Another day, another country, this time it's Laos.
Splashing the cash we amended our travel plans slightly and paid for a flight to get us from Cambodia to Laos so as to avoid some nightmare bus journeys. Have to say that it didn't look the best idea when we walked across the tarmac to the plane. Never flown in a plane with propellers before! When we took off the noise was incredible, it sounded like a WW2 bomber, close your eyes and we could easily have been off to stasse German troop lines.
Nevertheless we arrived safe and sound in Vientiane which is the capital of Laos, but a least-capital like city you would be hard pressed to find. No-one seemed particularly keen to amble up to walking pace never mind past it, the streets seemed empty and everyone just kind of lay there. It could have been due to the heat, which was formidable but it could also be because we had shown up just in time for the Laos New Year. The year 2551 to be precise.
Unlike us boring Westerners the Laos (and Thai) people prefer to spread their New year over three days, however even that has proven to be to little time to spend partying and most now spread it over a whole week! And not for them, one night of anti-climactic drinking, they start at 11am most mornings and carry on until they drop, which is usually around 8pm. Even more important than drinking Beer Lao (the best beer around), the focal point of the New Year celebrations are a massive week long water fight!.
Yep, you read this right, they celebrate the New Year by drenching eachother with water and they don't let tourists get away with it either so for a whole week you can't walk two yards down the street without someone spraying/pouring or dousing you with water which isn't unwelcome given the heat.
We'd read about it, but half an hour into our first stroll around Vientiane we met our first parting troop of Laos revellers. A family who called us over to join in loved soaked and sozzled and were pretty keen for us to get the same way. So with one hand they would pour icy water over our heads and with the other they would hand us a beer and insist we down it - not a bad trade off! And by the way this is three days before the New Year is officially supposed to be starting.
We only spent two days in Vientiane and apart from heading out in the heat of the day to try to do the Lonely Planet walking tour, a feat we failed in shockingly, making it only as far as the market and then back. Most of our time was spent at an open bar opposite our hotel which faced onto the Mekong river. In the bar they had beds to lie on which faced the river and we lay there drinking Beer Lao and reading a book, and to be honest you'd be hard pushed to find a more relaxing way to spend your time!
That was it really, people we met didn't particularly rate Vientiane, but we had a good time there and it is definately the most laid back capital city i've ever seen.