Vientiane – Day Two … http://paulsr.net/post/312
Vientiane – Day One … http://paulsr.net/post/284
Well, there really isn’t much to say about day three. As I mentioned at the beginning, AirAsia changed the flight times after I’d booked, and so my last day was cut short. It just entailed leaving the hotel at around eight, zipping out to the airport, and flying home. I was back in Shah Alam shortly after 2pm.
The only thing worth noting, in case you decide to fly AirAsia out of VTE, is that they weigh cabin baggage at the airport, and get quite difficult if it’s over 7kgs. Mine was 8.6. I had a lengthy “discussion” with the baggage-weighing guy, who wanted to be completely inflexible. I pointed out that the same bag had flown with me from KUL, but that didn’t impress him. Eventually he asked if I could remove something from the bag. So I asked, “you mean something that I can carry separately?” “Yes” he said. So I politely explained that I would then still be carrying the same weight of hand baggage, even if that one bag was then less than 7kgs! There was a pause while he considered the logic, and then he said, in parental tones, “Well, I’ll allow it just this once, but don’t do it again.”
So, let my try to give you some overall impressions…
- I think most importantly, if you read anything about Vientiane that’s more than a few years old, it’s probably rubbish. The place seems to be modernizing very rapidly. My Lonely Plant guide is about twelve years old, and gave warnings like being careful not to fall into open drains. Never saw one. Watch out for wild dogs, it said. Never saw any. I did see lots of domesticated dogs. They seem to be #1 pet, and not at all dangerous.
- Streets are filled with modern vehicles, which, like Thailand, are mostly pickups. There are also motorbikes, regular bikes, tuk-tuks and jumbos (larger tuk-tuks) plus a few clean-looking buses.
- Nominally, this is a Communist country, but I have to say, you’re not aware of it. There doesn’t seem to be any military presence, and there are not red flags everywhere.
- The money can get confusing. At about 2600 Kip to the Ringgit, or 10,000-ish to the UK pound, the price of anything can look scary. But when prices are quoted to you, the last three zeros tend to get dropped. So, if someone says the price is “twenty” they mean LAK 20,000. Confusing matters further is the fact that almost any currency is acceptable. Large amounts are settled in US$, medium amounts in Thai Baht, and small amounts in Laotian Kip. There seems to be no choice but to carry all three. Restaurant bills show all three, plus Euro!
- If, like me, you want to see rivers with water in them, I’d suggest going in November, after the rainy season.
- Eating is cheap, really cheap … unless you want Western food … in which case, why are you in Laos?
- I found the people to be very pleasant. Not overly-friendly, but genuinely helpful. It’s quite easy to survive in English. Most street signs and building names are in Lao and French, but I never heard any Laotian speaking French, just a few tourists.
- Laotians must be big alcohol drinkers as there are almost as many wine & liquor stores as there are wats.
- As noted in “Day Two” don’t trust Google Maps. Places are not where they are shown to be.
- There are mosquitos, especially in an evening. If you are the kind of person mossies like to eat, then beware. I must taste pretty bad because I rarely get bitten, and didn’t in Vientiane.
- Not everything in the city is attractive. There’s plenty of construction sites, old buildings in ruins, and colonial buildings that have been left to rot. But the beautifully decorated wats make up for it.
- If you go, please check out Vientiane By Cycle, and let me know if you enjoyed it. Although I think I’ve seen as much of Vientiane as I want to see, I’m planning to combine the bike tour with a trip to another part of Laos. The coffee place I mentioned in “Day Two” has a plantation in the southern part of the country, along with a guest house and restaurant. http://www.sinoukcoffeeresort.com I think that would make a great trip.
Overall, a worthwhile visit. It was not without its problems, but there’s no fun in a trip that goes smoothly. Recommended.
And last but not least, I think the photos on my Facebook page are publicly accessible, so please check out https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150558274105766.373513.665865765&type=3&l=553f172289