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Vientiane time

goodbye to the heritage city of Luang Prabang and the Philayack Villa; thank you to UNESCO for recognising the importance of preserving this glorious location.

Up early (5am!) with our tuk tuk ready and waiting it was a 10USD ride to the airport before our 7.45am departure. The Air Lao T172 was a new model and smooth as could be, cruising at 550 kmph at 27000 ft max altitude (not for very long mind you… barely at height before we started our descent but what do you expect on a 50 min flight). To land with light precipitation was a bit of a reminder to just how good the weather has been but it didn’t last long.

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Prices to travel from an airport are always inflated and here we had to pay for a taxi and a mini-van to take us to the Leuxay Hotel (which is sorta close, certainly not in the city centre but in a neighbouring suburbs 3 kms away… to compensate for the isolation they do provide a one way shuttle to the centre twice daily – 10 am & 5 pm but you have to find your own way back… this has been 40000 kip or 5000 each today).

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The hotel itself is a step or two up from our guest house and while they prepared our rooms we had time to use their complementary shuttle to explore a little of Vientiane. For 120,000 kip we hired a tuk tuk driver to show us a few sites and first on the list was the amazing Pha That Luang, touted as the most important national monument in Laos. Inside the golden stupa is reportedly, a piece of Budda’s breast bone placed there in 3 BC! It really is a stunning place and evidently a favourite setting for wedding photos (we came across some newly weds having a photo shoot in traditional dress… also stunning).

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Many buildings make up this monument complex and another palatial one housed a golden budda with a roof of  mesmerising design and a wall frieze of budda in action; a great place for meditation.

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Our driver was a patient man (you only pay once your ‘tour’ has been completed and always agree on a price before you get in) and our ‘quick visit’ soon extended to a lao-time visit (no rush). He still had two stops to go and next on the list was the Patuxai, Vientiane’s version of the Arc de Triomphe (was made from cement donated by the Americans in the early 60’s to build a new airport… whoops… locals call it the vertical runway..). A recent addition is the Peace Gong which we hope will be run with gusto very very soon. Apart from the curiosity value, the ride there is fun and shows a side of life that you might otherwise miss.

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and before you get carried away, it is the Buddhist symbol for peace and love (created 2500 years ago) that the Nazi’s distorted for their own purposes… feel free to give advice on some of the others on the gong though as there are a few we’re not too sure of.

Our final stop was Wat Si Saket, a wat full of unique features and with a reputation to appease the most overdosed… it is also the oldest temple of Vientiane… turns out it is going to have to wait though as it was closed for lunch when we arrived. Oh well, maybe tomorrow before we do our final pack for home.

till then, the Twisters (just mixing it up in the name game)


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