So, time to update about our 24 hour bus journey from Hanoi to hell! We set off from our guesthouse at 5.30pm in a taxi to the 'bus station' which turned out to be one bus down a side street next to a dodgy travel agency. After taking one look at the bus we knew we had been conned out of $25 for a luxury bus as this was anything but luxury! We sheepishly boarded knowing we would have to spend the next 24 hours stuck in it and managed to get ourselves some front row seats for a bust up between some local people and an italian couple! Apparently the italians had stolen someones seat and at one point we thought he was going to smack him! Not the nicest way to start our journey and there was a pretty nasty feeling in the bus with everyone staring and laughing at us! It was impossible to get any sleep as the vietnamese men were drinking and shouting all night and even seemed to lean over us to shout down the other end of the bus! We finally arrived at the border at 4am and had to wait until 7am for it to open and it was here that we got chatting to some vietnamese people who offered us their food and were really nice which lightened our spirits a little. The border however was chaos and we didnt really know what was happening as our passports were passed above peoples heads to the authorities! We managed to get through after paying the 'new' elevated price for a visa and were back on our way to the capital city. After another 8 hours in the cramped hot bus with people packed in the aisles and kids throwing up as we climbed the mountain roads, we finally made it! We were so pleased to be off the bus only to be greated by a tuk tuk who took the most round-a-bout way to get to our guesthouse. We were exhausted and ended up having a dinner at a french restaurant around the corner before having one of the best showers of my life and heading to bed!!
The following 2 days in Vientiane were some well earned chill out days. We spent lots of time in the french bakeries and cafes as well as eating down by the Mekong river and generally wandering around the town. There's no way you can call Vientiane a city as its probably smaller than croydon is, and this is their capital! We got some food from the night market which was really good and sat down with some laos people who offered us their knives and forks as we didnt have any. We ended the evening with a poor attempt at bowling and pool from the girls, whereas I amazed them with my almighty skills...
We hired a couple of bikes the following day which was a nice way to see the town and we managed to get outside a bit and see some places where we were the only tourists. As we cycled through the suburbs along the river, the local people either greeted us with a hello and a warm smile, or decided to stare, point and laugh which we found rather un-nerving! We headed back along the smooth main road as our backsides were killing from the shabby roads and desheveled bikes and Kat and Nush got a massage while I grabbed a beer and watched the sunset over the Mekong...how romantic!
Vientiane was awesome. As soon as we arrived we could feel how chilled out it was compared to anywhere else we had travelled too. I was surprised though at how modern it was (as laos is quite a backward country) with everyone driving brand new pickup trucks or big american buicks. There are tons of plush embassy and government buildings as well but if you head out a bit it turns into wooden huts along the river. There's a real french feel here as well from when it was a colony and there are french patisseries and signs everywhere. Was great to relax here after doing so much in Vietnam.