I went to Vientiane out of necessity (to pick up a new Thai visa), not desire, and due to some poor planning I needed to stay for 4 days. After the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai, Vientiane felt downright sleepy. A bit too sleepy for me.
On the first day in town I was excited to gorge on some good “western food”. Laos, being a former French colony, had loads of bakeries, in the major cities like Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a warm baguette or a fresh croissant. Well, it turns out that eating spicy Thai food for 7 weeks will affect ones palate. My baguette tasted so one dimensional and my taste buds were aching for some lemon grass or kaffir lime leaves.
I am strangely stingy about paying for tuk tuk rides so I usually opt to walk to any destination less than 5 km away and this is how I stumbled across the Patuxai Arch on my way back from the Thai embassy. The arch is Laos’ version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France.
I visited Mulberries, a fair trade silk and handicraft cooperative, near the river and was blown away by the intricate batik wall hangings. Up to this point I had resisted buying any souvenirs, but this was too beautiful to walk away from. I was also hoping to visit their silk farm, but after a bit more research found out it is a 8 hour bus ride away.
The most interesting, but also heartbreaking part of my stay was learning about the “Secret War” in Laos and its long terms effects at the COPE Visitor Centre. Laos was very heavily bombed during the Vietnam War and there are still millions of unexploded bombs in the countryside that injury and kill farmers and children each year. COPE produces prosthetic limbs to replace lost body parts.
On the long and hot walk back from the COPE centre I found this amazing blossom. No blog post of mine would be complete without at least one flower photo.
Then it was a 12 hours sleeper bus ride, complete with a landslide and chains on the tires so we could inch our way up the slippery mountain road, to Luang Prabang.