We arrived in Vientiane and headed for our accommodation ‘ Dream Home 2’ where we had booked 3 beds in an 6 person dorm room for 55 000 Kip per person, per night. This Hostel included free breakfast, wifi (which has been the best wifi I’ve experienced in Laos), FREE WHISKEY between 9pm-11pm, pool table and swimming pool.
When we check in, the manager, named Pikachu, informed us that he had overbooked the dorms and he would upgrade us to private room with a private bathroom at no extra charge, awesome!
We dropped off our bags and went to explore. From what I had read up on, there wasn’t too much to do in Vientiane, so we only had 2 nights booked, leaving early on the third day. We set off on an adventure, in the distance, we could see a lot of commotion happening, with many balloons being let go into the sky. The perfectly blue sky, I don’t know whether my eyes were hungry to explore this new country, or the colours in Laos were a whole new palate, it didn’t matter, it was beautiful.
As we ventured closer we realised that it was a college graduation! With the street venders now suddenly selling balloons, streamers, bears, flowers, all things celebration and the students dressed in their graduation clothing, it was quite an amazing sight to witness. “CONGRATULATIONS!” Rowan shouts to a few of the students. They loved it! “Thank you, Thank you! Come to our party tonight, it is at Maxi’s, it’s on the way to the airport!” The students invited. Rowan replied, “Yeah sure, we will see you there!” (we did actually have intentions of going, but we got a little distracted within the night.)
We stopped for lunch at Jamil Zahid Punjabi Restaurant, which is a Pakistan family run restaurant cooking Middle Eastern and Indian food, we each had a kebab which cost 20 000 Kip, IT WAS DELICIOUS. So much so that we went back for curry the following night! Mr Zahid will be sure to come to your table and ask if he can take a picture for the Facebook page when actually he’s putting ridiculous Snapchat filters on your face and showing the rest of the table! Great atmosphere and lovely family.
We continued strolling and stumbled upon the night market beginning to set up. This is by far the most organised street market that I have ever seen, each stall within a 3x3m red marquee which creates hallways throughout. On the other side of the vast market we reached the Mekong, where you can see just 200m away, across the river – Thailand.
The sun was beginning to move closer to the horizon so we searched for a bar to perch upon for the sunset. We stumbled into ‘Bor Pennyang’ which I later learnt meant ‘no problem’ in Laos, however it can mean a few more deep and meaningful phrases such as ‘ I forgive and forget your action’ depending on the tone of the situation. We clambered up the staircases to the 5th floor which revealed a stunning view of the sun closing in on the Mekong. We ordered beers (big Lao 15 000, can be bought in mini mart for 10 000Kip) and watched the sun flirt with the darkness.
An outlandish character named Jack approached our table, he pointed out the defensive gun boats on each side of the boarder. We got chatting and discovered Jack takes motorbike tours all over Laos, (The company name is ‘Jack’s tours’) we then discovered that Jacks’s other job was bomb disposal – he had plenty of interesting stories to share! How he has had to defuse bombs whilst taking a motorbike tour out into unknown regions, a secret airport that no one knew existed, how he has taken defused bombs through airport security and they were none the wiser, how the military has stopped him entering certain areas because they were trying to illegally smuggle things across the Chinese border, the stories were endless! He pointed us in the direction of all his favourite street carts, and told us what he believes the MUST SEE’s in Laos were (which were the COPE centre in Vientiane, Plain of Jars in Phonsavanh and the secret city of Long Tieng which was run by CIA of USA in the late 1960’s) Jack was a pool of information covering ALL things Laos)
We made plans to meet Jack at his favourite bar, ‘SAMLO’ which was a local grungy dive bar with rock music and cheap drinks (away from the ‘tourist bars’ where drink prices doubled)
We made a quick stop at the hostel to drop my camera off and headed to a street cart next door to Samlo that Jack had recommended.
Meals were 15 000 Kip, and not a single word of English was spoken – it was a game of charades. We ordered dumplings yet literal chicken feet came to the table? We had a laugh, but we were game to give it ago until the lady sitting beside us (who spoke a little broken English) realised this wasn’t what we ordered and such she insisted in helping us get the dumplings. After a good laugh and a few beers, we ate whatever they decided that we had ordered and continued on to the bar. We learnt some more of Jacks local knowledge and continued on venturing. We explored and drank some more when something had caught Dylan’s eye. ‘Tyson’s kitchen’ a Canadian restaurant specialising in Burgers and Pizza which coincidentally had secured the #1 restaurant in Vientiane on trip advisor. Drunken Dylan had to have pizza (and me too)!
Rowan had told the restaurant it was my birthday (well, it was a couple of days prior) and the lovely staff brought me out a glass of wine and sang me happy birthday! Tyson’s dad then brought over ‘Lao Lao’ (Laos’s ‘happy water’) and insisted we have shots! The establishment is extremely well run and if you need a fix of tasty western food, this is the place to go! Tyson was hanging out in the restaurant and was more than happy to have a chat, they explained they had only opened 8 months ago and after 6 months had secured #1 on trip advisor.
Eventually our night led us home.
We rose early the next day and hired bicycles to see the rest of the city. We rode past temples and made our way to Patuxai for some photo opportunities and then continued on to the COPE centre.
Wow what an eye opener. The COPE centre is a rehabilitation facility to help those in need who can’t afford it. It was originally created for those who were injured from the bombings to Laos in attempt to close off supply routes to the Ho Chi Minh trail. The centre makes prosthetic limbs for those that have lost body parts and teaches them new ways to live. Offering both physical and psychological support.
** Did you know?**
- Approximately 270 million cluster bombs were dropped as part of the bombing campaign; approximately 80 million failed to detonate. Over the last 40 years we have successfully found 1% of these 80 million. Leaving the remaining still live and active.
- From 1964, there was a bombing mission every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years.
- 1964 to present over 50 000 civilians have been injured or killed by the bombs that failed to detonate.
- There were more bombs dropped on Laos then there were in the entire of World War Two.
They have illusions in the COPE centre that allow you to look what it would be like if you had a prosthetic leg and to also allow you to feel phantom limb pain.
There is a dangling wall of prosthetic legs that look extremely old and uncomfortable, these prosthetics reflect a patient that has received treatment and more advanced prosthetics, all COPE asks for in return is their old prosthetic to display.
After leaving COPE centre we heading back the hostel for a chilled out afternoon. We booked our bus to Vang Vieng and at 9.30am the next morning we boarded our extremely over booked bus, with people sitting on plastic chairs in the aisle. The bus was 45 minutes late (which is pretty normal for Laos) and cost 50 000 Kip. The journey took about 3.5hours including a comfort break. Just like that our 36 hours in Vientiane were up.
I don’t believe you need too much more time to see the sights of Vientiane. The only thing we missed out on, was visiting Buddha Park, which was 20 mins out of town. My opinion would be 3 nights max, unless you have found some more hidden secrets in the city that you would like to share?