Christmas in the Capital

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December 25th 2006
Published: January 3rd 2007
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Remind you of Paris?Remind you of Paris?Remind you of Paris?

This Arch de Triumph knock off was built with cement donated by, the USA, for the construction of not a tourist site but a new airport (back in the '70s). Since then, it has been know by the expat community as the virtical runway
Well, after a 22 hour busride with Vietnamese people, anything would look good. No doubt about it, the whole 'leaving Vietnam thing' didn't really do a whole lot to change my attitude about that country. Well, lets see, where to start. Oh, about 30 minutes out of Hanoi, a motorcycle cop came along side our bus with his light and siren on and pulled over the driver for the sole purpose of getting some early retirement money. Yeah, no problem, our scheduled time was just two hours shy of a full freakin day, but go ahead, spend a half hour in a scream filled interchange with the bus driver about the cost of the bribe. My fellow travelers made it clear that I was better off not being seen (being the only white person, only non-Vietnamese, and likely only person who had over $25 cash). So, during the whole drama (which attracted the attention of the entire village, and everybody else on the bus), I hid in my seat in the back of the bus. My fellow travelers, they were the lucky ones, they got to get off and walk around. Once it was settled, the 'police officer' (read armed thug in uniform), came aboard and made a 5 second speech (which I missed because my head was resting on the unoccupied seat next to mine) and left. So, I thought that this maybe meant we could get going. After rolling down the road for another half hour, we hit the drug-checkpoint. All bags were being checked (except those of westerners). This made me a popular person on the bus for the drug smuggler seated behind me. She spoke no English. My seat was over the wheel well, and by this point there was someone next to me, meaning that I now had limited leg room. But she still came over, and tried to shove this big black bag larger than my backpack under my legs. I was like, "A huge bag under my legs for 20+ hours? "Hell No" and then about five minutes later, once I realized why we had stopped, and why she wanted me to have it, I added a suffix to that as well. She and I didn't get along well for the rest of the ride. A drug smuggling charge? That would have been great! Fortunately, the police boarded the bus and took the bag from the empty seat she decided to stash it in. I concluded that they were just after loot that they could , then turn around and sell it themselves. The police never tried to match any of the packages to the owners. Other than that, the only other eventful moment was crossing the border. I had to buy my passport back from the Vietnamese border agents after they stamped it. My bus was starting to roll towards Laos, and so I had to cave and just give them their money. So, yeah, Laos, I arrived and fell in love by the time I got to the Capital City. It wasn't Vietnam, that was a plus!

It is really hard to describe Vientiane. Think village that runs a country. The road going along the river leading to the Presidential palace has about the same amount of traffic as the one next to the home I grew up in. I think that there are about 6 million people in the whole country (about the same as in Hanoi), and granted, there was not a whole lot to do, I was very happy to just relax and enjoy not being offered a

'motorbike' every step. The one downside was that every guesthouse was booked solid. I paid a whole $4 for my very basic single room. Not nearly worth it, but it may have been the last clean room to be had. First night, I was tired (shocking I know) so I only went to the night market and then back to the guesthouse for some sleep. The night market was a whole lot of "can't eat that, no idea what that is, looks like something I should stay away from, is that cow intestine being sold by the kilo?" hmm, "wait, that looks like chicken, regular chicken. One of those please. You have rice too? Yes, load me up!" It was fun, and I took my budget loot back to the guesthouse and had Christmas eve dinner with the guesthouse dog, who appeared as soon as sat down on the balcony. Didn't know they had a dog. Funny how they appear at the first sign of food.

On Christmas day, I vent out for a wonder, walked around and saw all the must see tourist sights in about 4 hours, grabbed a fruit shake, and then met up with two

Christmas DinnerChristmas DinnerChristmas Dinner

Two Austrians and Two Malay's.
Austrians and two Malay's that I had met along the way from Hanoi for Dinner. Not a whole lot do do, pretty chill day, and then I took the bus to Savaneket in the morning. The bus didn't leave from the stop the guidebook said it would, but I was able to grab a regular city bus for 20 cents and that got me to my other bus. Overall, my time was spent just recovering from the long ride the day before and getting set for my trip down south.

Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


About 50 feet from the US EmbassyAbout 50 feet from the US Embassy
About 50 feet from the US Embassy

You know a town is chill if the local K9 population chills out within throwing distance of the Embassy
Temple behind all the main attactionsTemple behind all the main attactions
Temple behind all the main attactions

While it does not show up in the pic, it had really bright paint

4th January 2007

Good to get back to your blog, Pete.
We missed you tonite in Seattle area, but it sure sounds like a great "learning experience." If your travel companions offer to host you in Malaysia, take them up on it. Warmer there, next to 0 degrees lattitude. If you are able to get to Cambodia, perhaps the Lord will allow you to meet Fran Lance and her group who are going to visit the orphanage she's established. Believe it's in Phnom Penh.

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