Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Vientiene, Laos

The Presidential Palace
Dollar Large Beer

Our 90 day Malaysian visas were not going to last until we wanted to leave at the end of April so we needed to make a ‘visa run’ somewhere.   

The only country in Southeast Asia that we haven’t visited is Laos.  So why not check that box.
Roundtrip plane tickets were $300 for both of us for the 3 hour flight on AirAsia from Kuala Lumput to Vientiene.    

We spent 4 full days there in the heart of town. 

Vientiene is a very small Capital city with a population of ½ million.  The entire population of Laos is 7 million.

The telephone man from Honduras was here
Laos uses the US dollar and the Lao KIP as their currency.  About 10,000 Kip equals a US Dollar.  However, nobody wanted our US money unless it was in immaculate condition which only a few bills were.
Fortunately, a 100 dollar withdrawl from the ATM got us a million KIP.   

We thought we had been to some pretty inexpensive places but Laos was by far the cheapest.

A large Beerlao beer will cost $1-2 which is also the cost of a meal.  Best of all, a glass of wine runs about $2.  Quite a change from Malaysia where you are paying US prices of $6-8.

The best word to explain Vientiene is ‘calm’.  The pace is slow, the traffic is slow, there are no people begging or bothering you to buy anything.  It was just calm.

Our Tuk-Tuk guy
We were going to rent bikes but cars are parked all over the sidewalks and blocking the shoulders so we thought it would be better to hire a tuk-tuk.  We found a guy sleeping in a hammock in the back of his tuk-tuk and had him take us around to see the major sights of town.

Many street signs were missing or in Sanskrit so we had to rely on landmarks to find our way around.    

Pha That Luang Temple
There was one street that we called Massage Street due to the abundance of guess what, massage places.

I ended up with a one hour $6 reflexology and Booker got the full $8 massage.  At that price I felt like going for another round.

There was no shortage of Buddhist temples.  We saw probably 8 or 9 that were in our area or the tuk-tuk tour.

Patuxai - The Lao Arc de Triomphe
An interesting observation we made was that while Vietnam hated their French occupation and have tried to remove all signs of this colonial period.

The Lao people have somewhat embraced their history.  French is spoken by a significant minority and is the language of higher professions and diplomats.  We saw a majority of French expats in the restaurants and bars.

Commercialization of the Reclining Buddah
While we’re on the subject of food.  Our hotel had a good breakfast buffet.  We thought that since Laos borders Thailand, Thai food would be plentiful.  We really only saw a few places with Pad Thai and all in all it was mediocre.

We did find a great Indian/Bangladeshi place but another upscale Indian restaurant had all the frills but flavorless food.
Dinner Menu. It doesn't get any cheaper

The big Night Market was kind of disappointing.  We expected a market with Lao handicrafts but instead saw booth after booth of clothing and phone accessories.

During the day, the dusty streets were almost empty of foot traffic.  At night things changed and people were out everywhere.  

The Mekong River Side Night Market
There are plentiful fountains that were turned off during the day but sunset gave rise to the pumps and lights.  

Musicians and dancers were on the stages of open air parks.  The night market was a moving mass of people.  The bars started to get crowded as they commenced their Happy Hour prices.

Music and Dancing at the Park
All in all, it was a great trip.  We could have shortened it by a day but now the Laos box has been checked.

The Fountains come to life at night
Plenty of Elephants

The Black Stupa (That Dam)

Korma, Rafesi, Naan with Beerlao

Dragons always seem to be guarding the Temples

Elephant made from pottery

The President's Guard Shack

Wat Ong Teu

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