I left Luang Prabang (shrouded in cloud) early last Saturday morning and took the "local" bus to Vientiane. It's cheaper and a lot more interesting than the tour busses. So I sat back to enjoy the amazing mountainous scenery and to listen to some of my music when Lo! All of a sudden the driver put on this dreadful Laoatian kind of soft rock type music on FULL BLAST!! It was truly horrendous but there was nothing I could do. I mean, why couldn't he play The Beatles or George Michael? Awful. It took the best part of the day to get to Vientiane and the scenery was spectacular. I decided not to stop off at Vang Vieng as I've heard it has now been truly spoilt by the druggy party crowds. There is a motto in other parts of the country "Don't let this become another Vang Vieng!" Ruined. Finally the bus pulled into Vientiane, the capital and it did seem to be one sprawling metropolis. I decided to book into a nice guesthouse as the cheaper ones were a bit too - well - cheap. Insanitary. And I was starting to come down with a cold. Probably due to the arctic climate in Luang Prabang. Anyway it didn't come to much and I was fine after a couple of days.
I quite liked it down by the Mekong - there was a lot of street food to be had. There was a rather vivacious restauranteur trying to summon people to look at his menu. I decided on the Sukiyaki Lao Style which is basically your own bubbling pot of broth standing on a charcoal fire into which you drop meat, noodles, vegetables, chilli etc. And a peanut dip for the chicken! It was delicious and fun. Mind you I went back there another night and ordered the beef version and some of the meat was intestines.
The next day was a sunday which was bad planning as I couldn't do any of the practical stuff I'd planned but at least it was quiet. Well that's what I thought until I ventured to the park at Patuxai. The Patuxai is a kind of Arc de Triomphe' next to a park full of Lao and Japanese tourists having lots of photos taken. From the top you do get a good view of the city but the structure itself is full of tat and t shirts. And in the park they were playing more rather loud Lao music. They do like their music LOUD!. I sat there for a while and enjoyed a Cornetto. I also had a lovely papaya salad in a beer garden (spicy but very nice!)
The buses that went to my next choice of destination (Khammuan) all leave early morning it meant I had an extra day in Vientiane so I ventured out on the bus to the Xieng Khuan Buddha park. So bizarre. It's not only full of Buddhas but Hindu gods as well. Quite amusing and also nice to be away from the noise and pollution of the city for a couple of hours. Then I decided to go to a French coffee shop for a pastry! One advantage to staying on in the city. In the evening I took one last stroll along the Mekong and watched the food vendors setting up. There is such a lot going on - it's constant entertainment. Not sure I liked sitting next to a bowl of live frogs awaiting their turn on the barbie though. And I was amused by all the people taking photos of the sunset with much bulldozer activity going on in the forground!
Ah well, goodbye Vientiane - tomorrow the disco bus again!!