03.03.2017 - 10.03.2017 36 °C
The flight from Bangkok to Vientiane (capital city of Laos) was a little over 1 hour 30 minutes. Flights this short are crazy. By the time you have taken off fully, your being prepared for landing. Neil enjoyed the flight, as much as any fake sloth would 😉
Once we had landed we completed our visa forms which were 35USD (about £28) each and very simple to do. We were both proud of our visa being entered into our passport as it was another passport page filled up. Traveller goals 😂
Once we came out of the airport we withdrew a cool 1 Million LAK which made us feel super rich, however, it was equivalent to £100. 😂🙈
We then got into a taxi which drove us to our hostel (Avolon Bed & Breakfast). After checking in, we quickly looked around the hostel and were happy with what we saw, so we hit the streets of Vientiane to explore a little. We noticed many Buddhist Monks walking the streets. We then came across a huge temple which was intriguing (Wat Ong Teu).
After that, we carried on exploring and decided to stop and try the local beer out, creatively named, 'beer Lao'. It was very refreshing and we had 3 in total and decided to head back to the hostel and relax.
So the following day we got up and went for our first breakfast at the hostel which was eggs on toast with fruit. It was decent and did the job.
We then went for a walk around to see if there were any tours which we would be interested in. We went into a few places but the tours were not what we expected so we carried on walking. We took a walk next to the Mekong river (runs through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam) but from where we were, we didn't really get a good view of it to be honest as there was lots of farmland between us and the river. We didn't dare go across, in case we were just being stupid tourists trampling over farmland. We decided to carry on walking some more and saw some of the weird and wonderful sights which Laos had to offer.
It was around lunch time and we came across a place where we had a few local dishes and some amazingly refreshing ice soda's. We were very impressed.
During the evening we decided to try out a Laos dish from one of the street market stalls. Well the food was to die for and was extremley tasty, not to mention, super cheap. 👍
Afterwards, we took a walk to see the Vientiane night market. It is aimed at tourists with clean, orderly stalls, and all manner of merchandise that make great souvenirs or mementos. It was just a shame that we couldn't buy much. Not for budget reasons. The prices were insanely cheap, but we have no space left in our cases. Mel bought a new dress on the understanding that when we buy one piece of new clothing, one needs to go. 😒 travelling life means no hoarding.
So, anyway, the market all begins around sunset, when a small army of sellers begin setting up their red-roofed stalls directly on the riverside promenade. It's one not to be missed. The whole riverside area is alive at this time with tourists and locals alike. The atmosphere is amazing. We also came across a fitness class being held against the backdrop of the sun lazily sinking in to the Mekong river. The music was super load and added to the whole experience.
The next morning we planned to take the local bus to Buddha Park, located just off the Mekong River opposite Thailand. The park was designed in 1958 and had over 200 Hindu and Buddhist statues. On entering the park you first see the 'Pumpkin' which is a huge structure which is meant to depict Hell, Earth and Heaven. The front of the Pumpkin has a demons face where you can walk into the mouth to enter hell. Its quite an eerie experience. The stairs are concrete and very steep and once you get to the top of the Pumpkin, you climb through a tiny hole to stand on top of the pumpkin. There is a large tree like sculpture on top. From the top, you can see an overview of the full park.
There was also a 40 metre long reclining Buddha, which was pretty awsome too. Obviously Neil had his picture taken with it. Here are some more pictures of some of the strange statues within the park.
So in the afternoon we decided to head out to enjoy a few drinks, however, we were both disgusted and sick to our stomachs with a conversation we over heard between a group of peodophile's, discussing a 9 year old from the night before who would not let the old guy film her. It was that intense we had to leave our seats and move elsewhere. 😤😣 Unfortunately in this part of the world this seems to be normal behavouir and a hub for peodophiles, preying on poor asian familys who end up sending out there children to help with income. If these familys do not speak out it can be hard to combat within this society and I suppose the main reason the parents do not speak out is that they see this as there main money income, so they see nothing wrong with it. 😦
This wasn't the only thing that we found uncomfortable. It was made quite clear to us that, travellers need to be very careful around Vientiane as there is a high level of crime. Some things which we witnessed on the streets were very disturbing. It makes you wish that there was something you could do, but the truth is that many of the authorities are more than aware of what goes on and more often then not, involved.
The following day we went to the 'COPE' museum which made us aware of the 'Secret War' which went on between Laos and the USA during the height of the Vietnam war, the USA conducted this war in private, on Vietnam's western border, in attempt to destroy communist supply lines. More bombs were dropped in Laos than Germany and Japan in WW2 combined. From 1964 to 1973, Laos was one of the most heavily bombed countries per capita in history. However, 30% of bombs dropped did not explode, and to this day, armed and active devices littler the country. Since the bombs stopped, tens of thousands of Lao people have been killed or maimed by the unexploded ordnance, and 40% of victims are children. This was a war which neither of us had even heard of and the facts are horrifying. So COPE stands for Cooperative Orthotic and Rehabilitation Enterprise. They are the main rehabilitation centre in Vientiane offering free support to anybody affected from the secret war. Either affected during or in the aftermath. They provide many different sources of support, from counselling to prosthetic limbs being fitted. It was a very interesting place to visit and really took us by surprise.
Our walk back from the museum was certainly not the same and we treaded very carefully after the facts we had learnt. 😨
In the afternoon we decided to sunbathe at the local outdoor swimming pool which was brought to our attention by a fellow backpacker 'Rob' from Zinbabwe. It was super nice just to kick back and relax by the pool side with the sun beating down on us. The pool setting did bring back childhood memories for us both.
After that, we decided to go for a drink. Well a drink, lead to many drinks. We basically went on our own little pub crawl. By the time the afternoon came around, we carried ourselves to a popular restaurant (all around Asia) called The Pizza Company. Well we feasted and it was gooooood! A bit of naughty western food every now and again, goes down nicely 😊.
The next morning, we decided to visit another reclining Buddha statue. We took a nice, long walk to Sisaket temple which is the oldest temple still standing in Vientiane. We had a little walk around and took some snaps with ourselves and Neil of coarse. It was a very nice and relaxed morning.
Later on, when we got back to the hostel, Melissa had a strange little episode. One moment, she was fine and chatting away. The next, she was leaning across a table and saying that she was going to faint. I asked if she wanted to get a shower but she mumbled back to me that she couldn't move. She then decided to throw up A LOT, just right outside the hostel. Once she was done, we decided that it may be best to take it easy for the rest of the day. For the next few days in fact, we didn't really get out much, as Mel hadn't really recovered fully from the previous day. We believe it to have been heat exhaustion as she had just said that it was so hot, she could not stop sweating. We think that our Malaria tablets (Malarone) had a pretty strong effects on us, as we both felt lousy and just very lethargic. So we just relaxed at the hostel and booked further flights for our trip. Sadly, we still had a whole other week after leaving Laos to stay on the tablets.
We both really enjoyed Vientiane and learnt A LOT from our visit, but perhaps feel like a week was enough time for us. We wouldn't opt to go back to Vientiane as we feel that we made the most of the time we had, but maybe another part of Laos, some day 😊. Back to Thailand we go. Yippee! Exploring is what we love!