24 November 2011

Pit Stop [Vientiane, Laos]

Just personal opinion, but Vientaine is more of a pit stop than a tourist destination. While it is a nice city, there is just not many reasons to stick around. So we didn't, only staying one night. Excuse me if this post is a little short.

Julia and I spent some time wandering around the city, and it is really... ummm, pleasant. Nice enough, but nothing exceptional. The best part is the riverfront overlooking Thailand. We caught an amazing sunset over the river which was kinda the highlight of our stay in the city.

We checked out the Patuxai, Vientiane's answer to the Arc de Triomphe. Pha That Luang, a golden Buddhist stupa, apparently the most important in Laos. And it was... again, just nice (but there were some really cool temples surrounding). Finally; Buddha park, a collection of concrete Buddha statues located about 25kms from the center of town. The park is not massive (took us about 20 minutes to get around), but it is quite interesting, and some of the statues are really amazing (especially the MASSIVE lying Buddha).

The thing we spent the most time doing in Vientiane was working out how to get to Bangkok! Simply because it is so freakin' expensive. The guest houses and travel agents all sell bus tickets, but the absolute minimum we found was THB 600 (US$20). We thought that was crazy and decided there must be another way. And there was...

So on our last day we packed our bags in the morning and walked the 2kms to the local bus station. Left our bags there and walked on to explore Patuxai and Pha That Luang (above). Back to the bus station, grabbed our bags and jumped on a local bus (US$0.75 ea ) to Buddha Park, conveniently localed only a couple of kms from the Friendship Bridge, and border crossing in to Thailand. Once we were done with the Buddhas we made our way to the border and across the bridge on a shuttle ($0.50). Once in Thailand we took a tuk-tuk to the bus station ($1.30) to purchase tickets to Bangkok for THB 350 ($11.60) each. Total: $12.85. WIN!

So that wraps up Laos. A very quick visit, but totally worth it. I really wish we could spend longer but with just over a month to get to Bali we don't have a lot of time up our sleeve. Tubing was probably the highlight, that was the most fun I have had in a long time! But Laos is also so naturally beautiful. I would go as far as to say the most beautiful in South East Asia to date. Friendly people, amazing nature, tubing! What else do you need? The only drawback is the really bad roads... But if you can deal with that, you're set.

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