The most laid back capital in the world
29.07.2009 - 31.07.2009 25 °C
Well I've made it to the capital of Laos. To be honest I'm not greatly impressed with the town. While the rest of the country has a laid back and chilled out feel Vientiane and more of a dull dreary feel. It just felt like there was nothing happening in the town and nobody was particularly bothered about it. Alot of cities have associated sound tracks, New York has the scream of yellow cabs and the glow of neon, Paris has the pop of opening wine bottles and the sound of fine dining - Vientiane's soundtrack could be that of a man stretching out for a nap and an associated yawn.
One of the key reasons for stopping off in Vientiane was to get my Thai visa at the consulate. I had heard there were queues so it was better to arrive early. I arrived at 08:20 ( I got lost on my bike going around town) but I was till there 10 minutes before the consulate opened. What greeted my eyes was scene reminiscent of outside the US embassy in Dublin in the 1980s. There was a huge queue of people all lined up waiting to get a visa! I duly took my place and began to wait. I was person 255 in queue and finally made my way to the window after about 2 hours of waiting which wasn't too bad.
I spent the rest of the day wandering around the city looking at the various sights. One of those sights was Patuxai which is Vientiane's Arc de Triomphe but nowhere near as impressive. If you don't believe me then take the word of the Laos Tourism board who aren't too over awed with the monument either(Putting up photos is still a problem so you'll have to take my word that the sign said "on closer inspection the monument is less impressive"!)). You can climb up to the top to enjoy the view but again Lan Xang is no Champs Elysee and the view from the top compares very poorly to the Parisian skyline as viewed from the Sacre Coeur. As you've probably realised Vientiane is no Paris. I also took a spin out to see Pha That Luang which is the symbol of Buddhism and Laos sovereignty. It's a pretty wat and legend has it that it contains a piece of Buddha's breastbone.
The other major sight I visit was Buddha Park. This grassy field by the Mekong river is about 25kms outside of town and as the name suggests is a park full of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures. I headed out on a motorbike and once again got a little lost having to pull a U-turn as I started to approach the Thai border. The park is a rather random collection of statutes from various eastern religions - a testament to one eccentric man's bizarre ambition! It is a pretty cool place to wander around though and the statutes themselves are quite impressive!