Vientiane – A Nice Change
So we arrive at the bus station in Nongkhai at about 5. Am after an uncomfortable 9 hour bus trip in which it started pissing down as soon as we left Bangkok and continued until 3 hours into the trip with rain water continually finding its way through the air-conditioning system to my seat near the back and onto my face, but with a few well meaning and genuine "darling you ok's" along the way I somehow manage to tolerate the situation to my amazement. I must state it wasn't my preferred means of transport as I’d booked on Air Asia 2 months earlier from Australia to fly to Udon as you would but my Thai girlfriend conveniently lost her ID or misplaced it or something the day before I arrived so we had to wait for a new one and subsequently had to forgo our flight, only about 8 hours difference but its the comfort factor of course.
So we hang around Nongkhai for about an hour an a half doing absolutely nothing when we decide to catch one of those ridiculously slow half chopper/half tuk tuk beasts that are everywhere and get her papers for the trip to Laos at an office just outta town. A click of the camera, 240 baht and a couple of khrup khun khups and we're on the bus to Vientiane in no time at all not knowing what to expect of course, both our first time here. Even though my girlfriend hails from just outside Surin and speaks fluent Laos and all she may as well of been born in the 1st century so much is her knowledge of Laos. But I forgive as you do when you look into those big brown eyes implanted in that gorgeous face so I reason to myself that we at least start off on equal footing.
Anyway after paying what seems about ten different taxes (actually only two) we finally arrive at our destination, the former French colony Vientiane. Just the name conjours up images of endless exotic nights spent with my sweetheart beside me as we watch that mighty beast they call the Mekong flow past us. Anyway we find ourselves a beautiful little guesthouse on Dongpalan Road by accidentally heading in the opposite direction from the bus station. It's far from the most attractive road in Laos but well worth the stay. Anyway we unpack and begin to settle in for the next four to five days and I’ll worry about the overstay on the border pass when the time comes.
The first thing that strikes me about Laos or Vientiane is that it's calm and the locals' humbleness. They are more shy than their Thai counterparts, especially the women, and I find this so refreshing and immediately I'm in love with the charm, behaviour and mysticism of this city and the females who inhabit it. From the old style French restaurants and bakeries to the most stunning building I’ve seen in a while, the Laos cultural building to the quaint small clubs where we would watch the locals dance to western, Laos and mostly Thai music whilst downing large amounts of Laos beer and staggering home in peace, this city has its own style indeed thanks largely to the French. Even my girlfriend likes it here to my surprise. She seems so at peace as compared to the hectic pace and stresses Thailand and even more so Bangkok places upon you that I have never seen her so relaxed in a very long time. I take hundreds of photos for proof just in case if she decides to dispute this later.
Anyway we go to the famous stupa and visit the victory monument, on scooter of course, and do dinner on the Mekong boat (avoid the Indian restaurants along this strip they're food is terrible and it ain’t buffalo or beef I'm sure) and in the meantime we continue to pour dozens of Beer Laos down our thirsty throats to our hearts content.
The time comes to return to Thailand. Oh I forgot to mention check all the paper work on your hired bike. My guy conveniently gave me dodgy paperwork and whether it was a small scale scam or not the local sergeants are onto it and out to make a little bit of cash for themselves ($US6) when they can so be wary I escaped paying this time when I kicked up a fuss and told them I knew what they were up to and told them they could keep the bike and my licence but I'm guessing I just got lucky this night and I'm in no doubt it wouldn’t be the same outcome next time. Anyway I go through the pain of being ripped 300 baht for the 2 day overstay on the girlfriend's border pass and before you know it we are back in Thailand until next trip, largon.
Vientiane sure is a nice spot.