I love Vientiane. It’s very relaxed, sometimes too relaxed but I prefer it that way. The reason I’m putting my days 2 and 3 together is because honestly, it hasn’t been too eventful. Rather, it has been more about relaxing, enjoying the laid-back atmosphere and silently making comparisons between the culture I know better (Cambodian Culture) and the culture I am being exposed to now.
Although I am in Laos with my parents at the moment, they are completely focused on golfing that I am almost traveling alone. Actually, I am always alone. I’m not complaining though. I like having to be independent and exploring new things and places without having to worry about what others want.
THE MORNING MARKET
My whole travel in Laos has been really different to how I usually travel – there has been NO planning whatsoever. I wake up, grab a couple of stuff, my camera, a book and just head out – anywhere. First morning, I decided to go to the market, having no idea where it is, I just walked to a direction we didn’t walk the night before, after 30 minutes, I found a market and went inside. The things they sell are very similar to what they sell back home so it didn’t really fascinate me. Sometimes I wish that it would be different so I know what it feels like to be a tourist in Southeast Asia – but all I could do while I was in the market was to say “oh, I can get this cheaper back home.” or “This is a little different, but it’s still the same.” Regardless, the market is pretty big and I encourage people to go!
BUYING A SIM CARD
I had to keep in contact with my friend here in Vientiane who I’ve known for about 9 years now (one of the main reasons why I wanted to come to Laos in the first place). So I bought a sim card. The thing about Southeast Asia I love is that you don’t need a phone plan or anything. You just buy a sim card (I bought the Tigo sim card for 10,000kip which is around $1.25), insert it into a cheap phone and recharge the account. I used the phone I’m using in Cambodia right now. Also, let me repeat. You can get a number for $1.25!! You can buy a prepaid card anywhere for 10,000kip, 25,000 kip or 50,000kip.
SWIMMING FAIL, READING SUCCESS
I was so tempted to go swimming so I decided to put on my bikini, a top and a pair of shorts to go hunt down a swimming pool since the hotel I was staying at didn’t have any. Swimming pools are scarce here unlike Phnom Penh. I went into Lao Plaza hotel to swim and it cost 100,000 Kip. That’s over $12. I missed easy access to pools in Cambodia where all you have to do is order something and you can swim for free. I decided to just walk around the city instead. On the way, I found Monument Books, which is everywhere in Southeast Asia but the books were so expensive! I just walked out and found a “Book Cafe” where they were selling used books for really cheap. I picked up Paulo Coelho‘s “Veronika Decides to Die.” Good and very easy read. If you want to do your summer reading, go to one of these cheap bookstores. You can also trade your books for something else you haven’t read. My new mission is to read as many Coelho’s books as possible this summer!
I grabbed the book, went into a cafe, ordered my lunch and read. The next day, I did the same thing. I picked up the book, went to a Scandinavian Cafe and read while drinking a glass of lemonade. I talked to random tourists who were asking me about the book while I waited for my friend to come pick me up.
When my friend arrived, we drove around the city, stopped by at his school to see one of my old history teachers who had recently moved to Laos. So great to catch up with teachers who have known you since you were little, telling them about your life and the future. After, we decided to go to the Patuxai Gate (Victory Gate). Make sure to click on the link to read about the gate. I thought it was pretty funny/ interesting.
You can go up the gate during the day and it’s about 3000 Kip per person. Don’t expect TOO much though. It is really beautiful from the outside – a mix of European architect and Laotian art but on the inside, it’s plain and has no designs on the walls. You climb up about 4 flights of stairs and on the way there are stores inside, which I thought was interesting. I didn’t really bother looking around since it has the same things from the market but probably way more expensive. On the top, you can view all of Vientiane (which is not that big) but it’s worth the climb for 3000 Kip.
Afterwards, I was pretty much done sightseeing and we decided to go to Joma Cafe. There are a few in the country and a couple in Vietnam. The drinks are reasonably priced and the food was good. It was definitely a good way to wrap up the day and dry off the sweat.
Stay tuned for our long road trip to Luang Prabang!