Saturday, March 10, 2007


After weighing options, we decided that the best way to get to Vietnam through Laos was to cross over in Nong Khai to Vientiane. We had originally planned to spend more time in northeastern Thailand and to then cross over from Mukdahan to Savannakhet, but we were uncertain as to whether or not we needed a visa in advance or if we could obtain one at the border. Also, all of the land routes through Laos sounded awful, so we decided to take a plane from Vientiane to Hanoi instead.

We spent the afternoon being shuttled through the border crossing. Unfortunately, we crossed through on a weekend so Laos was able to charge us overtime fees for everything including the bus ride to the border. We took a tuk tuk into the city from the border passing by several goats and cows along the streets.

Vientiane turned out to be a very dirty city. Most dirty cities are dirty due to traffic and air pollution, but Vientiane has actual dirt in the streets. Every other street seemed to be under construction and the piles of dirt were often surrounded by sewage water.

The city had a wide variety of eating options. There were several trendy cafes and shops that almost reminded me of restaurants back at home. There were also a few European bakeries and lots of Vietnamese restaurants. We stopped at a place that had a huge menu of baguettes, noodles, soups, and Lao dishes. Because I was still attempting to convert money from baht to dollars to Lao's kip to figure out reasonable prices, Eric ended up getting something better than me. He had a dish of stir-fried chicken with large slices of ginger, green onion, in a caramelized sauce. I had a plate of papaya salad with Lao noodles which were cold, thick vermicelli. Later that day, we had delicious Vietnamese sandwiches from this place along the river. In search of something to eat with them, we walked along the Mekong. Vendors had set up grills and coolers of beer along the beach and as we walked by they all tried to shove menus at us. We were persuaded near the end of the line and had a beer, but we didn't stay long because of the mosquitoes.

The next day we saw pretty much all of Vientiane's major sights. The most interesting of them was Wat Sisaket, the oldest temple in the city. The temple housed many Buddha images taken from other temples that had been destroyed. Here are some photos.

We also stopped at Wat Ho Prakeo which formerly housed the emerald Buddha now in Bangkok. This temple was less interesting.

We walked from there to the city's largest market near the bus stop. This market had pretty much everything you can imagine including watches, appliances, souvenirs, and food. The snack foods in Laos seemed to always be to heavy or to come in too large of servings. We bought some tempting purple-colored balls which looked similar to kanam krog, but one seemed to fill our stomachs for the afternoon. We continued walking to the Patuxai, a large unfinished concrete structure which is meant to look like the Arch de Triumph in Paris. This thing looked nice from far away, but up close, there was not much to see. We climbed to the top, past souvenir vendors, like everyone else to see the view of the city.

From there, we took a tuk tuk to Vientiane's more important monument That Luang. This was another monument which looked good from afar, but was rather dull up close. Rather than an actual walk-in temple, this is just a large concrete structure painted gold. Paying the admission fee to enter the grounds was not really worth it.

We spent one more unplanned day in Vientiane as Eric was not feeling well. That allowed me to explore the city on my own for a while and I was able to find delicious spring rolls and partially green mango. Later that night, Eric was feeling better and we had delicious cake at a Scandinavian bakery, a great way to end our visit to Laos's capital.

I have added another entry right before the Chiang Mai one on the food there. Be sure to scroll down to check it out.

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