Okay, so an early start today (Wed 9th Nov) to get to the 'bus station' to go to Hanoi airport to fly to the capital of Laos. Again I had my free breakfast in the hostel before heading off.
Walked with my rucksack to the 'bus station' in Hanoi which is just a road with some mini-vans on it, unfortunately in Vietnam they don’t have timetables for buses, the bus leaves when it is full. So I was there around 7.45am but the bus didn’t leave until 08.15, meaning I didn’t arrive at Hanoi airport until 9.10 for a 9.40am flight, what a nightmare!! I literally sprinted into the airport and randomly weaved in between desk after desk frantically looking for any signs for Vientiane, once I saw one and ran towards the check in desk it was literally closing and the wee Vietnamese lady said 'Natalie?' - you know you’re really late when you arrive in a Vietnamese check in desk and they know your name before you have even spoken!! Thankfully they were just about to close so I got checked in fine, just in the nick of time, and ran through to departures.
In Vietnam the currency can’t be changed once it’s out of the country so I quickly spent my last 'dong' buying a few sweets etc and boarded the plane. After all that rushing and stressing about missing the flight we sat on the runway for an hour, then had to get off plane, go back to departures and await another plane, a fault of some sort. So ended up with a 2 hour delay after all that!! Of course as I had spent all my dong I couldn’t even buy a cuppa or anything, so was a pain! Hahaha, sods law eh??!
So I arrived at the capital of Laos, Vientiane at around 1ish on Wed 9th Nov, had to queue for quite a while to get through Laos immigration, was straightforward but just slow. You pay them 35 US dollars, fill in a form and give them a passport photo and that’s it really. I had read that once you exit the airport, tuk-tuks are a rip off right outside, so instead you walk onto the main road and get one from there, so ever the bargain hunter I set off in the heat, backpack on, and flagged down a tuk-tuk on the main road to take me the 4/5kn into Vientiane town. This was the first place I had arrived not having pre booked accommodation, having spoken to people it seems you can often get a better deal just turning up, pricing around and seeing rooms before you take them, so I decided to try this out. It worked out really well, the tuk-tuk let me off really centrally and I walked around for a bit and found somewhere really nice, a lush 4 double bed dorm, really clean and central for 3.87 sterling a night. Good bag locker and Wi-Fi, clean towels, all a backpacker could need really!! I headed straight out for some lunch, Vientiane is known for its wide range of eateries to suit all tastes and also its French bakeries etc, and so I had a lovely lunch near the hostel. Already I could notice a massive difference between the Vietnamese and Laos people - the Laos people were friendly and smiling and helpful, similar to the Cambodians but vastly different from the Vietnamese! I met a Portuguese guy and an Austrian girl and Wed 9th evening we headed off on our bikes that we had rented for 60pence, to the 'That Louang' festival - basically the That Louang is Laos most important religious building and by chance tonight there was a big monk carnival festival event on. So hundreds of food stalls, craft stalls, fairground rides, amusements etc. All the monks were walking around enjoying themselves, some even DJ-ing etc hahah!! Everyone got given some flowers and incense sticks to offer the main statue at the temple, of a Buddha, so did that which was very different! Sergio, Bianca and I shared some traditional Laos food and beer at a wee stall at the festival which was very yummy and very cheap and a great experience to eat with the locals and with monks walking past etc. The Laos noodle soup was absolutely yum. Cycling back in the dark was interesting on the roads but we managed and got back in one piece!
So Thursday 10th Nov morning I got up quite early and caught up on some emails and photos etc. Randomly in my hostel, a guy Marc who I had met on my first day in Bangkok, arrived! So we went on our bikes and had breakfast at the morning market in Vientiane and shared some travel tips etc as we are both going onto places the other has just been, so that was really useful. I then had 2 hours before my bus onto Vang Vieng so I headed off solo on my bike and went to the 'Patouxai' which was built in the 1950's to commemorate causalities of the war. Its modelled partly on the Arch De Triumph and is quite impressive, you can pay 15/20 pence and climb to the top for amazing views across the city, so did this and got some good photos. It has some lovely fountains nearby and also a 'world peace gong' which was given to the Lao government in 2008 by the Indonesian world peace committee.
After this I managed to find Vientiane's big shopping centre, the 'Talad Sao' shopping centre, my camera battery has been playing up the last few days and even when fully charged is dying. So managed to find a stall selling batteries etc, they a match for my battery and haggled the price down from 18pounds to a fiver, so that was great! Relief to have a working battery now again, yay. Returned my bike safely and the bus came at 1.30pm to take my further north, to Vang Vieng, known for its 'tubing' down the rivers. So off to Vang Vieng I go....