Vientiane: A Great Place to Rent a Bike

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January 24th 2013
Published: January 24th 2013
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The bus ride from Vang Vieng to Vientiane was one of the shortest rides we had in a while, it was just over 3 hours and for once we actually got dropped in the city centre (most of our other buses have wanted to drop us off at the bus stations that are several kms out of town or charge us extra to get into downtown). Once we got oriented we started looking for a guesthouse, there are a few city blocks that have guesthouses scattered around so it took a bit of leg work. Eventually we found an acceptable place to stay for a decent price. Having left Vang Vieng later in the day, it was well into the evening when we were settled in our room. For a late dinner we walked around the corner to find a delicious duck noodle soup and then returned to our room for some rest.

We had planned a big day in Vientiane; we wanted to rent bikes, see a couple of temples, go to the bus station to buy our exit tickets (the prices in town are insanely high, pretty much double what the station charges), find an ATM that would let us withdraw more than 1,000,000 Kip (approx. $125CDN), and exchange a book. You would think we would get up early and hop to it but no, the laziness lingered and after breakfast we ended up sitting around our guesthouse reading and watching a couple of shows. By noon it was time to get moving; the beginning of a very interesting afternoon. It took forever to find a place that would rent bicycles and when we did they needed our passports which were at the guesthouse locked up. We walked back to the guesthouse, returned to the hotel that would rent bikes and were informed that they only had one bike left. Well that certainly wouldn't do. Luckily they pointed us to another place that rented bikes one street over and they were a little bit cheaper, things were looking up. Then we started to ride. Once again Rebecca got stuck with a lemon. The bike would barely move, it was like working out on a stationary bike at the highest resistance. Tyler thought she was being a baby and traded bikes after about 10 minutes. As soon as he started pedalling he said “This bike is the worst!”. It really was, but at least both of the pedals were attached. Another tid bit of information that will help paint this picture is that we forgot to bring a map and were going by memory of where we thought we wanted to go. Needless to say, that didn't work out. After trading bikes a few times and somehow getting to a highway we realized we had gone to far. We decided to turn around and return the bikes since they were making it more difficult getting around town than walking would be. Getting back was a whole new adventure, we had no idea where we were and riding the bike had become next to impossible so we took turns walking and riding. On our tour of town we ended up seeing a couple of temples that obviously didn't get too many tourists and the monks had no problem with letting us walk around a bit. The one had a huge Buddha statue and some monkeys in cages. When we eventually got back to the bike rental the guy said we couldn't get our money back because we were gone more than an hour. He didn't want to try ride the bike himself on Rebecca's recommendation but rather sat behind his desk and said no. Instead of getting too heated we walked away and returned to our guesthouse. Not before grabbing some fresh spring rolls from a street vendor.

We hung around the guesthouse for a bit and completely lost track of time. At 9:30 we needed to go out and find some food. We decided to go in a direction that we hadn't gone before. Down the street and around the corner we found a guy making some awesome fruit smoothies; we each got one to go and continued walking in the direction we thought was around the block. Nope. Somehow we again ended up on a highway in the middle of nowhere and this time it was dark. The core of Vientiane really isn't that small so we have no idea how this kept happening to us! Eventually we gave up trying to find our way back and got a tuk-tuk to take us home. What a day!

After our horrendous experience the day before we had seriously contemplated leaving Vientiane behind and catching a bus out as soon as possible. However, we had allotted three nights there, had told out guesthouse we were spending three nights and thought it needed another chance. Instead of being the lazy poops we had been lately we got out and about early. We found a Chinese restaurant nearby and had a traditional Chinese breakfast of dumplings that took us back to a few months ago. They were to die for! The tourist core area of Vientiane is a little Asian mash-up, it has a large Chinese, Thai and even Malaysian influence that you can see in the variety of food and stores. If there is one good thing to be said about Vientiane it's that the food was fabulous. There are street vendors and hole-in-the-wall restaurants everywhere!

Our adventures on the second day weren't nearly as hectic. After exchanging some books we walked down to the river. The Mekong in Vientiane is a work in progress. From where we stood it was mostly sandy but there were some big machines digging and moving earth around so they are obviously working on something. In a few years when they complete the project it will probably be a very nice view. We wandered the streets a bit but that wasn't very

Good bye Vientiane!!
appeasing either. Along our travels we have had many people tell us that Vientiane is nothing special and we would have to agree. In theory it's a fantastic place to rent a bike; the whole city can be explored easily in a day and our advice would be to do just that (or avoid the city completely).

We decided against another late night walk in favour of returning to the duck soup lady for dinner. Back at the guesthouse we read and watched TV (ESPN was replaying a few recent NFL games). The next morning we were up bright and early to take on our next mission... getting to Tha Khaek by local bus.

Xoxo Ty+Becs


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