Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Laos: Vientiane Diaries

What To Do In Vientiane Laos

One time in China, I biked and just followed the road that led me to I dunno where... Have you experienced waking up with hundreds of camels passing by in front of your tent while the moon glows so brightly? Ahh… That was absolutely perfect.

I was inside a cramped bus, drunk and didn’t know where I was headed. The next day, I realized that I didn’t have my passport with me. Bad news is that I can only have it replaced in Russia. So I’m stuck here in Laos…

That was a scene from one of our nightly beer sessions right outside our guest house with fellow travelers. Perhaps it was the comfort one receives from a stranger that loosened their tounge. They bared their souls to strangers because they trust that they won’t be judged and the chances of seeing them again is slim. So they spoke of their most intimate stories zealously. 

What To Do In Vientiane Laos
Vientiane is quite sleepy compared to its neighboring Southeast Asian hubs
I was starting to feel nostalgic and excited at the same time. Me and my buddy were savoring the last four days of our journey making Vientiane in Laos as our last stop. I was nursing my homesickness while relishing our last few moments as I took out my wallet and peeled off the last notes, checking if we could survive with that small amount.

Vientiane is the capital city of Laos and travelers usually stop by here for one or few more days before they head out around the country, maybe to Luang Prabang or Vang Vieng. Wattay Airport offers direct flights to and fro major Asian destinations making it easy to enter the country. 

What To Do In Vientiane Laos

We took a sleeper bus from Pakse and arrived very early in the morning. We had a quick breakfast of hot noodles and coffee at the bus terminal and asked around on how to go to the city center.

Everyone pointed to the jumbo or big tuk tuk right outside the bus terminal and we paid 5,000 Kip (US$ 0.62) each for the ride. We didn’t know where to go or what to do so we asked to be dropped off at the public market (Talat Sao) and asked around on areas where we could stay, Nam Phu they would say.

National Library Vientiane Laos
National Library of Laos
We walked our way to Thanon Setthathirat and found a number of hotels and guest houses around the area. Our limited funds led us nowhere. After hours of walking around under the intense summer heat of Vientiane, we surrendered and checked out online hotel booking sites for good deals. We scored a good deal and headed towards Sihom Road.

Presidential Palace Vientiane Laos
The Presidential Palace found at the end of Lane Xang Avenue
Chindamay Guest House is an unpretentious accommodation that provides the basic needs for travelers. Our tiny room had two single beds, fan (and aircon for a fee), coffee table and chair, and a private toilet and bath. Bath soap and towels were also provided. For a cheap price, we ain’t complaining at all (check room types and rates).

Chindamay Guest House Vientiane Laos
Our beer place at night
Chindamay Guest House Vientiane Laos
They provide free frinking water, coffee, tea and parking for your bikes.
Chindamay Guest House Vientiane Laos

I forgot what happened but as soon as I dropped my bags and jumped into bed I got lost into dreamland, that was around noontime. I stirred to wake as my buddy was busy plotting our itinerary. I also noticed that our stuff were neatly packed and he’s already done with the laundry.

He silently whispered that it was already nine in the evening and we could probably grab a bite somewhere before I continue with my much needed respite. It was only then that I realized how my day was lost, but not wasted, to our not-so-comfy bed. 

What To Do In Vientiane Laos

I love our guest house. It’s like a hostel sans the communal feel. If you wanna hang out and chat with other travelers you can do so, if you ain't in the mood that would be fine too.

On our first night, we met a British cyclist guy in his 40s living his life one route at a time. There’s this Russian drunk guy in his 50s who lost his passport somewhere in Laos and earning through his harmonica gig somewhere. And then there’s this Siberian lass who has a Laotian mom and was talking about the negative seventy degrees temperature in her hometown. Together, we formed a crazy group of travelers who gravitated toward our guesthouse's side street pocket garden with our own travel stories to tell. Drunken stories, almost irritating harmonica recital, travel stories, life stories, good company. Almost perfect life.

Chindamay Guest House Vientiane Laos

Chindamay Guest House Vientiane Laos

That was actually what remained on me during the Vientiane leg of our two-month backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. Those silly drinking sesh in the middle of this seemingly quiet town. Those stories that inspired me more to do what I've been doing for the past years. It makes me wanna travel and explore more.

What To Do In Vientiane Laos

On our second day, we asked for some help from the guest house on the interesting places to see. They gave us a free map and pointed to us the specific spots we should visit. 

