Arriving in Vientiane on Valentine’s Day and riding our friend’s car to her place was nostalgic. I’ve never been to Laos before but it felt familiar. It was like arriving in the Philippines in the middle of the night but with less buildings and crowds. Vientiane is the capital city of Laos and it surprised me how peaceful it was. It was like a modern and bigger version of Vang Vieng if I were to make comparisons. (Read my blog post about my traventures in Vang Vieng!) And I only have positive things to say about this humble city.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to take as many pictures as I would’ve liked while going around Vientiane. (cue: ‘Awwwww’)
I’ve mentioned this in my previous post but, February is THE BEST time to visit Laos because of the weather. The sun is up but it isn’t scorching. It’s hot but not humid. This is very important for me whenever I am traveling because I love to walk. (Name of blog, yeah?) Daily life in Vientiane is very quiet – peaceful. I woke up to the cry of the roosters but didn’t feel disturbed. Cars were passing by but they didn’t seem noisy. People were out and about but nowhere was crowded (until we went to the Night Market, it was as if all of Vientiane was there). Even at tourist spots, no one was yelling at us to get our photos printed or to buy their merchandise.
At night, people gathered together in little pubs and restaurants to socialize. And some ate street food or hung around by the Night Market by the Mekong River.
The food was a fine balance of what I dislike and like. I do not like eating raw vegetables but the way Lao food was prepared – it was different. Every meal I had, I enjoyed. Nothing upset my stomach, rather it made me feel good. Lao food and I, we tight. Some dishes were similar to Thai food but they were less oily.
Sadly, I can’t remember the name of other dishes aside from Larb. But I can say that everything was fresh. Their dishes had of course rice, but also fresh herbs, vegetables (cooked) and the meat was also good.
This was the trickiest part. There is no fixed fare in Laos. Either you have a car or a bicycle if you want to save money. There are TukTuks but you most likely need to haggle the price to the right fare. Not lower, but to the right fare. Thus, making it difficult if you don’t know the right fare.
There is a local Grab-like ride-hailing and taxi app called LOCA. However, this is also overpriced. Don’t worry, it isn’t crazy expensive but it is overpriced. If you are a budget traveler like me, this can become expensive. We only had to use this app once and glad it was just once because the interface wasn’t as simple or easy as Grab.
There are many tourist sites within Vientiane and there is this famous Buddha Park in the outskirts of the city. My friend and I only chose to go to two sites. Pha That Luang and Patuxai. I think we would’ve gone to Buddha Park and some temples if we stayed longer in Vientiane but we were moving on to Yangon, Myanmar afterwards so didn’t indulge much on the temples. Also, my friend and I agreed that we preferred to get to know the local culture more.
Pha That Luang
First of all, do not underestimate the size of this stupa. It was bigger than I thought it would be because it didn’t look very big in the picture. But if you think it’s HUGE, don’t overestimate it either. The entrance fee is 5,000 Kip (50 cents USD) and this was to go in to see the huge golden stupa located in the middle of the city.
There were much more to see outside the four corners surrounding the stupa. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
If you ask me what was the location I enjoyed the most in Vientiane. It would be Patuxai. There is a huge, rather impressive, elephant statue outside the monument that is picture worthy. Walk towards the fountain then to the monument. The entrance fee to enter and climb the monument is 5,000 Kip (50 cents USD).
As you climb up the stairs, you’ll notice that the locals have made the monument into a ‘shopping mall’ for tourists for souvenirs (t-shirt, key chains, mugs, you name it, they got it).
And when you reach the top after a kazillion steps (it was just 3 to 4 floors, no worries), you are rewarded by a beautiful view of all of Vientiane. This is why I loved this monument. Not only was it majestic from the ground, it gave a beautiful scenery from the top.
When one of our new acquaintances dropped us off at the entrance and told us to ‘go all the way to the top’, we didn’t understand what he meant. Until we climbed a few flight of stairs and there were more.
Make sure to take an adorable photo with the beautiful ceiling of the monument on the first floor before you leave.
Peaceful and humble
Some might say that Vientiane is boring, but I call her humble. She has been friendly and the people are nice and gentle. It could be very obvious that the city needs a lot of developing due to the lack of infrastructure and the absence of skyscrapers. But it was really beautiful in her own way. The atmosphere was quite relaxed. A different kind of relaxed compared to ‘island living’ but still comforting.
This trip for me and my friend was definitely a very refreshing one. It was not just to see a country but it was to visit our dear friend who is in Laos for work. My spirit was refreshed to have met fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Getting to know them and talking with them and their own journey was beautiful. Can’t wait to meet them in person again!
(Sarah and I have been talking about visiting Laos again next February. LOL! Nothing is impossible.)
I hope this post refreshed you a bit from being at home or indoors all day due to the lockdown in your countries. Travel within Korea has been rampant because citizens can’t travel overseas. Flights and accommodations to famous cities or islands are either sold out or quite expensive now.
We might not be able to go back to normal but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a better tomorrow. Keep smilin’, keep walkin’.