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downundergal Vientiane - A travel report by Kerrie
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Vientiane,  Laos - flag Laos
6611 readers

downundergal's travel reports

Sabbai dee and sankyou very much!

  24 votes
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Located on a sweeping bend of the Mekong River the city of Vientiane is the provincial, slow paced, sleepy capital of the landlocked country of Laos and well worth a couple of days visit.

That Luang
That Luang
The Lao name of the capital is Wiang Chan meaning City of the Moon but was anglicised when the French had a bit of trouble with the pronunciation.

Wiang Chan is not big on sights and is pretty small so it is easy enough to explore in a day or so. We hired a motorbike (scooter) from PVO Café and this allowed us to get around the city easily. Traffic is not heavy so riding is not a problem except that not all the roads are paved so you can go from dry and dusty to a tropical deluge with puddles and flooding within the same tank of fuel.

Because Laos has only been opened to tourism for a relatively short amount of time of approximately 15 years or so the people are so refreshing and unjaded they are just a delight to be around. Any small compliment results in a “wai” (small bow & prayer like hand gesture similar to Thailand) and a sank (thank) you very much.

Favourite spots:
View from the Victory Gate.
View from the Victory Gate.
The majority of my favourite spots were actually the small cafes dotted around the city as you could sit outside and they were a great place to people watch.

The Scandinavian café is a great place for lunch and PVO is a small café that offers everything from cold Beer Lao, food and motor bike hire.

As one of my favourite past times is visiting the markets I thought the morning market (Talat Sao) was pretty good. All types of clothing is available both traditional and modern, tailors or cloth by the metre on the ground floor with the second floor mainly jewellery, silverware and household goods and then there are all the smaller stalls running off the main section selling everything else you could think of!

What's really great:
That Luang
That Luang
The people, definitely the people, friendly and open and so polite. They are what make Laos one of my favourite places.

The shopping is pretty special especially if you are looking at purchasing gemstones and gold jewellery. The piece we bought was valued when we returned at more than 3 times what we paid for it, always a nice result.

There are also a number of interesting shops selling antiques and bric a brac from a bygone era. One of our purchases included a buffalo bone opium pipe from the early 1920 – 30’s beautifully carved with its own wooden stand. This shop is located a couple of doors along from the PVO café. We found similar in other shops in a more upmarket area of town and at ten times the price.

Patuxay Park with the Victory Gate
Patuxay Park with the Victory Gate
That Luang is the most sacred site within Laos so it is always on the list for a visit although I must admit I did not find it that impressive. I guess I am just not into lots of gold paint. Also disappointing in that you are unable to enter the structure itself. Still there is no way you could come to Vientiane and not pay it a visit.

Patuxay Park with the Victory Gate that all the locals despise is a replica like that of the Arc de Triomphe. Well worth the visit for the views that it offers over the city, just ignore the no photography signs - everyone else does.

There are a couple of beautiful old villas built by the French near the town centre worth seeking out. Unfortunately you will need to be content with looking from the out side as you are not able to enter.

Buddha Park - located some way out of town - we passed on seeing this.

Friendship Bridge on the border with Thailand.

Mali Namphu
Mali Namphu
The Mali Namphu just off Nam Phu park. Built around an internal courtyard the rooms are very secure with only the one entry in and out past the friendly Reception. The rooms are not large but comfortable and the air-conditioning worked a treat.
Guest house rules according to the in house information sheet include
* the front gate being locked at 12 midnight but knock at the gate to be let in,
* no visitors to meet guest in room (obviously looking after everyone’s morals),
* no illegal items allowed
* no smoking on the bed – it causes hazard.

We paid $16US for a double upstairs room including a breakfast that changes daily and does on some days offer some strange choices such as steak sandwich (luckily, we weren’t there for that morning). The rooms shared a communal passageway each with its own little outdoor setting so you could sit out and meet other travelers.
Breakfast is served in the pleasant garden area in the courtyard or if raining on your balcony.

