We arrived at 5:30pm on the 16th, after a 4hr journey from Vang Vieng. We searched for an hour before finding a decent hotel to stay at. Prices in Vientiane are fairly expensive and the rooms are crap. The amount of money you pay does not equal the quality of the room. One room smelled like two dollar whores, liquor and mold all rolled into one. Finally, we found a clean room just off the beaten path, we stayed there for two nights and moved to Mixay Paradise just down the street for another twonights. Mixay Paradise comes highly recommended on trip advisor, when we arrived they were fully booked, but we managed to snag a room for our last two nights in Vientiane at 85,000 kip, which included breakfast for both of us; coffee, tea, juice, egg, toast, fruit plate, Laos stew, steamed rice and some raw vegetables. Oddly enough we ran into Tom and Joe from Vang Vieng just outside of Mixay hotel. Joe came in to attend a friends wedding and Tom hitched a ride with him to pick up his brand new motorbike for his new rental shop, it's a small world.
Vientiane, quite a lovely little city, easily walked by foot to most of the “star” attractions. A humble fountain in the middle of a square marks the heart of downtown, situated in a quarter built by the French, the fountain lies within a cosmopolitan, commercial district now populated by Vietnamese, Chinese and a smattering of Indians, as well as Lao. The cities greatest concentration of accommodation, restaurants and shops catering to visitors are found here. There is a great new walkway by the riverside and every day there is a night market to browse around in.
The weather here has been very rainy, lots of thunderstorms and lightening shows every morning and late evening. According to the weather channel it's due to a tropical storm, Typhoon Aletta. You know when a storm's coming in, the wind picks up, so much so that the trees bend over the streets, hawker stall umbrella's start to lift off and the sky goes grey in an instant. As fast as it starts, it comes down, pours and stops. Streets start to flood and the stench of the local sewer system can be smelt from miles away. Once the rain has finished, stores open back up, the sun comes back out and the streets start to dry. Surprisingly Vientiane is very beautiful, a clean city which makes it pleasant to walk around and enjoy the beauty of it.
We visited Wat Sisaket, the oldest wat in Vientiane. Constructed by King Anouvong in 1818, the monastery was the site of a ceremony in which Lao lords and nobles swore an oath of loyalty to the king. During the 1828 sack of Vientiane by the Siamese, this was the only monastery not put to the torch and, once the smoke cleared, the Siamese brought the surviving Lao nobility here and made them swear another oath of loyalty, this time to their new overlords. Later in 1893, the whole ceremony was repeated again before new masters - the French.
We went to the Lao Revolutionary Museum, housed in the former mansion of the French superior and in overgrown grounds with a hideous fountain and plumeria trees, the delicate blossoms of which are the national flower of Laos. The museum deals primarily with the events, both ancient and recent, that led to the "inevitable victory" of the proletariat in 1975. Laos's ancient past is crudely depicted on canvas, with scenes such as crimson-clad Lao patriots of yore liberating the mother-land from Thai and Burmese "feudalists".
We walked around most of town center and further out to a larger shopping district during our stay in Vientiane. We needed to find a new battery charger for the Canon camera, we finally found one for a decent price, got it back to the hotel, plugged it in for a while, only to have it blow again......obviously it was a cheap charger but heh - we needed to try. Jason took it back, exchanged it for another one which this time the charger came wrapped up in a box. We plan to use a "buffer" between the outlet and the charger plug so it won't blow again. Now I just need to find one for my camera.
One of our local "haunts" at night was Swensen's ice cream shop, everyday they have a special, our first night was buy one strawberry sundae and receive the second for free. We didn't venture too far out for local Loa cuisine, still recovering from a bit of "traveller's sickness" we stuck to more western style dishes. On our last night in Vientiane, Jason had found restaurant, highly recommended on trip advisor. The food turned out to be absolutely delicious, and well worth the little jaunt we took to get there. We ordered; Chicken Lapp, Sesame chicken wrapped in banana leaf, Garlic Ginger beef and sticky rice - with very full and happy tummies with left with a smile.
Tomorrow we will take a tuk-tuk to the local bus station where we plan on finding a bus bound for the town of Ban Khoun Kham (Ban Na Hin) where we will make our way to Khong Lo Cave.