We can see a pattern forming after traveling Laos for a while. Compared to many other places in South East Asia, it’s clean, laid back, uncrowded and with fewer young drunken tourists away from their parents for the first time. The ripping off of tourists occurs to a much lesser extent than many other countries in South East Asia. You can walk through markets and shops and no one will hassle you. When asking for a price, often straight away you’ll get the local price without any bartering. The sidewalks are clean and clear of obstacles. The streets and markets are really a pleasure to walk around. Laos is shaping up to be our favourite country we’ve visited.
Vientiane may not be the most exciting city for tourists but it’s a city we thought we could actually live in. It’s clean, attractive and a really nice place to relax, walk around and get some good food and drink. Mostly that is what we did in our few days stay. Patuxai, the Laos version of the Arc de Triomphe, is a popular attraction in the city. It was built with concrete donated by USA intended for the construction of a new airport. We also went to the Lao National Museum which has lots of information on the country’s struggle to free the itself from foreign occupiers and imperialist forces.
We hired some pushbikes and rode around the city, to Pha That Luang temple and to the Vietnamese embassy to organize our visas. The embassy was closed when we arrived and ended up opening a few hours late, seemingly for no reason other than to have a sleep in. We also rode to the Chinese embassy with the idea of heading north into China before looping back down into Vietnam. No luck – the requirements are too strict regarding pre-organized accommodation and entry / exit transport. We gave up on the China idea – will have to wait until next time.