Vientiane was a much smaller city after Hanoi. Much less crowded, both in terms of people and traffic, and just generally, much more laid back. One of the most iconic monuments in Vientiane is the Patuxai, or the Victory Gate. It’s a monument to commemorate Laos’ independence from France, but quite ironically, it looks like a Laotian version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. We read that the locals aren’t that fond of this monument because it doesn’t look Laotian enough, so Pha That Luang (see below) is the monument/tourist attraction that Laotians are most proud of.
Approaching the Patuxai; schoolchildren for scale
Patuxai from the front
Ornate ceiling of Patuxai
We were wandering around the Patuxai, taking photos from every angle and attempting to take jump-shots with the gate. And as usual, there were hordes of tuk-tuk drivers asking if we needed a ride somewhere, and other brochure peddlers. You know, standard tourist attraction riff-raff that we try not to make eye contact with. Randomly, two sweet-looking girls called out. “Excuse me, can we ask you some questions?” Our first instinct was to pretend not to speak English and run. But then I figured that they were probably completing a survey and decided to help out.
It turned out that they wanted to practice asking us some questions in English, as part of their ‘homework’ for school. Naturally, we agreed. Girl 1 looked poised to ask V some questions, and Girl 2 sprang into action and whipped out a camera. They then explained that they also had to film this as proof. Quite dazed by all this unexpected activity, V answered Girl 1’s questions on where he was from, what sport he played, how many days he was in Vientiane for, etc. Then Girl 1 said “Now, you ask me.” Took a couple of seconds for the gears to crank into motion, and V asked Girl 1 where she was from, what her favourite hangout in Vientiane was, and what sport she played. It ended with Girl 1 asking V to rate her English. Then, it was my turn with Girl 2, which was smoother because I was able to ‘prep’ for it (although Girl 2 did throw in a couple of surprise questions of her own).
Result: there is some footage floating around of us having a robotic but giggly conversation with Laotian girls. Hopefully it doesn’t turn up on youtube anytime soon.
The rest of our time in Vientiane was less eventful. Eating, sitting around in cafes, and visiting temples. So. many. temples! At points, we didn’t even know when one temple compound ended and another began. But all were beautiful and ornate. And of course, no visit to Vientiane would be complete without a visit to the mother of all temples – Pha That Luang.
Delicious food at Kualao Restaurant. Apparently one of the best restaurants in the country, where the celebs and ambassadors hang out. We didn’t see anyone we knew unfortunately, apart from Chinese tourists who started to look familiar. V tried larb, a national dish of Laos made from minced chicken.
Traditional music and dance at Kualao Restaurant.
The bright lights of Thailand across the Mekong river
Statue of King Chao Anouvong along the Mekong river
The local Laotian beer is called Beer Lao. And it is also, apparently, the beer of the whole-hearted people.
Where shall we go next?
Interesting outdoor seating at this burger place; because russian engineering
That Dam by night
Had lunch at Makphet, which provides training and employment to marginalised or at-risk youth. All profits go back into the training and social support of these youth.
Laotian food at Makphet. We tried fresh veggie spring rolls, spicy laotian sausage, and jeow (which is basically a spicy dipping sauce that’s eaten with veggies or sticky rice)
Makphet also had a children’s corner outside
One of these is mango, the other is durian. A dangerous game! Did you know that in Laos, Swensens is purely an ice-cream parlour?!
Big Buddha, with monk for scale
The mother of all temples: Pha That Luang!
Oh and another cool thing about Vientiane is that because it is so close to Thailand, a lot of places accepted Thai bhat for payment (rather than the Laotian kip). In fact, many places preferred the bhat because it seems like they would often spend in bhat on the Thai side.
Cumulative cost of travel so far
GBP: 3,077 plus EUR: 1,308 plus RUB: 43,765 plus USD: 508 plus SGD: 638
Three nights, Vientiane – 90 SGD
Spending: 340 SGD