07.10.11 Vientiane Day One
Because it was late by the time the bus arrived last night, it was dark already. Something which i'd hoped wouldn't happen, but since I was with the two lovely German girls we all seeked out a guesthouse to stay at together. The first which was recommended to us was fully booked. As was the one next door to that. Instead we asked the owner of the GH if they knew where 'Orchid' was. Yes, its just at the end of the road and turn right. Perfect.
The reception area that greeted us was lovely. All was fine. That was until we'd been shown our rooms, AFTER already paying for the night (tbh we were a little desperate and took the first thing available, anyway). My god it was awful. It is listed in the Lonely Planet..... yuk!! I'll be writing a review of that one when I get home.
The three of us then decided after lumping our heavy bags down to head to the night market that was going on, lining the street opposite the Mekong. At least the GH a good view, eh?! :-)
A quick pizza later, a little walk along the market and we'd seen enough. My first impressions of Vientiane weren't good at all.
I got up early this morning in order to seek out another Guesthouse to stay at for the next two days - there was no way I was going to stay there. I might be a so called 'traveller' and on a budget, but seriously with damp in the rooms there was no way I was staying another minute longer than I had too. If you don't like something, then do something about it. That much I have learnt!
So after about 30 mins of walking the streets, and actually getting to know the area which helped for later, I came across another GH in the Lonely Planet, but this one looked Lush. It is called Vayakorn Guest House. The man on reception gave me a good price and in a heartbeat i'd already checked in, returned to Orchid to collect my things and was back again in the lovely large room, twin beds, clean sheets, clean everything. A/c and a private bathroom. Smashing. Raz is happy once again.
Like Luang Prabang, Vientiane is French Colonial style and so in the area where my GH is positioned are beautiful French Pattisseries lining the streets. Loads to choose from too. So that's the street i headed immediately for to grab some breaky before todays adventures. An iced coffee and of course a pan au chocolate later I was on my feet and headed for Vientiane's answer to the Arc de Triomphe, known as the Patuxai. Its not as nice as the real Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but it's still something else. Especially considering it's in the middle of SE Asia. You can climb to the top of this one, unlike the real one in Paris, so I paid my equivilant of 0.30p and hiked the steps to the top to take in the views of the Capital of Vientiane.
Being a Capital you expect it to be massive with high office blocks and traffic everywhere, Vietiane is everything but this. The views were nice and as the Lonely Planet describes you certainly appreciate the Laos slow pace of life watching them all going about their daily rituals. Whilst at the top taking some piccies, I was shocked to be approached by a monk who started to talk to me. This entire trip i've seen monks every day (actually something which I haven't blogged about) but to actually be approached by one really shocked me since I know that part of the Buddhist religion is that they're not allowed to touch women, nor are we to touch them apparently. Stupid Raz forgot this though didn't she, so after he introduced himself (name I cannot remember) I introduced myself and held out my hand to shake his. What a numpty!!! I quickly remembered the rules of Buddhists when he took a step back after my hand gesture. Oops!! I quickly apologised and said something stupid like ''oh yeah you're not allowed to touch me are you?!'' - Raz you plonka! Anyways, after introducing ourselves to one another, the monk asked me loads of questions, like name, where i'm from etc then followed it up with, ''would you mind if we talked for five minutes to practice my English''. Of course I said....something different, eh?! Never spoken to a MONK before! At least this one hasn't made a vow of silence like some of them do.
His English was impeccible and he really didn't need to practice, although he seemed to think he did. The best SE Asian i've ever heard being able to pronounce English words. I wouldn't like to guess at his age because i'd probably get it wrong but he told me he has been a monk since he was 8 years old and has studied English since then. He asked me loads of questions about England and actually i was really interested in finding out more about monks and Buddhism. I think after our brief conversation at the top of the Arc we actually taught each other the same amount, even if it was a little surreal to be fair. I got a photo of him so when I start to upload them, you'll see my new little buddy! LOL
After visiting the Arc, I wanted to also see what is described as the most important national monument in the whole of Laos. This is called Pha That Luang. It is a huge golden spire, probably the best way to describe it, which is where on an annual basis normally in November a huge religious festival is held. Surrounding the spire is more and more temples too but after feeling a little templed out I decided to head back to town.
If ever the words, 'If I could walk five hundred miles' were true i think i'd done enough walking to save me a lifetime today. Rather than take tuk tuks, I decided to walk everywhere today. it was nice actually however since returning and showering this evening i've realised I have the most stupid sun burn marks ever!! It's been really overcast today, i just didn't realise I'd caught it. I have a little pink nose too - The most sun I've seen since being away.
Between Pha that Luang and the centre on my way back, there is Vientiane's answer to a shopping mall that i stopped in too. It reminded me of the malls in Beijing. Almost like an indoor market selling all things Loas, mobile phones, camera's, silk, toys, jewellery and of course the snide LV, Prada and Jimmy Choo leather goods. It was quite an experience being within all the hustle and bustle, since it was lunchtime and all the locals seemed to be around. But since I saw nothing i wanted to buy I headed back for a well deserved Lao Beer in a pub called The Drop Zone where there was a pool table and the F1 qualifying on the TV. A great morning had and an even better lunchtime. :-)
Vientiane today has certainly redeemed itself from my first impressions last night. :-)
Only trouble was, I think too much sun (without even realising) and not enough water meant after drinking my beer, which I forgot to add is just £0.90p I had the trots so had to rush back to the GH for a poo poo!!!!!! Ewwww!!! The first of my Delhi belly since being away. Oops! Lets hope it goes away soon!