Published: February 10th 2008February 10th 2008
A long 10 hour bus ride took us down to the capital of Laos, Vientiane. The major road in Laos is more like a paved trail that is not quite two lanes with tons of villages etc living right on it. It was wild to watch how the bus driver approached the blind corners and villagers etc - just lay on the horn and keep your speed up. Luckily we took the bus with A/C as we passed the regular bus about 10 minutes out of town and it was broken down. That drive will toss you around pretty good in your seat - I've never known a motorcoach to handle like that.
It is a small city with about 250,000 people right on the border with Thailand and on the Mekong. There is a unique blend of cultures as you see strong cultural influences of Siam (Thailand), France and others (Burma, China...) coming together with some uniquely Laotian things as well. Laos' history has it being conquered many times by neighbouring kingdoms until it became a French colony in the 1800's for protection from Burma and Siam. It is a unique place where you can get both great Lao
The reclining Buddha
food (i.e. Laap & sticky rice) and also French (Croissants etc). It is a nice, laid back small city, but again was quite touristy. There were a couple of interesting sites to see as shown in the pictures.
There were fireworks and concerts for Chinese new year. They never seemed to stop burning things in the streets as part of the celebration but was enjoyable.
Monument - I forget the exact name, but this was built as a replica of Paris' L'Arc de Triumphe using US-donated concrete that was supposed to be used to build a new air strip after the bombings during the Vietnam war. The monument was intended to be a celebration of Communism's victory over the capitalists... but it was never finished (ironic...) and the Lao people do not think much of it, though it still stands in a small park. The exact words inscribed on it by the Lao Gov't after explaining it's history are "Up close it is even less impressive, like a monster of concrete"...
Buddha Park - a shaman's collection of Buddhist and Hindu scultures put in an outdoor park. There were Monks there that wanted to practice their English
so that was fun.
Pha That Luang - the grand stupa in Vientiane and it is what they are most proud of - a symbol of Lao independence and Buddhist religion.
Now, back to Thailand! hope everyone is well back home - BACK to -47? what is going on there?
Linds and Scott
There are more photos below