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Day 1: Arriving in Vientiane

Vientiane - First Impressions and Patuxai

After reading a few uninspiring reports on Vientiane, I was pleasantly surprised by the capital of Laos PDR. The heat of the day, plus having taken the overnight train from Bangkok and followed by eating a lot of tasty Laotian food made me feel sluggish in the afternoon.

Given that most tourist sites close up at 4:30pm, I decided I could only see one and picked Patuxay. It was built in 1962 and is unanimously referred to as the Lao version of the Arc de Triomphe. This is because their names share the same meaning and they both are in the shape of a big monumental arch. It’s not very attractive from afar, but becomes more interesting up close. Humorously, the plaque on the arch says the reverse. It even goes as far to say that is so unbecoming up close that it looks ‘like a monster of concrete’. I think that’s being a little unfair. The detail in the façade of the arch is quite impressive. As is the rather large wasps nest that has been growing for quite some time (clear from its size) on the street facing side of the 4 sides.

The plaque goes on to say that although the monument that was never completed due to turbulent past of Vientiane (it actually says this!), the silver lining is the excellent views of the city it affords. Not knowing what time sunset was, I thought it might be well timed with when it closes. Unfortunately not, so most of my views of the city were slightly impinged by the brightness of the sun that had not yet gone to rest.

I can’t say it was particularly impressive, but what did surprise me was the number of souvenir stores that were crammed into 2 levels inside the arch. The view of the fountain and Patuxay Park on the other side of the Arch was lovely to see.

Walking into the park area, I was surprised to see that the camera touts with their portable photo printers were mostly getting business from Lao people wanting their picture taken by the water fountain. Not many tourists were around here. Up until this point, I felt like I’d seen more tourists than I had Laotian people walking through the town up to the Arch. It was around 5pm and there were plenty of locals about relaxing in the park, playing badminton (no net) and enjoying the soft, but still terrible to my ears, music that was blasted out across the park.

On my way back into the town centre and a few more times today, I passed small groups formed around 2 men playing, what seemed to be, checkers with old bottle caps. I also noticed a few of the tuk-tuk’s, who weren’t being hired, with hammocks strung up in the passenger area with their driver quietly relaxing. I also passed a small group of women drinking Beer Lao with a straw sticking out of the glass beer bottle. I think that’s the first time I’ve seen anyone drink beer with a straw!

The night market along the waterfront (Fa Ngum) with the waterside restaurants make for a nice stroll to admire the standard tourist stock that each vendor seems to have ample supply of. It would be hard to imagine that all these goods were made in Lao, however I did see one woman painting several copies of the same print and some of the lanterns being sold.


Posted by Teamworkz 02:58 Archived in Laos Tagged travel laos vientiane blogs

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