We had opted for the VIP bus to from Luang Prabang to Vientiane on the basis that it took 8 hours - although there were varying reports on it taking up to 9 hours. We got to the bus station on time, after an early breakfast and, to our surprise, the bus left on time.It was an old Chinese bus and it seemed a little bit lacking in power. The route took us into the mountains and the bus seemed to be in 1st gear all the time - not getting much above 30km per hour. So it was a case of sit back and look at the scenery - which was magnificent. It was through lots of mountains - all with heavy vegetation with the occasional village.
We found out that the reason the VIP bus is quicker was because it has a lavatory on board so doesn't need to stop. Our first stop was after 4 hours (when we all had numb backsides) - at least that was for a free lunch. It was then back on the bus for another 6 hours - the scenery was good but we emerged stiff from the bus at 7:30pm.
We took a shared taxi to the city centre only to find that the hotel where we thought we had a reservation knew nothing about us. After frantic checks and checking my email, I found the reservation service had sent me an email whilst we were on the bus to say the hotel was full. Not much use! So it was a quick dash round to some adjacent hotels where we managed to find a room in a nice place even if it was a little more than our budget.
We slept in a little - my fault I stayed up to watch the football. It was then off to find another hotel - we contacted one via email who had rooms, so it was a quick swop of hotels. We then started to have a look round Vientiane and although it is a charming place with lots of nice restaurants, there isn't much to see.
We then set off to see the sights - first an old temple (all the other old ones had been destroyed by the Thais at the turn of the 19th century). Unfortunately the temple was closed for lunch when we got there, so it was off to see the Arc de Triomphe - or the Vientiane equivalent. This is a monument built in the 60s with the money the Americans gave them to build a new runway - they used the concrete somewhat differently!
After this it was a walk to the national monument of Laos - a giant golden stuppa. The walk was a little long and Fran wanted a comfort break so we dived into a café - then decided to have a drink and some lunch. Fran ordered a spicy salad - and it was really spicy. She proceeded to down her beer, her water and my water - kind of defeated the object of the comfort break! After seeing the stuppa, we then went back to the old temple - that was possibly the best sight in the city - very pretty and calm.
As we had finished the sightseeing, we decided that we would move on from Laos - Vientiane is pleasant enough but we decided we had had enough of relaxing so we made plans to leave in the morning.