Whilst George Orwell’s concept of EurAsia differs slightly from Vientiane, upon entering this city that is the term that came to mind. The perfect blend of Europe (mainly France for obvious reasons) and Asia echoes throughout Laos’ Capital city. Busy streets with tons of mopeds, street food, markets, royal palaces and temples, juxtaposed with Catholic Churches, traditional french cuisine, an Arc de Triomph imposter and an awesome outdoor film festival (we were very lucky to catch this), which showed mainly European films. France’s stamp here is still well and truly showing, and this is not something that Craig and I were complaining about.
Our penultimate attempt to arrive in a place with no hostel booked, left us trawling the streets, bags in tow, for the cheapest place to stay. (We are now devoted users of Agoda/Booking.com, finding that you can get better deals/ discounts in better places, and go straight there when you arrive somewhere – living the dream!)Some lovely French ladies directed us towards back packer town, and we finally found a place to stay, that had a very over-friendly receptionist who immediately tried to sell us bus tickets to Siem Reap, for twice the price that we later found them (we finally got them for around 385,000 Kip each).
With two days and one night in Vientiane we did not waste any time and rented a moped from across the road so that we could go and explore. By this time it was late afternoon, and after our customary ‘go and get lost in a new city’, our bellies were rumbling.
I don’t know about you but Craig and I both have this terribly expensive habit of feeling as though we should treat ourselves when we get some place new. That’s fine, when you are not arriving in a new place every day, but can get very expensive when you are. Ooops! So after trawling the streets for a good place to eat for at least an hour, all the beautifully looking and smelling french restaurants finally wore down our defenses and we convinced ourselves that we deserved a three course meal with a steak as the pièce de résistance! And oh my was it worth it!
Vientiane Film Festival
With happy faces and full bellies we hopped back on the moped and made our way to what I can only describe as ‘the town square’, to settle down for a nice movie, on a big screen, under the stars (or city street lights). Feeling blessed to have accidentally visited during the Vientiane film festival, we wanted to make sure we were a part of it.
First was a beautifully directed silent movie called ‘Rabbit and Deer’, directed by Peter Vacz and Attila Bertoti, which managed to warm my heart and bring tears to my eyes in just 17 minutes. Then for the hilariously funny and quirky ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ – as you can see below there was enough spaces for us to put our feet up! 🙂
Flat Tyre Numero Uno
The following day we had a few things we wanted to achieve before getting on our night bus to Siem Reap. First stop was The Royal Palace: ‘Prat That Luang’, which is Laos’ national symbol. Unfortunately we did not quite get there as smoothly as we had hoped. We were not 15 minutes down the road when the bike started wobbling. Shit! A flat tyre. I jumped off and Craig started pushing the bike, this would have been manageable had it not been the hottest day in the existence of the world!!! Needless to say we were both sweating in no time at all.As we were a while away from where we rented the bike and not sure of how much they would charge us to fix it, we decided to sort it out ourselves. Luckily, as with most places in Asia, we didn’t have to look far for a motorbike repair shop. Not long after, we were back on the road with a new inner tube, and ready to start our day’s sight seeing.
The Royal Palace: Prat That Luang
The Royal Palace was very golden, and we got a few cool snaps, although we were sad we had to get off the bike and therefore lose the breeze, and we were also there at lunch time, and so could not go inside. (Most things close from 11am-1pm in S.E.Asia). Nevertheless it looked impressive enough from the outside, and there were hardly any other tourists there.
The Patuxay Monument
Laos’ version of the Arc de Triomphe is located in the centre of the city and is a beautiful centre piece to the huge roundabout surrounding it. It was quite amusing that the sign before we ventured up the steps described it as “a monster of concrete” (obviously some do not share my views), the sign does redeem itself however with it’s accurate portrayal of the views the monument offers, “the seventh floor on top of the building serves as an excellent viewpoint over the city”.
The Laotian design gives the monument some added character.
Another Flat Tyre?!
Following our hike up and down the Patuxay Monument we hopped back on the bike to explore further. This time we headed towards the Mekong, now a very familiar and friendly sight for us. We found a road which followed the river across the city, marking the border between Laos and Thailand. I was relaxed, happy and taking in the sights, Craig was cruising along enjoying dodging cars and bikes….And then it went wobbly again! Crap, not another flat tyre?!?We left our beloved river road and headed towards the town centre, again the motorbike shop was only across some dusty abandoned land and fixing it was not too expensive, but it had interrupted and otherwise great touristy day out.
We returned the bike immediately and continued on foot after this. Luckily it was not anywhere near as hot at this point. We explored a couple of book shops, a supermarket (always fun with aircon and HP brown sauce that you can gaze at longingly), and perused for a suitable place to eat for dinner before our 30 hour bus ride to Siem Reap. We settled for a delicious falafal, called our mothers, as it was mothers day, and then awaited our long journey.