99.3. The huge reclining Buddha and other statues at Xieng Khuan.

On the way back we tried to take a short cut near to the train station but gave up after getting onto very narrow dirt tracks through the forest so we went back to the main road near to the Friendship Bridge. When we arrived back into Vientiane we had a baguette and then cycled to Patuxai, the Lao Arc de Triomphe and then to That Luang, the impressive golden stupa. After looking around the stupa we headed back to Patuxai and stopped for a well earned beerlao.

99.4. That Luang stupa (L) and a naga head (R).

99.5. Patuxai at sunset (L) and a well earned beerlao (R).

In the evening I met up with David and Mathieu and we went for dinner and had steaks again. David and Mathieu talked in French quite a bit but I could understand a bit of what David was saying as he spoke quite slowly and I’d heard him tell the same stories before in English. We went back to David’s hostel and we played a bit more chess and drank beer. I left at about midnight and I said farewell to David as he goes to the south of Laos tomorrow and I will stay a bit longer in Vientiane. When I arrived back at my guesthouse I found it locked. Alarmed, I asked one of the guys drinking at the bar next door and he phoned and luckily someone let me in. I later found out there was a midnight curfew and it was just past midnight.

Day 100: Vientiane

In the morning I phoned La and she gave me Thing’s new mobile number, which explains why I couldn’t get through before. We arranged to meet tonight at Nam Phu fountain. In the afternoon I went for a walk around town and visited some more temples and afterwards I went for a beer by the river.

100.1. Nam Phu fountain.

100.2. Some temples in Vientiane.

I came back and had a shower before heading down to Nam Phu were I met Thing and his friend. La arrived soon afterwards and the four of us rode down to the riverside with me on the back of Thing’s motorbike. We went to the same bar that I had gone to with the others on my first night in Vientiane. The lady who works there recognized me and greeted me, which surprised Thing until I told him about our first night here. We had dinner of ping kai (BBQ chicken), fish Tom Yam, papaya salad and sticky rice. After dinner we rode out to a nightclub on the outskirts of town. It was a strange place that played mostly Thai and Lao karaoke interspersed with dance music. A microphone was passed around the tables but you couldn’t really hear the person sing over the rest of noise. La was undeterred and sang one song and she tried to make me sing one. The fact that it was all in Thai (or Lao) seemed a good enough excuse to get out of it. La had to leave early which was a bit of a shame but I stayed on for an hour or so longer with Thing and his friend. Thing dropped me off at my guesthouse and we agreed to meet again tomorrow evening. It was a fun night and it is a pity I didn’t take any photos from it.

Day 101: Vientiane

I went for breakfast at a nice café this morning and read the Vientiane Times, the local English language newspaper. I phoned Thing and La and we arranged to meet up later at Nam Phu fountain. I booked a flight from Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur for New Year’s Day so now my itinerary is defined for the next few days after some weeks of indecision, though sadly it means I will miss out on meeting up with Ed and Jaime again in the south of Thailand. In the early evening I went down to the riverfront and had a beer while the sun set over the Mekong.

101.1. Sunset over the Mekong.

At 19:00 I went to Nam Phu and met La. She called Thing who said that he was busy and would come and meet us later. La and I rode down to the riverside on her motorbike and we went to one of the bars for dinner. We had beef laap, ping paa (BBQ fish) sticky rice and beerlao. The laap was a bit too spicy again but the fish was very good. La was particularly keen on the fish and even gauged out the eyes as they are apparently sep lai lai (very delicious). After dinner we talked and drank beer and I showed her the photos I’d taken in Laos since I left Luang Namtha. I asked her when she would be would be going back to Luang Namtha next. She said she would be going back at some point in February for her brother Ded’s wedding. I said that I’d like to go as well and she was pleased even though I didn’t think it would be very likely.  After a couple of hours we guessed that Thing was not going to turn up so we left. We rode back to Nam Phu and said our goodbyes and agreed to keep in touch by email.