This has to be by far the oldest post i am updating. Lets say one of my 2018 resolutions is to blog post all of the pending trips and Laos is definitely over 2 years old. Our trip to Laos has to be one of those where we had absolutely done no planning whatsoever. It was my birthday weekend and we were planning on heading out of town probably on a road trip within Peninsular Malaysia. Still undecided, i was randomly exploring google maps to see which countries could we perhaps visit next and i find this little land locked country wedged between Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and China. Being the inquisitive person that i am, i looked up the flight tickets for Vientiane (the capital) and found a good deal. The only problem being that the flight was for the following early morning and i’ve been “researching” around 5pm the previous day 😉 . I made an impulsive decision and booked the tickets and a hotel for us to crash at. I reached home and “surprised” my wife and told her to pack our bags.. This was happening. We were going to Laos. Thankfully my wife is as fanatic about travelling as i am and she didn’t blow a fuse.
We had an early flight at 7:20am to Vientiane.. The only important “research” i did was finding out if we have Visa on Arrival and turned out that we did 🙂 . I am proud of my nationality but It sucks to have an Indian passport.. you need a visa to travel to most countries. I really hope this changes in the years to come. Anyway, upon landing, we finished the immigration procedures and headed to our hotel. We were booked at the IBIS Vientiane Nam Phu Hotel. Its quite centrally located to the main tourist attractions and the markets and cafes are at a walking distance. We checked in to the hotel and were really thinking of exploring the city and the attractions. but there was one problem. Vientiane isn’t really as touristy compared to its neighbouring countries. Considering all the places we have visited in S.E.Asia, We were really trying hard to decide what to see and explore. By end of Day 1 we had already explored the major sights around Vientiane. We booked a Jumbo Tuk Tuk and negotiated the price at bout $20USD for a halfday tour of the city covering the main attractions.
We started the Tuk Tuk ride by visiting the “Arc De Triomphe” of Laos called Patuxai (Victory Gate). While it looks grand from afar, its definitely seen better days. One can climb to the top of the structure and have a birds eye view of the surroundings. I was told that the best time to visit would be to catch a glimpse of the sunset. We then proceeded further to the Pha That Luang temple. It is a national symbol and the most important religious monument of the country, That Luang is a three-layered gilded stupa. There is also a statue of a golden reclining buddha nearby the temple complex. Our next stop was the Wat Si Muang. The temple is famous for the belief that lifting the small Buddha statue in the temple thrice from its cushion means that your prayers or questions will be answered. I did that and boy the statue was heavy. The last stop on day 1, we went to Wat Si Saket. This temple complex turned out to be my favourite among the ones we visited so far. It was built between 1819 and 1824 by Chao Anou, Wat Si Saket is believed to be Vientiane’s oldest surviving wat. The interior walls bear hundreds of Buddha niches and murals depicting stories of the Buddha’s past lives. We paid our Tuk Tuk driver and bid him adieu. We walked to the Mekong River Side Park which was roughly 5 minutes away from our hotel. The weekend night market was on. We grabbed a couple of chilled Beer Lao and shopped away.
The following day we visited the COPE Visitor Centre. It is an highly unusual attraction but is really excellent. COPE (Cooperative Orthotic & Prosthetic Enterprise) is the main source of artificial limbs, walking aids and wheelchairs in Laos. It is a local not for profit organisation that provides orthotic, prosthetic, rehabilitation and advocacy services for survivors of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) accidents and other people with disabilities in Laos. The COPE Visitor Centre provides visitors with the opportunity to understand the impact of UXO on Lao PDR, issues related to disability in developing countries and the work of the COPE project through a free permanent exhibition. Visitors are invited to watch documentaries on UXO, read survivor stories and interact with rehabilitative devices. The documentaries and videos are heart wrenching. We bought a few items from the gift shop to take back home. The evening we again headed back to the Mekong River Side Park. The interesting part is that if one crossed over to the other side of the river, you end up in Thailand. We saw that the water levels had receded and it would be quite possible for anyone to just walk across to the other side. If only the borders were not guarded.
The last day we decided to head to the Buddha Park or locally known as Xieng Khuan which was about an hour away by the Jumbo. It has a collection of huge concrete sculptures of Buddhist and Hindu deities, and real and imaginary beasts. We were quite excited to see sculptures of hindu gods and mythological characters. After spending an hour, we headed back to the city. This was ofcourse the eve of my birthday and we decided to visit the newly opened “Hard Rock Cafe – Vientiane”. We were greeted by an almost empty pub. We ordered our signature cocktails and listened to some good old rock music and signed off. We had yet another early morning flight back home to Kuala Lumpur. Another country visited and struck off the list.