Getting to Like Laos

Tuesday 16th was moving-on day – across the border to Laos and up the road a few kms to Vientiane. We were in no hurry to pack up but were finally ready to leave. Wyn mentioned having her passport photo ready for the border and I remembered I hadn’t. So started a search for my passport photos. Suffice it to say it was fruitless and extensive. I don’t know what I did with them – they’re probably on the bench back home. We farewelled the lovely Mut Mee Guest House and walked a few hundred metres up the road to a nice photographer woman who sorted me out with 4 more photos. We then went by tuktuk to the Friendship Bridge across the Meekong to Laos.

First we had to go through Thailand exit formalities. Then it was a bus ride across the bridge and Laos entry formalities. Straight away we were hassled by taxi and tuktuk touts and we weren’t even officially in the country. The Laos immigration people were conspicuously friendly and welcoming. Why can’t all immigration people be that nice? The Australians paid for the building the Friendship Bridge. Maybe they could also pay to send their airport immigration staff to learn how to be friendly back home? We were hot and hungry and gave in with one taxi driver who offered a good price of 300 Thai Baht for the 20kms into Vientiane.  Well – good for airport/bus station/border transport. Why do countries tolerate such extortion (which is standard in many/most countries) which means the first experience of most visitors is being ripped off?

When we got to our chosen guest house the driver then explained that the 300 price was for each of us, and we’d need to pay 600. We had a discussion with the guy in our hotel who thought 600 was not outrageous so we paid up and learned another lesson.

We didn’t have a room booked and they only had one left which we took. And almost instantly regretted. It shrunk (didn’t grow) on us. There was a wall about 700mm from our only window so there wasn’t much outlook or natural light. And then they used what seemed like 10W energy saving bulbs. We’ve got no objections to saving energy but the room was just dim. And there was a strange smell as well. Apart from that, it was a nice big clean room and the wifi actually worked in the room.

We went for an explore to escape our dim room and found the Scandanavian Bakery with lovely pastries and cakes. And cheese croissants which instantly became a new food group for me. We sat on the balcony looking at the little square with the fountain that didn’t work – and started to relax. Laos encourages and requires relaxation. On the front page of the Laos Times has mention of snow in NZ with a picture of a white Wellington suburb. On page 7 was the full story of snow chaos in NZ with snowfall on the Bombay Hills. Meanwhile we were melting in 32 degree temperature with +90% humidity. The paper said stuff like “32 degrees – feels like 38 degrees” – so much for wind chill!

We returned to our dim and cool room and didn’t venture back out until the evening. We walked down to the river – the Meekong still. It seemed like most of the local population were out picnicing with the kids playing. There was even a playground for the kids. We found a nice little restaurant on the way back with nice dishes for $1.50 each.

Laos is different to Thailand and it was taking us a while to get used to that. But it was definitely growing on us.

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