We spent quite a lot of time in Vientiane, as we got stuck waiting for our visas to Myanmar. We got there on Thursday afternoon, so on Friday early in the morning we rented two bicycles and went to the embassy. It turned out, though, that there was some holiday and the embassy was closed, which meant for us that we would have to spend here almost the whole week.
After six days of crossing the countryside on a motorbike, Vientiane seemed noisy and crowded. The first two days we burrowed ourselves in our hotel, going out practically only for dinner. We had plenty of time, so we decided to postpone the sightseeing for the next days
I still had problems with my stomach, and the thought of going to Myanmar sick was quite scary.
The second day I had stomachache and at night could not sleep due to the pain. We were in a big, rather modern city, so we decided to go to a hospital and see if it’s not something serious. Around midnight we go to a small emergency hall of a nearby hospital, the first one we found in google. Fortunately, one of the doctors spoke some english. I filled in some papers and laid down on a bed in one common room. It was gloomy, strange and very quiet. Some children and old people laid connected to a drip not separated even with some screen. I guess it comes without saying that we were the only foreigners, so we caught the whole attention. After a short exam that consisted of measuring my blood pressure and temperature and a quick examination of my belly the doctor said that nothing serious was happening to me. I got some pills and they told me that if the pain doesn’t stop I should make some test for the presence of parasites. During the next days each visit in the toilet was a mystery. The ache stopped, and the worms didn’t catch my attention 🙂
Vientiane doesn’t look like a capital. There are no spacious majestic buildings and squares, the temples don’t impress too much. It’s crowded, but much less than in Phnom Penh or Hanoi. Along the river there is a pleasant promenade, where locals stroll and go jogging. In this area there is a night market as well, nevertheless, all you can buy there are some cheap clothes, fake watches and perfumes and rather dull souvenirs.
One night we met our friend Peter, with whom we had went out a couple of times in Luang Prabag. We split our ways there, he went to try the famous tubing, kind of a rafting on a huge inflated tyre with some drinking pit stops in Vang Vieng, we went south-east on a motorbike. We ended up partying again. Around midnight we went to a local club with electro music and lots of neon lights.
We also did a nice motorbike trip to Buddha Park, Xieng Kuang, a small park situated around 30km from the city, with many hindu-buddhist statues created by a yogi-priest-shaman in 1958. Odd monsters, goddesses with many limbs and statues of Buddha in different forms… Walking around the park I noticed an old man, strangely dressed, with his face painted with white paste, sitting still cross-legged playing a flute, as though we was in a trance. When I came back to show him to Renato, he hid in his tiny wooden hut. Odd thing.
In Vientiane you can visit Patuxai, a local version a Arc de Triomphe. It’s not particularly pretty, but functions as a landmark of the commercial district of Vientiane and as a good view point, as you can climb to the summit for nice panoramic views over the capital.
We had lots of time in Vientiane, but ended up visiting only one temple, Wat Si Saket, believed to be the Vientiane’s oldest surviving temple (built only in 1824, though). It has some beautiful wall paintings inside the main building and lots of tiny, brown sculptures of Buddha.
I have to admit that we didn’t really make good use of the time we had in Vientiane due to the delay with our visas to Myanmar. The city didn’t tickle my fancy and that’s why I wasn’t motivated to discover other attractions and temples.
More photos from Laos here.