Vientiane

As our flight wasn’t till 5pm, and we didn’t have to be at the airport till at least 3pm, Ngoc kindly let us stay in our room beyond the usual check out time of midday, and it meant we could have a relaxed morning before setting off the airport. We had booked an airport transfer through her, and at 100k kip it wasn’t that cheap for the short 25-minute journey there. What surprised us even more is a battered old truck pulled up to collect us with ripped seats, bashes and dents and paint peeling off.


Oh well never mind as long as it got us there, which it did and as I imagined, Pakse Airport was tiny with not much there to do. We grabbed some chicken fried rice and a hot chocolate and then just sat about till we were due to leave. There is only one gate here, and we saw our plane arrive and it was a tiny prop plane, probably about 40 seats. And as there was only 20+ people for the flight, it meant there was plenty of spare seats, however before we had even taken off, all the locals just moved themselves around which am sure they are not meant to for assisting the balance of the plane, but the air hostess didn’t seem to bother!

Anyway, we took off 15 mins late, and with a flight time of around 90 minutes, we arrived at Vientiane airport around 7pm and got a taxi straight to our hotel here for the next 4 nights, the Vientiane Luxury Hotel. Words like luxury, superior, deluxe get banded about a lot in SE Asia, so we’re not expecting much for our £19pn inc breakfast but the actual room was fine. Slight sewage smell from the bathroom but that’s practically normal here and being on the 7th floor we had a not bad city view either.

We quickly got changed and headed out for a walk round and find somewhere for dinner. Firstly, we stopped at a restaurant for a beer and got an amusing local who clearly had a few too many coming up to us to do cheers with our glasses of beer.
I had looked at a few places to eat in town, and both of us fancied a steak so headed round to Pimento to check out their menu. I knew it was going to be expensive, however once we queried what you were getting for a £25 steak, on being told it doesn’t come with fries which were another £4, we swiftly left. Then we found Tyson’s, a highly rated place on TripAdvisor and with much more reasonable prices. We both ordered different burgers, both delicious and mine even had beetroot on it!

After stuffing our faces, we went a walk down to the riverfront and found a pub which was mentioned on Lonely Planet called Bor Pen Nyang. This was a lively bar on the riverfront and was on the 4th floor so provided good views over the Mekong. It’s a right mix of clientele too, with tourists, locals, ex pat’s and bar girls, so we grab a beer and sit at a table overlooking the river. I quickly noticed that a few of the bar girls are very friendly to the lone male traveller/ex pat’s and one older guy in particular had two lovely young girls at his table. He was quite drunk already but continued to drink more and more as the girls ordered more drinks. So, they basically get free drinks for keeping him company, and he got so pissed he needed to have a cold ice bag held on his neck to try sobering him up.  He managed to come back round and then left with them both albeit lighter in the wallet! We head back to the hotel and get to bed around midnight.


Breakfast was provided buffet style bit was basic with the usual Asian fare plus eggs and some cold hot dog style sausages. It was adequate (but got boring by the 4th day). Vientiane is an old French colonial town so has some impressive buildings, quite a few old temples with new ones too, and a mix of tourists passing through and apparently has been having a bit of a boom lately. We decided to go for a walk after breakfast around the town and started off looking for a travel company to transfer us to our next destination a few days later. We got a few quotes and as it was getting hotter, stopped at a lovely cafe for a cold drink and a cake. Sadie had the biggest cinnamon whirl ever and I had the densest brownie ever too.


We carried on walking round for a little while, but the heat was unbearable and so after a quick visit to the supermarket around the corner for supplies, we went back to hide from the mid-afternoon sun and catch up on a bit of admin.


The evening was a fairly sedate affair with a visit to an Indian restaurant where we had an average meal, but what was weird was the Pakistani owner coming around at the end and taking photos of us with a professional camera for his Facebook page. We had read about that in reviews so expected it, and despite him saying he would show us the photos first, we got called over to look at them and they were already on his page.  After that we just headed back to the same lively bar as the previous night and stayed for a couple then back to the hotel.

Not bothering with the same breakfast again the following morning, we had a bit of a lie in and didn’t go out till about 11am. I had found this lovely place I wanted to visit on TripAdvisor which was a bakery/cafe, so we headed there for brunch. On finding it, the sign outside was just visible and so we headed in. But as soon as we had ordered and then checked the menu again, the place had a different name to what I expected. Anyway, it turns out we were next door to it, and while the food had already been ordered, we just stayed there. It was a bit annoying, so vowed to return to the proper place next door another time.

