We woke to our first morning in Vientiane in Laos in our dingy room at the Vyakoorn Hotel. And resolved to find somewhere else. It had rained a lot in the night and there was still light rain in the morning. We walked a few hundred meters to the Mali Namphu and secured a nice room there – overlooking their lovely courtyard. Then it was back to the Vyakoorn to check out and a short trudge back to the Mali Namphu to check in. The room was not good in some respects but the lights were enough watts to brighten up the room. It made it totally different. One curiosity with the Mali Namphu room was the bathroom door frame was only 1800mm above the floor. This meant that the top 50mm of my head was always at risk. It is a curious arrangement. Maybe the 1800mm doors were going cheap?
There was even a bakery/cafe across the road where we went for a late breakfast of fruit and yoghurt and muesli. With news of rain to the north we decided against a visit to China from the far north of Laos. So we wandered off in search of the booking office for Laos Air. The office was closed for lunch from 12-1pm. It is kind of cute. It’s a bit like the DOC office at the Totaranui Camping Ground where they all seem to like to have lunch together as well. Once the Laos Airline staff had eaten it was a simple process to get our air tickets from Luang Prabang in Laos to Hanoi in Vietnam. It cost US$135 which is OK for the one-hour flight when there is not much choice. It is still cheaper than most flights from Blenheim to Wellington (20 mins with a headwind). Mind you, most flights in the world are cheaper than escaping Blenheim.
We got our hotel/guest house to book us on the bus to Luang Prabang to the north. It is about 300kms and a 10 hour trip when all goes well. Which starts to give you an idea of the normal average speeds. The book mentioned hills and mountains and arduous but I skimmed over that – you see what you want to see sometimes eh? Plus we got them to get us our visas for Vietnam. You pay a premium/commission but sometimes it is worth it. It saves time and energy and in this sort of heat energy has to be rationed wisely.
Having sorted our itinerary out for the next few days we retired to the Scandanavian Bakery again – for late lunch. Cheese croissants, chocolate muffins and iced coffee. Hardly classic Laos fair, but we were recognising the European influences.
We were starting to run out of day. As well as 1 of 2 hour lunch breaks, things start closing at 4 and 5pm. We got a tuk-tuk to the Patouxay Monument for a half reasonable price. This hunk of concrete is an oriental Arc de Triomphe and is lovely and weird. The story goes that in the early 1960s the USA gave them concrete for an airport and they used the concrete for this monument. The locals refer to it as the vertical runway. It is a hideous sight and for a small fee you walk up inside and get a famulous view out over Vientiane.
And it’s in a kind of park/elongated roundabout which is full of relaxing Laotians. With fountains which are nice. All good for relaxing tourists as well. We decided to spare ourselves the hassle of dealing with the tuktuk mafia that ring such places and walked back to our guest house. The streets are very wide yet easy to cross. It dawned on us that even the traffic was relaxed with hardly a horn to be heard.
After showers and a lie down we headed out for tea. We found a nearby restaurant where the music wasn’t too loud and where the food was good. It cost us US$7.50 for us both – hardly street stall prices but what the heck. Our aircon had sprung a leak above the wardrobe which was the only place to store our meagre wardrobe. So we had to change rooms which was a nuisance but better than having to turn the aircon off. It started to rain lightly in the evening and probably rained most of the night.
We enjoyed the (included) breakfast next morning on our balcony – the courtyard was still a bit wet. Checkout at guesthouses is often 12 noon so we made the most of our morning. We took a tuktuk out to the main wat/temple – Pha That Luang which failed to inspire or awe us. And checked out and hung out one last time in the Scandanavian Bakery. Which is probably subsidised by Jenny Craig so that when you get back home you have to go on a diet! We had a relaxing last afternoon in Vientiane including buying up some baking for our overnight bus trip north.