It was noontime and we chose to check out the temples around the area. We specifically just wanted to visit those that seemed to be really interesting, on foot. I didn’t wanna worry too much on planning for I’ve been stressed out on walking and spelunking in Vang Vieng, the ultimate challenge of Treetop Explorer in Pakse and motorbiking around Pakse. It was chill time in Vientiane.

We got to visit a couple of temples near our guest house and Laos' most important religious monument and its national symbol, Pha That Luang. A 4-kilometer walk from our from the city center. We also got to visit Wat Si Saket, the oldest surviving temple in Vientiane.

Templed Out: Vientiane Edition (on foot)

Wat Inpeng
Setthathirath Road (between Chao Anou Road and Khun Boulum Road), Vientiane, Laos
Entrance Fee: Free
Open Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.


Wat Inpeng Vientiane Laos


Wat Inpeng Vientiane Laos
Wat Inpeng
Wat Haysok
Hom 2, Vientiane, Laos
Entrance Fee: Free
Open Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.


Wat Haysok Vientiane Laos

Wat Haysok Vientiane Laos
Wat Haysok
Reclining Buddha
Ban Nongbone, Vientiane, Laos
Entrance Fee: Free
Open Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.


Reclining Buddha Vientiane Laos

Reclining Buddha Vientiane Laos
Reclining Buddha
Wat Pha That Luang | Pha That Luang Stupa
Ban Nongbone, Vientiane, Laos
Entrance Fee: 5,000 Kip
Open Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. except Mondays and public holidays
(closed at 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m.)


Wat Pha That Luang Vientiane Laos

Wat Pha That Luang Vientiane Laos

Wat Pha That Luang Vientiane Laos
Pha That Luang Stupa
That Dam | Black Stupa
That Dam Road, Rue Bartholonie, Vientiane, Laos
Entrance Fee: Free
Open Hours: All day


That Dam Vientiane Laos

That Dam Vientiane Laos
That Dam
Wat Si Saket
Lan Xang Avenue, Vientiane, Laos
Entrance Fee: 5,000 Kip
Open Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (closed at 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m.)


Wat Si Saket Vientiane Laos

Wat Si Saket Vientiane Laos

Wat Si Saket Vientiane Laos
Wat Si Saket
On our third day, we started again late and went to Patuxai Victory Monument or the Laotian version of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. Our wanderings ended along the banks of Mekong. It was an hour before sundown and people gathered on the shoreline of Mekong for leisure time. We noticed a gathering of some sort along the shore so we headed that way.

Patuxai Victory Monument Vientiane Laos

Patuxai Victory Monument Vientiane Laos

Patuxai Victory Monument Vientiane Laos

Patuxai Victory Monument Vientiane Laos
Patuxai Victory Monument
There was a sand art festival going on and a dozen or so of sculpted sand were scattered around. We waited with the locals as the sun started to set along the riverbanks. 

Mekong Sand Art Vientiane Laos

Mekong Sand Art Vientiane Laos

At nightfall, we went to the night market and just skimmed through the items. We knew that we’re running out of moolah so it was really just a sight-seeing trip for us. 

Mekong River Vientiane Laos

Mekong River Vientiane Laos

On our last night, we contemplated on whether to spend our last Kip on food and beer or starve ourselves for a comfy jumbo ride to the airport the next day (take note that you cannot exchange Kip to other currencies outside Laos, so you have to spend accordingly). The former won and so we indulged on grilled chicken and some beer. We then met with our occasional friends on our guest house for another round of fun and crazy travel stories and endless humming of Russian and Siberian songs over Beer Lao.

Local Barber Shop Vientiane Laos
Long overdue haircut for my buddy. 25, 000 Kip (US$ 3.10).

It was our last day in Vientiane and the culmination of our backpacking trip. Our backpacks were dragging us as we traversed the long road leading to the airport. It was a 2-kilometer walk and the scorching heat made walking such a punishment. It was foolish, I know, trading beer over a 35,000 Kip (US$ 4.34) ride, but we did what we did just because. Just because...

What To Do In Vientiane Laos

What To Do In Vientiane Laos

In retrospect, I had a few what-ifs and if-onlys during this trip. But then again I wouldn't want to change everything for I love it the way it was. I dunno, but maybe not. One thing’s for sure though, as long as you’re with someone you’re totally comfortable with, then everything will be ok. And as they say, It’s the journey that matters and not the destination, but I say, It’s who you’re with on a journey, that’s all that matters.

Here's hoping to a fun-filled backcpacking summer trip this year. Woohoo!


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