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Vientiane is the quiet capital of Laos, which has been described as "one of the last quiet countries on earth". They're not wrong, it sure is quiet. Friday night in downtown Vientiane, and there was nary a soul to be seen. But that's part of the charm of the place, and was certainly welcome after the crowds of Vietnam, it was a really nice place to chill out on the banks of the Mekong.

We only had one night in Vientiane, but that was certainly enough time to see the sites - Laos is more about soaking up the atmosphere than rushing around the tourist hotspots, and I wish we'd had more time to spend there. Nonetheless, it was a really cool place to visit and I am sure I'll return one day.

Wat That Luang

The symbol of Laos is Wat That Luang, covered in gold it appears on the country's banknotes and the visa you get on entry (cheaper if you're from eastern Europe, inexcplicably). The Wat has recently been restored, as not so long ago most of the gold had been stripped away.

Much to my delight, we arrived in Laos at Wattay International Airport, they must have known I was coming!

Wattay International Airport

Arc d'Triomphe

Vientiane's very own Arc d'Triomphe, Patuxay, on the road out to Wat That Luang. There is heavy French influence still prevalent in the country, and as such you can get some top-notch French grub for bottom-dollar prices, which we did.

This cheery chappie greets you on the way into the city from the west. He was just round the corner from our hostel.

Giving the finger


This is the oldest Wat in the city of Vientiane, next to the American embassy, and it has clearly seen better days.

Central vientiane, where the action doesn't happen. We rented bicycles and pedalled round the city for the afternoon, something that would be risking your neck in any other nearby country, but here was perfectly safe due to the low volume of traffic.



Riverside market place at dusk, spot the tourists.

If you're feeling a bit peckish, take one look at this lot and you'll soon lose your appetite...! Fried crickets or fried grubs are the order the day at this street vendor.

Crunchy on the outside, smooth on the inside

Tuk tuk

Wat That Luang, a potent symbol of Laos, with another national monument, the Laotian tuk-tuk, known here as a "jumbo".

Our hostel, the Thongbay guest house, was very pleasant and comfortable, and even had a bar which was open after the rest of the (few) bars in town closed at 11pm on Friday night.


Sunset over the Mekong

Sunset over the Mekong, the land across the water is Thailand.

Night market in Vientiane, I did my best to make it look busy but this was about as packed as it got.

Night market


According to the guide book the Lao Plaza Hotel is an example of Soviet architecture, which I couldn't see, but it did have a swimming pool and jacuzzi that let us smelly lads in for a small fee.

Boat sitting on the banks of the Mekong, taken from a bar in which we were the only customers and the door was boarded up behind us when we left.


Wat That Luang

Again the Wat That Luang, guarded by this armed bloke, and an appropriate way to bring this Laotian experience to a close.

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2006