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Published: October 26th 2014
The move to Vientiane was easy enough, just a one hour flight. The alternative was to spend a full day on a coach, most of the reviews for which focused on the (poor) state of the roads. On the drive in from the airport the main impression gained was one of newer buildings, good roads and much less traffic. Over the two days, that impression was reinforced. Interestingly, apart from the few historical buildings highlighted in the travel guides there seemed to be few buildings pre 1960's construction. This was a surprise since the region has been occupied for over 10 centuries and Vientiane has been the capital city of Laos since 1563. Laos, like the other countries we have visited on this trip is a member of ASEAN, a sort of Se Asian economic union. On the back of that we saw lots of ongoing building work, all state of the art , according to the illustrated fencing around the sites. A return visit in 5 years or so would be to a really modern 21st century city.
In a very busy day yesterday we got to visit Pha That Luang, the most important national monument in
Laos. Dating back to the 3rd century BC, the original stupa built to house a piece of Buddha's breastbone. Not sure where the rest of him went! This was about 4 km out of the city centre, so we were using Tuk Tuk transport, a variation on the theme to those we had used elsewhere, bright and colourful. In the centre itself we climbed to the top of The Victory Monument, built to commemorate the Lao who died in per revolutionary wars. Also called the Patuxai, a sort of Arc De a Triumph, it was built in 1969 but never finished, pity since it's a pretty ugly concrete structure with no decoration apart from a ceiling panel beneath the main arch. The views across the city were good though. We managed to get in another Wat, this time Wat Si Saket, Vientianes oldest Wat.
After an hour or so's R&R in the late afternoon ,by the pool back at the hotel, we got the shuttle bus back into the centre of the city. Every night on the banks of the Mekong River there is a big night market. It was big too. Hundreds of stalls all set out in a well ordered way. Again though, although hundreds, they were either selling clothing, watches, electronic gadgets, drawings on rice paper or bags and wallets. Amazingly we got round without buying anything.
Another Tuk Tuk ride got us back to the hotel and food. The Chandara Boutique Hotel has proved a good base. Although a couple of km out of the main centre they offer a shuttle in, several times a day. The room was everything you would expect and the pool a real bonus. We have enjoyed the food, all local dishes, especially the first night when our whole meal was free; the hotel had forgotten our airport pickup and left us waiting around for an hour or so. The freebie was by way of apology for that, a very nice gesture and unexpected.
Next stop is Luang Prabang, which should give a different experience of Laos.
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