We wasted away the afternoon sorting out the blog/photos and then decided as it looked like a clear evening, we would head down to the Mekong to try catch a nice sunset. We walked along the riverfront and found some new bars and stopped at one for a cold beer to watch the sunset. Except the beer they brought was warm, so after saying to them, they brought a bucket out with ice to put it in. So, it sat in that for a bit whilst we chatted, and then it was cold enough to finish. Decided against getting another one here so asked for the bill and was shocked to see that the beer they advertised at 9000 was now going to cost 14000! It turns out they were charging the extra 5000 for ice to keep it cold, well you can tell that took us by surprise and I just handed them 10000 and we left. At least we got to see a lovely sunset with our warm beer haha. The riverfront was full of these little pop up bars and BBQ places, and the sights and smells of all this food being cooked was making us hungry. So, we headed back to the main part of town, but on the way, we seen the best mobile cocktail bar ever, which was basically a small truck with a bar inside with rows and rows of bottles.


We couldn’t pass by without having one, so we sat down and ordered. They were delicious and after that we headed for the place we chose for dinner. But just before that on the same street, another bar called Sticky Fingers were doing happy hour cocktails on a Wed/Fri between 6-8pm, which it just happened to be. You all know we love our cocktails, and therefore we stopped for 1. Except they were that good it turned out we stopped for 2 each. Sadie had a spicy martini and a blue angel whilst I had an espresso martini and a long island ice tea. The last one was so strong the coke in it barely changed the colour! By now we were starving and a bit drunk, so head up to the pizza place we had picked out. As usual, we had ordered far too much food, but it was a delicious pizza and I had a calzone, plus we shared an amazing garlic bread that was folded over with cheese in it. Luckily, they packed up the leftovers for us and off we went back to the hotel to stick it in the fridge.


Now we were both very excited, as the time had come that we had been waiting on for the last 5-6 weeks! Our amazing friend Jane Williams was arriving this evening around 10pm to visit us for 2 whole weeks, of course we hadn’t seen her since she was over in April in Malaysia! We sat down at reception as she was booked in the same hotel and they had arranged a transfer from the airport. Then she pulled up in the car and we ran off to give her a hug.
And after our hellos, we went to her room which was far better than ours too! Lol. A quick chat then we headed out a walk and ended up at our usual night time bar, so Jane could get some food and a few gins.


On the way back to the hotel we found another place called Country Road Bar and had a swift one in there and then time to head back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep. Except the people in the room next to us must have had some kind of party going on, and despite me calling reception to send someone up, me shouting at them from our door and Sadie doing the same, the noise continued on till I eventually fell asleep around 2am.

So, with Jane here, and with only 1 fill day to explore Vientiane with her, we planned an early breakfast. But me and Sadie slept an hour longer than planned due to the noise last night, so we didn’t get out to explore until around 9.30. We bookmarked a few temples to visit and a monument, and after having a stroll round the streets, we hire a Tuk Tuk to take us round 3 places.


First up was Patuxay Monument, which was a smaller version of the arch de triomphe that you can pay 3000 to get up the top. We did this and clambered up the 7 floors to see the views of the city, but it wasn’t that impressive and needed a good jet wash! Lol. Next stop was Pha That Luang, the most important religious site in the country and a huge golden stupa surrounded by a courtyard and outer walkway. Then we went to Sisaket Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist temples here and quite an important site too. We did plan to do another couple of temples too, but by now the heat was unbearable and the 3 of us decided to sack it off and go get some delicious lunch, albeit an expensive one! We then had a quick beer, popped into the tour place across from our hotel and booked the transport for the next day to Vang Vieng, and then back to the hotel for a couple of hours siesta.


We arranged to regroup at 5pm in the hope to be able to see a decent sunset, but sadly it was cloudy when we walked along the riverfront. We jumped into a bar for a beer and some chips, and just out our view the sun appeared and made the clouds all pink which was lovely. Then we took a walk along the market, this takes up most of the Riverside and despite it being huge, it’s sadly most of the same stuff at each stall. We did however surprisingly bump into Bronwyn again with her sister too, and after a quick chat we headed to have more cocktails. As we had an early start the next morning with a 9am pick up, we just went to a wonderful place called Lao Kitchen for some local food, and we were not disappointed as it was delicious, then back to the hotel around 10pm.


With Jane being with us now for the next 2 weeks, and a tight schedule over that period with most places we plan to see being 2-night stays, the blogs for the next while may be shorter than usual with less updates.
Although I have managed to do most of this one in the minivan hurtling through some amazing scenery, some of the next few journeys we have ahead may not be as easy to type on! Our planned route is Vang Vieng > Phonsovan > Luang Prabang then 2-day slow boat on the Mekong stopping overnight at Pak Beng. Then we cross over the border to Thailand and the a few days in Chiang Rai, before Jane flys home on the 11th October.


Link To Vientiane Photos

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