86-89 Savannakhet – Vientiane – Vang Vieng

See trip index here, Laos index here, and more photos from Laos here

Savannakhet is one of the first places we’ve been pleased to get away from.  Unless you are into Eco Treks and homestays then its rather dull, apart from trying to escape from the most aggressive dogs we’ve seen in Asia.  Lins cafe saved us with somewhere decent to drink, and she even let us spend time upstairs whilst waiting for our bus!  Not to mention some biscuits for the journey.  The bus was an overnight bus, and it is weird as it has fully flat double beds in it.  It’d have been a perfect nights sleep had the roads been smooth, but this is Laos, so we only got a bit of sleep before arriving in Vientiane – the Laos capital.

As typically happens, the bus terminates at 5am about 8km outside of town meaning you have to venture into the vulture pack of tuktuks to get into town.  Our hotel though was a good choice so we dumped our bags and explored the quiet, bright but small city.

The Victory Gate (Patuxai) is an Arc-de-Triumph type structure, but built “slightly” higher than the original just to annoy the French, and made with concrete given by the USA to make a new runway!  Hence they honestly call it a hideous concrete monstrosity.  The gardens are pretty and the road goes to the Pha That Luang religious stupa monument glistening in gold  Some guys were trying to sell birds in boxes that you let free and get “good luck” – but I bet they are all homers and the guy resells them tomorrow!

There are a large array of eateries near our hotel, some western and some Laos but full of westerners, but for tea we settled on a very nice street cafe with some impressive food. 

The following day we headed to the morning market where Mel fancied some new underwear and agreed a fair (but probably still tourist) price with the seller, only to then get confused and try and pay 40p for her purchase!  The seller obviously wouldn’t sell and Mel thought she was being ripped off.  Oops.  After counting the number of “zeros” on the notes she went back in and rebought with all of the staff having a good laugh.

We then headed to “Cope” – the rehabilitation centre for people with limbs missing, normally from bombs from the Vietnam war (in which incidentally the US majorly bombed Laos with cluster bombs which still kill 100’s a year.  Nice one USA – another “what were they thinking…”).  We were in 2 minds about visiting as clearly it shouldn’t be (and isn’t) a tourist attraction, but it was informative and shows off their amazing work.

There are millions of UXOs still in Laos which are either found accidentally or hunted for scrap metal, but many (especially kids) are injured and loose limbs.  Fortunately there is now a treaty against cluster bombs signed by most countries, but yep, not the good old US of A.   

We also visited the Laos national museum which has a few objects and photos, but sadly misses an overview of what has happened in Laos and why – so we left none the wiser and a little more confused and will need to add to our Wikipedia to do list.

Vientiane is a nice capital, but not in any wow category, but nice enough to be worth a visit.  Leaving Vientiane we took a 4hr bus to Vang Vieng.  The bus was fine with a good driver, but the roads were the worst we’ve seen.  Tarmac in places, and then just rough rock in others – and bizarrely no reason as to why, but there would be 10m of smooth, then 100m of rough…  No wonder the busses are knackered.

Vang Vieng isn’t anything special – just a tourist/backpacker town, but the scenery is superb and there are loads of activities to do here – such as tubing, kayaking, and climbing – should be a fun few days!

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