Vientiane Exploring – We planned to stay only two nights in the small capital of Vientiane. This was just enough time to hit the hot tourist spots before moving on south. Our goal was to get to Si Phan Don before the full tilt of the Lao New Year began, also know as Pii Mai. Otherwise we were likely to either have a very delayed bus or a slightly drunk Lao driver. Neither sounded very appealing.
A 6 a.m. bus ride brought us from Vang Vieng, down through the mountains, and dropped us off on the southern side of the Vientiane, near the Mekong River and a huge, indoor market. We hired a truck to take us to the center of town, and the two block drive cost us $3 for a mouthful of dust and new bruises on our legs. (There were lots of pot-holes). Many times, we are quoted in U.S dollars in Laos, and this time, the fee was $1 per person.
The first afternoon we did little except for catching up on our emails and sightseeing the town a bit. It was much too hot for anything else that required effort or ambition. However, the next morning we were set to go off for the day, regardless of the heat and humidity.
Pha That Luang – We rented bikes and rode to Pha That Luang, the most important national monument in Lao (at least according to the good ol’ LP). The Wat was gold and red and pretty (sorry, I was so wat’d out by this point that I didn’t pay much attention.)
Our next highlight on the “map of things to do and see for western tourists while backpacking in Lao” was to tour the Lao Historical Museum. It was suppose to have a spectacular exhibit on the revolutionary war. We followed the directions that apparently led to nowhere and were pointed in several different directions before arriving at a grim looking white building surrounded by barbed wire. The guards would not let us in. I don’t know why, but we put on our best smile to no avail. Giving up, we decided to bike back towards the center of town to Patuxai, a huge commercial building built in 1969. The cement was donated by the US for the construction of a new airport. Why the cement was used for this building and not the airport, I have no idea.
Feeling rather lazy, I stayed below while the girls climbed to the top of Patuxai. While lounging in the shade and guzzling water, I met a nice gentleman from Holland (Rob) and we chatted and traded travel tales until the girls came down. We made plans to meet Rob for dinner and drinks later in the evening and rode back to town. The evening cooled down nicely. We sat along the MeKong, drinking bear, eating rice dishes, and telling horrible (sometimes funny) jokes into the wee hours of the morning.