After spending the majority of the last 4 days laying in a hammock on the island of Don Det it was time to take the 11 hour journey to Savannakhet before eventually embracing the laid back capital Vientiane. As I was currently on a tiny island it would entail a small boat trip to the mainland, a mini bus and eventually another bus to my destination. The journey started off fantastically well, with the boat and then boarding a mini bus that would take me part of the way to Paske before being then ushered into a local coach to take me the rest of the way. As the coach chugged along the dusty roads I noticed looking at my maps that we had completely missed Savannakhet and by missed I mean driven nowhere near it. The plan was to have a one night stop off to break up what would have been a 16+ hour journey straight to Vientiane.
Now these are the situations when you travel that can either make or break you. My options were either to panic and worry or just enjoy what was gaining free miles. I of course chose the latter, sat back, relaxed and waited until the next main city stop. A few hours later the bus came to a stop and I found myself in the town of Thakhek at around 9pm. I couldn’t face another few hours on the coach so after jumping off it was across the street to a cafe where I enjoyed a beef noodle soup before taking a tuk tuk to the central part of the town. After walking around a few hotels and being told they were fully booked (Personally I think it was my stinky, scruffy attire that put them off) I found a large hotel offering a private room, air con and a TV for £13. I checked in, got myself to sleep and the following morning took the local bus to Vientiane where I arrived later that evening.
The bus station was a just outside the city centre but a cheap group tuk tuk can drop you off at your hostel for no more than £2. My accommodation for the night was Vientiane Backpacker Hostel. It came highly recommended on Hotels.com, had a great location and only cost £4 for the night. I was feeling tired, aching and hungry so after a quick drop off in the dorm room I headed to an Indian restaurant called Namaste. This had come highly recommended on the internet and it certainly did not disappoint. I stuff may face on a home cooked hot chicken vindaloo, rice, chips, papadums and naan bread. The food was absolutely incredible and barely cost £3. It was certainly needed after a long 48 hours and a good night’s sleep was well deserved before ANOTHER night bus the following evening to Luang Prabang.
Laos is a very laid back and relaxing country and even though I found myself in the capital city this was very much still the case. It has a slow, sleepy stride ideally suited to long lunches, afternoon naps on shady verandas and evenings watching the sun set with icy cold glasses of Beer Lao. I used this relaxed atmosphere to my full advantage. After sleeping in and grabbing breakfast from the bakery just down the street I set out on a causal stroll around the city. I firstly headed to the Patuxay Monument situated a couple of kilometres from my hostel, this was a replica to Paris’ Arc de Triomphe subsequently visiting the Patuxay Park at the same time. This showed examples of French culture and architecture that remains in this country.
My walk continued pas the vastly impressive Presidential Palace and continued onwards to a large stupa called That Dam. It was located on a quiet roundabout not far from the American Embassy. Legend has it that a seven-headed water serpent – a ‘Naga’ lived here to protect the stupa. During the Siamese-Laotian war in the 1820s, the gold that covered this stupa was pillaged and taken to Siam, and eventually Thailand, leaving what is now known as the black stupa today.
From there it was on to the Lao National Museum before eventually stumbling on the Laos National Stadium down a side road from the museum. I rejoined the main road and continued walking for miles and miles hopping between the numerous wats that are spread out across the city. Each one offered its own individual beauty, some in pristine condition and others covered in overgrown trees.
After reaching what was the end of the central part of the city a side street led me to what should of been an impressive river but I was met with what seemed more of a river going through a drought. I assume as it was the dry season this was normal. Nevertheless my walked continued along the dry river front passing empty and abandoned bars with seating areas, which I assume are packed with people during the main season.
After coming to the King Anouvong Statue I knew this was the street that backed onto my hostel. I took the street back past what was considered home and popped in for a coffee, late lunch and catch up session on my next moves travel wise.
Vientiane is known for its coffee shop and cafe atmosphere. I spend the rest of the afternoon checking my budget, booking a hostel for Luang Prabang and arranging my flights for getting to Thailand at Christmas. Before I knew it departure time for my bus was fast approaching and as I hadn’t technically unpacked I went to a local sandwich shop I had found for some on bus supper and snacks ready for the 8 – 10 hour journey to my next destination Luang Prabang.
Even though it had been only a quick stop off at Laos capital it was definitely worthwhile as I got to see more of the laid back lifestyle and the strong French culture that still remains since the war.