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Vientiane: Laos or Thailand?

Vientiane is the capital, and by far the largest and most crowded city of Laos. We are curious whether it still has the typical Laotian feel to it.

The Pat Xai in Vientiane: Arc de Triomphe Asian style

From Vang Vieng there are a lot of buses going to Vientiane in the early morning or late afternoon. In between, there are only pick-up trucks leaving every half hour. We decide to take those, since they also seem faster. The road is good, and this time no mountains. The only drawback is that we are dropped of in the outskirts of Vientiane. A tuktuk will have to bring us further into town.

Crowded and expensive

When we search for a hotel again, Vientiane appears to be more crowded, less friendly, and much more expensive than the rest of Laos. And the quality of the rooms is also worse. Eventually we take a hostel in the center, but we have already decided not to stay very long. When we walk through town in the afternoon and evening, it is not as bad as it seemed at first. But it is more like Thailand than Laos.

Wat Si Saket the oldest wat in LaosWe take a walking tour through the old part of Vientiane the next morning. We pass some wats, among which the oldest in Laos, Wat Si Saket. The style of the temples is a little different from those in Luang Prabang, but not very spectacular. The presidential palace isn't very special either, nor are the colonial houses. But maybe we are just spoiled by Luang Prabang.

Bicycle tour

The rest of the attractions in Vientiane are further apart, so we have to take a bicycle to visit those. We hire a bike, and head for Pat Xai, some kind of Arc the Triomphe, but in an Asian style. We cycle around it, and than move on to That Luang, which we can see from afar.

The That Luang is a huge golden stupa, located where a stupa has been put in the third century. The current one is not so old, but has been renovated and changed many times. Funeral procession in front of That LuangIt is especially pretty from a distance, from up close it is just a huge structure.

Around the structure are a few wats, and a statue of an old king. As we are admiring those, a funeral procession just passes. The coffin on a car is preceded by monks, and surrounded by the relatives of the deceased. Interesting to witness.

Laos after all

Fishing in LaosWe continue our cycle tour along some wats and eat at a remote guesthouse. Then we decide to take a look at the island in the Mekong River near the city. The size of the island depends on the height of the water, but there are also living some people on it. Via a long bridge we reach it, and we finally see the real Laos again. Wooden houses and people keeping ducks, growing vegetables and fishing in the river. We are friendly greeted and children wave to us. Satisfied, we return to our hostel.

In the evening we eat in a good restaurant, of which there are enough in Vientiane. After that we walk along the river and take a beer on the river bank. We are talking about Laos and Thailand on the other side of the river. On a table next to us a mobile phone is ringing, which we didn't hear before in Laos. It confirms our thoughts that Vientiane is more Thailand than it is Laos. When we are brought to the Friendship bridge the next morning, we see the cause of that. Large trucks with goods from Thailand are passing the border, driving in formation into the city. Vientiane is simply the only city in Laos with a good connection to the outside world.



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