One of the beautiful old villas.
One of the beautiful old villas.
This is a post communist country so there are not many clubs out there openly advertising. The restaurant that we went to did have live music but this was the closest that we found.

After a deluge.
After a deluge.
Khobchaider Garden – seemed to be the most popular place in town with travelers, expats and locals and the closest thing to a pub we found.
A large outdoor bar and dining area then an inside bar and upstairs area with a live (very loud) band, lounges and pool tables.
It offered a really large International menu but not much of what we chose was available so we had to re-choose a number of times. Originally we ordered some Indian dishes but they were not available so then we ended up with Chinese come Laos. When the food finally came it was good. Still the atmosphere was lively and people are all keen to have a chat.

Cakes at the Scandinavian Cafe.
Cakes at the Scandinavian Cafe.
The Scandinavian café is a great place for lunch and you can not beat their beautiful French style breads and fillings and huge selection of pastries. It has a two level eating area that is air-conditioned and a small outdoor section if you like to swelter. Very efficient you fill in the menu order form yourself, ticking off what type of bread and so on, hand it in and the waitress brings it to you when ready. There is also a TV normally tuned into an International news program so you can catch up on the outside world or if you can read one of the Scandinavian languages you can browse the relatively out of date newspapers from that part of the world.

PVO – is a small very busy enterprising café that serves Vietnamese style rice paper rolls, fabulous Baguettes for around 10000 Kip and freezing cold Beer Lao for about 6000 Kip. Family run, you can meet up to 4 generations over the duration of one beer. They also offer motorbike hire.

Other recommendations:
Airport taxi
Airport taxi
We flew Lao Airlines; not the best safety record but the easiest way to get to Laos from Cambodia. I did have my fingers crossed because we flew on Friday the 13th but still arrived safely.If you do fly with them check exactly where you are flying via as we flew via Pakse (unbeknownst to us) and had we known we would have stopped off for a few days enroute.
You need a Visa to visit Laos which can be obtained at the airport for the cost of US$30. It is all fairly casual, we were one of the last through and customs had already packed up and left!
Don’t make the mistake of taking one of the airport taxis waiting for passengers at the front doors. Prices are fixed at $6 US for a little old Toyota number that hasn’t been seen in the West for quite a while. Put your backpack on and start walking to the entrance gate and the price will drop to $3 US or you take a jumbo at the gate for half this amount again.

If you get the chance go to Laos – you won’t regret it

Published on Wednesday September 28th, 2005

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Sat, Nov 12 2005 - 06:25 PM rating by alfonsovasco

You write like an angel

Sat, Oct 29 2005 - 03:14 PM rating by miguelmarchi

So good!

Wed, Oct 26 2005 - 10:23 AM rating by toribio


Fri, Sep 30 2005 - 09:38 AM rating by mistybleu


This was a really good read. Thanks


Fri, Sep 30 2005 - 04:01 AM rating by magsalex

Interesting report

Thu, Sep 29 2005 - 08:00 PM rating by bootlegga

Some incredible photos, as well as a great report!

Thu, Sep 29 2005 - 10:38 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Lovely report written very delicately. Thanks!

Thu, Sep 29 2005 - 06:49 AM rating by britman

Great report - full of interesting information......makes me want to visit!

Thu, Sep 29 2005 - 01:17 AM rating by beograd

great report Kerrie!

Wed, Sep 28 2005 - 09:40 PM rating by bhairavee

I would like you to thank for sharing such a nice piece of information,very lively report .

Wed, Sep 28 2005 - 08:34 PM rating by gloriajames

Informative and good read! Now i might have to consider including laos when i make my trip to cambodia end oct.
Thanks for sharing the information!

Wed, Sep 28 2005 - 08:22 PM rating by ravinderkumarsi

very nice report,glad to see the pictures.

Wed, Sep 28 2005 - 05:35 PM rating by eirekay

Kerrie, Wonderful report and great pictures. I like the hotel information sheet! For $16, sounds like a deal, even if you can't have anything illegal :-) Thanks for a great report!

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