Vientiane sits on the mighty Mekong river, overlooking Thailand. On arrival you are sort of left with the impression that you are in a village suburb and then when you check the map it dawns that actually this IS it. The little fountain square is actually the epicentre! Compared with the heaving mayhem of places like Bangkok or Hanoi, Laos has a far far more sensible and laid-back approach to a capital city with the right balance of quiet streets and nice restaurants and the usual markets and shops catering to the expat community (huge number working for the UN and other NGO set-ups - belting around like Rambo in their spanking new, white Toyota Landcruisers).
We spent a lovely time exploring the place, although it was noticeably hotter than the places we had come from to the north. We spent some lovely evenings down by the Mekong where there are dozens of excellent food stalls and tables set out to admire the view. On one occasion we splurged by visiting one of the rooftop bars which was great and when Cheryl accidentally broke her wine glass our waiter tried to make us pay US$3 for a replacement glass which scored 10 out of 10 for a cheeky scam!
We bought ourselves an mp3 player each which has been lovely because you can download songs from the internet onto them - was starting to really miss music! They were a very cheap price and are of dubious origin. The instruction manual made for an interesting and quaint read, including an apology if there are mistakes with the device but accidents happen, etc... We've been using the players to download programmes from bbc radio and when you listen to them they make references to whatever MASSIVE drama there is currently in the domestic headlines. It's strange but when heard from the other side of the world there is a certain amount of perspective on the "importance" of these headlines!
On our last night we were having a lovely dinner in a restaurant across the road from our guesthouse and we got chatting to a lovely English couple called Tom and Vic who told us some great anecdotes of their trip to parts of Africa and India, which sounded both horrific and fantastic at once. The next day we headed further south, which is certainly less travelled and is usually overlooked on most itineraries but we wanted to get right to the border with Cambodia to Si Phan Don - "The 4000 Islands" that form as the Mekong widens and flows into Cambodia.