Vientiane City. The Gateway to Laos.

A backpacker approached me at the airport to share a cab going to the city. But due to we were heading to different directions, we decided to separate ways. My plan was to take a tuktuk going to the city. I got out from the airport  and walked to the main highway. Another backpacker approached me and we decided to go to the city together. We flagged down a tuktuk and asked if going to the city. The passengers couldn’t understand us. Oh here it is, language barrier. I mentioned Wat Si Saket and they nodded yes. Okay, we jumped in. Armed with a printed city map, I was pretty sure we were on the right direction.

Laos: Stop-over in Vientiane

The airport is quite far from the city. But I didn’t get bored and worried if getting lost. The local passengers tried to talk to me in their native tongue. I talked back to them but in English. They shook their heads meaning they couldn’t speak English. Laos’ second tongue is French due to French colonization. I just smiled at them and they uttered the words happy and beautiful. Oh I found the locals so friendly and very laid back.

When I saw the Presidential Palace which is right at the end of Avenue Lane Xang. The structure is easy to spot on. I paid 5000 Lao Kip and alighted. Yes I didn’t get lost. I stepped inside the Wat Si Saket which is just in the corner if front of the Presidential Palace. This is the oldest standing temple in Vientiane even when the place was unsacked by Siamese raid in 1828. It was built in 1818. The entrance fee is 5000 Lao kips.

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Just outside the temple is the Presidential Palace. The place was originally built to house the French governors during the colonial period. But when communism took place in the country, it was then used as the venue for formal ceremonies.

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I walked then heading to Patuxai monument. I looked for a bicycle for rent and a store to buy a Lao sim card. Talat Sao Shopping Mall is along the avenue. I managed to buy a sim card but instead of Unitel I got Lao Tel. I just noticed it when I was in a coffee shop having my noon meal. I don’t have any idea how to activate the 3G which I needed most. The store attendant is helpless. They can’t talk to you in English. Never mind. I would figure it out later. The sim pack contents a Lao manual. I had printed city map. I could survive.

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After having my coffee lunch break, I found a bike rental shop at the other side of the road. Bike rental shops can be found in every corner of the city. The only deposit required is your passport. You have nothing to worry, roaming the city without passport, the police knows already about this arrangement. I got one worth 15000 Lao kips. When I saw the bike, I ended up reminiscing the adventure in Tokyo many years ago.

Laos: Stop-over in Vientiane

I pedaled directly to Patuxai monument. I parked the bike and climbed to the top of the monument. At the top, you can have the 360 degree view of the city. You can literally witness the simplicity of the place. The entrance is 3000 Lao kips. This monument is the Laos’ version of Arc de Triomphe of Paris. What make this different from the one in Paris is the four gates instead of two and the elaborated Buddhist embellishment. From the name itself which means Victory Gate, this monument was built in dedication to those who struggled to fight for the independence from France.

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After taking some rest from the striking heat of the sun, I further moved to Pha That Luang. It is considered as the national symbol of Laos and is one of the most important religious monuments. The entrance fee is 5000 Lao kips. After having some camera clicks, I found myself sitting under the big tree refreshing myself with Laotian ice cream. It costs 5000 Lao kips.

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It was still past 4pm but I was done already with my itinerary so I decided to return the bike and went to the north bus terminal to catch a night ride to Luang Prabang. When I was on my way to Pha That Luang, a police greeted me in Lao dialect. I replied that I did not understand and so he conversed me in English. He just said hello to me and asked me where I came from. I said I am from Philippinesand I wanted to go to Pha That Luang. He replied, it is 1 km away and then he stopped the moving vehicles in the road and let me cross with my bike. That incident gave me the impression how friendly Laos are. So back to my way to north bus terminal, I couldn’t find any passenger tuktuk so when I saw the police kiosk, I asked where to take a tuktuk to the terminal. The police then helped me to have a ride. I just sat in the kiosk while waiting for a passenger tuktuk to pass by. When one was coming, the police immediately whistled. The tuktuk stopped and I immediately jumped in. The police told the driver to bring me to the bus terminal.

Again the locals tried to talk to me in their local dialect and I just smiled and said sorry. I think they got it the I didn’t understand them. Then they mentioned Luang Prabang so I nodded and said yes. And every one smiled at me. I then felt and thought, oh yeah, I am not lost. They are indeed aware of tourist itinerary. The tuktuk really dropped in right in front of the terminal. I paid 10000 kips. I went directly inside the terminal and looked for ticket counter. I immediately booked for the sleeper bus bound for Luang Prabang. It costs 150,000 Lao kips. The bus will depart at 8:30 pm and it was still 5pm. I still have 3 hours to take some rest.

I then started to figure out how to set-up the 3g for Lao Tel sim. In the sim pack I got the hotline number so I dialled immediately and ask for an agent who knows English. I was transferred to other agent and finally got the instructions. I dropped then call and follow the instructions. Viola, I got connected! The 3g connection was quite fast. Amazing for a third world country.

Laos: Stop-over in Vientiane

I was so hungry so I decided to check the lone restaurant inside the terminal. It seems the foods look like Filipino dishes. I ordered one cup of rice and one fried tilapia. At exactly 8pm, I boarded in the bus and was got surprised. Yeah, the bus is literally a sleeper bus. It contains couples of double decked beds. The downside is that every bed accommodates two passengers. So if your travelling solo, you’ll end up sleeping with someone stranger. Luckily my I didn’t have issue with the one I shared with. I managed to sleep all through out the very long ride. The trip took about 12 hours traversing the more than 300 km route. When I woke-up, I was in Luang Prabang already. I thanked God for a safe ride.

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