Thursday, 19th April 2012 (Day 05)
I knew that I wouldn't be able to climb on board Bus #14 for my journey to Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan), about 25km from Vientiane. The 12,000 kip (USD 1.50 return) local bus was jam-packed with people when I passed by the Talat Sao Bus Station on Wednesday. Even the reception at my hotel advised me against using public transport since none of the guys at the bus station spoke English. I probably wouldn't know where to alight - it seemed.
After having a fair idea of the on-going tuk-tuk rate, I walked down a couple of streets to find the right fit for my budget. In fact, the rate was a standard 200,000 kip flat (USD 25) no matter how far I walked. There seemed to be an unwritten agreement among the tuk-tuk drivers to charge the same ridiculous fares for the journey. I just made sure that I hopped into one with a 4-wheeler as I was advised that the road conditions for the last few kilometres to the park was dusty and bumpy.
1 hour after I started from Vientiane, I reached the Park's entrance. En-route, my tuk-tuk passed
through the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge before making its final foray to the Park.
The Buddha Park was roughly the size of 2 football fields. There were numerous Buddha Statutes including a huge reclining Buddha. Near the entrance, there was some sort of an observatory where I could carefully climbed to the top to get an aerial view of the park. I'm not a staunch Buddhist but a visit to the Park still made an interesting excursion for me.
I probably lingered on for an hour before being driven back to the capital. I asked to stopped by at Nam Phu Fountain where the famous Scandinavian Bakery was located. Finally, I captured some shots at the Black Stupa (That Dam), said "hello" to the friendly guards at the American Embassy before making my way to the Swensen's Cafe along the same Samsenthai Street where the Lao Museum was located.
"42 degrees celsius today," remarked one of the guards at the Embassy.
It made sense to cool down my palate with a serving of ice-cream @ Swensen's. This was Vientiane's first western chain restaurant. None of the other fastfood giants had made their foray into the capital even
though the completion of the nation's first modern shopping mall in 2013 (not the current Talat Sao Mall) might change all that.
Otherwise, Vientiane remained a charming laid-back town with its friendly folks along the serene Mekong Riverfront. Tourism is still evolving but getting to the country is now easier than before with its somewhat expensive thrice-weekly direct flights from Singapore (+-SGD 450).
Budget carriers, please take heed.
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