It was a long bus ride from Hanoi, Vietnam to Vientiane, Laos. We shared it with packaged lobsters, 8 other travelers, some rice and other produce. What do you expect for peanuts? I don't know if I could handle the ride today, but a few years ago, armed with leftover sleeping pills prescribed from my doctor for an overactive thyroid, we managed to make it through many epic bus journeys.
When we arrived to the nations capital city, it was Sunday and everything was closed. We were desperate to find a place, we were starving after over 24 hours on the bus.
We found a wonderful place at an outdoor stall along the Mekong River. Thailand is right across the water from Vientiane's waterfront and in the dry season, you can almost walk there.
Vientiane is easy to get around. Guest houses and shops rent bicycles for a dollar a day and it is a great way to see the Pagoda's and Wat's. The most prominent being That Luang. It is the national symbol and it is even pictured on their currency. The Lao people hold it in high esteem even though it has undergone several reconstructions due to war and ruins over the centuries.
Another Notable place in Vientian is Patuxai. It looks like the Arc De Triomphe. It was built after French rule, but goes to show how Laos has embraced its history. I am not sure what the people think of it however as the money was supposed to be used for an airport runway. Hmm, receive money from America to improve infrastructure, but instead build a giant monument?
It is impressive anyway and an attractive addition to the town of Vientiane.
They had their hearts in the right places though, it was built to commemorate the fight for independence from France. Interesting choice to model it after one of France's most famous structures.
French Influence in Laos
In all of Lao there is a fusion of contrasting culture. Enjoy a baguette and egg for breakfast and then have for lunch. I enjoyed the blend of French Culture with Asian tradition. The French used to rule that land and their presence is evident everywhere.
To walk into a temple filled with Golden Buddhas one minute and then to be out in the sunshine riding a bicycle on a busy street heading towards a replica (with Buddhist elements) of the Arc du Triomphe is very cool indeed.