Sunday, March 30, 2008

Vientiane in a Day – Tuk tuk and buses

Morning came and it’s a day to explore the city of Vientiane.

It is very possible to explore the whole of Vientiane in a day, but that depends how big your wallet is.

snapshot from tuk-tuk

I rented a tuk-tuk for 90,000 kip (which is expensive in my opinion, that’s like USD10) to get a tour around town, back to the inn and to the bus stop.

me in tuk-tuk
tuk-tuk is the best invention in the world

1. Patuxai, or known as the Victory Monument.

patuxai from afar

look up

Looks pretty much like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, except it’s full of the early Hinduism design

hindu roof design

interior roof design

patuxai pillar

Seven floors high, it offers an panoramic view of the city.

top view from patuxai

view from 7th floor of patuxai

Makes you wonder how their roads are so straight?

The history adds a slight mystery behind every wall, perfect place to cam-whore.

spiral staircase
Spiral staircase inside Patuxai

posing at window
Window scene

Graffitis are found inside the walls of Patuxai


It intrigues me to think if those were ancient wordings or just love confessions of local Laotians.

2. Pha That Luang, the most prominent monument in Laos.

pha that luang overview

pha that luang from far

posing for pha that luang

flying woman at pha that luang
Flying pose

woe-is-me pose

You gotta admire the details though.

wall design

It's a huge gold monument that stood out without a doubt from miles away. There are stones and ruins around the inside of Pha That Luang that resemble Buddhist statues. Mostly headless.

head posing 1
Pose 1

head posing 2
Pose 2. Look, three arms

head posing 3
Pose 3. Tall macho me

head posing 4
Pose 4.

I bet you're wondering how did I squat so low for this photo (yes the statue is extremely small)

It's all about the angle.

short pose

Some stones there are just plainly disturbing.

penis looking stone
tell me this doesn't look like a giant penis

According to Lonely Planet, it’s a symbol of both the Buddhist religion and Laos sovereignty. Since its construction in 1566, four wat were built around it, but two only remain.

My question is, is this the Wat That Luang Tai or the Wat That Luang Neua?

building next to pha that luang

They all look the same to me.

temple next to pha that luang

Outside of Pha That Luang, sparrows in cages are sold for luck (you're suppose to buy and free them)

sparrows in cage

This really saddens me. For all I know, sparrows can't be kept in cages, they'll die of confined space. I was tempted to buy all of them and set them free but this is just provoking business in this area.

man with sparrows

3. Talat Sao – morning market. I love this place, it sells from everything authentic to everything that’s famous for in Laos.


me and bread

Like the Balut (duck fetus eggs),

selling duck eggs

I have read two cases on food poisoning after eating this.

laos duck eggs

So no! I will not try it. Over my dead body. Especially not after my food poisoning case.

You can find little frogs on a stick, or mini bats on a stick here too.

Or their famous snacks, baguette with condense milk (simple but genius recipe).

selling condense milk with bread

You can find the bus station right next to Talat Sao too, where you can get on a local bus at a fair rate to Vang Vieng or Luang Phrabang.

4. Buddha Park. Apparently this is a place with gazillion Buddhist statues, the one place I didn’t get the chance to visit because it’s 25km from the city and renting a tuk-tuk would cost me at least 100,000 kip.

*Three hours later*

Sitting on the public bus which is going to depart from Talat Sao to Vang Vieng in another half an hour (which I were to discover later half an hour means three hours). Public bus, the agony of bumpy ride, sacrificing air-conditioning and premium bus service for pain in the bottom and sweats in an enclosed tin is well worth saving another 35,000 kip for. (VIP bus rides for tourists are 60,000 kip per person, get your ride with the locals will set you back 25,000 kip)

Yep~ just another 5 hours away~ 5 painstakingly LONG hours...

Bought myself a 5000 kip sandwich from the Hmong Market next door for lunch, been eating this awesome shit for two days now.

5000 kip sandwich

They call it khào jįi pátêh (a split French baguette stuffed with Lao-style pâte and ham) which is going to last me till dinner. Well worth it in my point of view. Simply love Laotian sandwich, yum~

And I shall end my Vientiane Journey with a photo.

my nike moment at pha that luang

My Nike moment in Pha That Luang. Tell me that looks totally like a Nike Woman pose~! :D

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Vientiane, Vietnam – River? What river?

I arrived in the land of Laos feeling a bit more than disturbed.

It has been an awful morning, hectic almost. And it felt like a bad omen.

Laos is humid hot. HOT HOT HUMID HOT.

laos tuk tuk

vege vendor

I have been sweating inconsistently the second I stepped out of the glorious air-conditioned cabin of Airasia, oh how I miss the cabin right now.

Vientiane is again, like how I made assumptions of any other country, is not what I expected it to be. Rather than the third-world country I heard and perceived, it’s actually more developed than I expected it to be, though it is no where near a developed city, but with mini-mart, internet café and money exchanger lingering at every corner of the street in the city; I’m pretty much pampered.

The street of Th Fa Ngum bustles with tourists and travellers from all walks of life, I spent my first night here, had my first meal beside the Mekong river, or what’s left of the river.

dried mekong river

It was soon that I realized the street contains some of the more expensive street-side food in Laos and miraculously as you walked further away from the area, things get cheaper. Amazing what tourism can do to a place, even if it is just 500 metres away from every other non-touristy street.

funny laos menu

Don’t get my wrong, Laos is cheap, but it’s more expensive than I expected it to be (mind note not to underestimate financial growth of another country).

Laos food is either very healthy, or very spicy. Or both.

spicy noodle and vegetables
This should be called spicy noodle in spicy sauce cooked in spicy seasonings and spicy vegetables. Not for the faint hearted.

It’s no wonder I have yet to spot an obese Laotian in sight. They should call Laos the thinnest country in the world, not France.

I love how they pronounce English here though. I remember reading this “must-visit” place called Phu Si in Luang Prabang on lonely planet. Phu Si land… ermm~~~

Or how this menu keeps misleading my innocent little mind…

whisky and cok
Anyone want whisky with Cock? I mean cok

chop pork
Paying money to see ppl chop pig?

funny menu names

funny menu names 2

This city depresses me for some reason. I can’t quite put it in words.

It could be the fact that the city bears centuries of different rulings and has been under the hands of many kings, once a powerful land beautiful named Land of a Million Elephants in the 17th century, now diminished to a city made up of semi beautiful sculptures and monuments and semi crumbled buildings.

me eating and posing at temple

oldest temple in Vientiane

worn down primary school
old primary school

The French even misspelled the original Lao as Laos during its last colonisation.

It could be something else that sets me in that mood. No matter.

Everything in Laos is transacted using US dollars or Kip, and ironically, the cheapest exchange rate you can find here is actually at the airport. So for those of you planning to visit Laos, remember to change most of your US currency in Kip at the Laos airport. RM1 is around 2700 Kip (USD 1 = 8740 Kip or 8735 in the city)

At night, the street is sprawled with vendors. The kaleidoscope of colours should not be missed.

vientiane night stall


It’s nice to see, but seriously.. why do I need a home light deco for?

lights deco

lights deco 3

lights deco 2

You will able to locate some local bars around the area where you find most foreign travellers gather.

night bistro

The most happening club however, and surprisingly, is opened by a Malaysian (so I heard), called the Mekong Deck.

mekong deck

Fancy little place, price of a bistro menu in Melaka.