Good morning Laos. I’m awake at dawn and get up by 8 for breakfast at the hotel. I then pop along the road to rent a bicycle. I bump into Marie, a French lady who I had met in the tuk-tuk at the Thai border, then again when I arrived yesterday in Vientiane. She is at the same hotel. The bike costs less than 1 GBP for 24 hours, and is sturdy, has a basket and perfect for investigating the hot city.
It’s small, compact, traffic is light, mainly motorbikes and people carriers and there are no high rise buildings. The streets arent very busy. The people I see, as with last night seem unassuming, gentle and laid-back. There isn’t a whole lot to see tourism-wise.
There is That Dam, a bear stupa that acts as a roundabout, which apparently was once covered with gold but this was pillaged by the Thais.
There is Patuxai, a kind of Asian Arche de Triomphe from the 1960s built of concrete. From a distance it looks quite decorative with Laos style motifs. I climb the 7 storeys to the top. The inside is bare undressed concrete and there are 2 floors of neon lit souvenir stalls. The view is nothing special but at least you can see the small scale of this capital.
I revisit the tuk-tuk station for some pictures of these remarkable workhorses: a motorcycle front end and a pick-up-style rear end on a single axle with 2 benches facing each other. I meet Marie yet again!
Then I cross the road and enter the food market: dried fish, eggs, fruit, women in wide Vietnam style hats crouching on the ground selling bunches on morning glory with yellow flowers.
Next stop is Wat Si Saket, the oldest wat in town, dating from around 1820. Its a bit shabby and you have to pay to enter. Also no photos. It’s famed for its thousands of buddhas sitting in niches in the walls of the prayer hall, also its crumbling and fading murals.
My search for some veggie restaurants in Lonely Planet fails, so I return to Setthatirath for a mango-pineapple shake, then to yesterday’s restaurant for the buffet. This is great value and has a number of Laos style dishes. The imitation fish dishes are too close to the real thing for me, but the curry and sushi are lovely.
This is my mid-afternoon blog. I’m now going to explore further afield and then decide what to do tomorrow. Stay here or move on.
Funny atmosphere among the travellers. Nobody seems very sociable.