January 3 – 9, 2019
The Laos capital! Super exciting! Crazy busy, right?! Truth be told, there wasn’t a whole lot going on in Vientiane, but not for lack of trying. There were a number of very new and tourist-welcoming outdoor plaza areas with restaurants, pedestrian walkways, market stalls and kids’ rides, but most were pretty quiet. The Laos National Museum was closed – indefinitely. There were lots of government buildings scattered all over town. And on the mighty Mekong River that separates Laos from Thailand, there wasn’t a boat or bridge to be seen, anywhere!
There was a “backpacker area” where we ran into multiple travelers we’d seen in Vang Vieng. The Night Market was bustling with stalls selling everything found in Target and more – clothes, jewlery, phone cases, bags, souvenir kitches, etc. I couldn’t convince the girls to eat there, but we found a local cafe where we did schoolwork and could eat both western and Lao food. Near the cafe we discovered our favorite roti maker who shared how he came to Vientiane from India to work. We loved watching him make banana Nutella roti with extreme care and precision!
A&A felt inspired by the start of the New Year, so they took advantage of the hotel gym, waking at the crazy hour of 7am and doing 5 minute circuits on the treadmill, bike and with free weights. Post-workout we’d enjoy the nice buffet breakfast and hang out around the rooftop pool or do schoolwork in the hotel lobby.
The most educational outing was to the COPE (Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise) Visitor Centre, an impressive museum/manufacturing/testing/rehab and educational facilty that helps people with mobility challenges all over the country. As we learned through multiple films and displays at the centre, many of these people have been victims of UXOs – unexploded ordinances – small “bombies” that were dropped by the U.S. during wartime and remain a great danger to villagers today. Sadly, Laos is the most bombed country in the world per capita. In my view Vientiane is worth a visit if just to educate oneself about this devastating history, and learn about all of the good work being done by COPE and its many partners.
Wayne went on a run (i.e., a scavenger hunt-type jog with much drinking and heckling) with the VERY active Vientiane Hash House Harriers, coming back with a souvenir polo shirt. And our trekking pal Paul (who we met in Luang Prabang) told us about the Annabelle Cafe, so we of course had to make a stop there.
Kop Chai La Lai Laos! We’ve really enjoyed it here. Next stop – Vietnam, where we’ll start in the north in Hanoi and make our way south all the way to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon).