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Vientiane

Just another city.

sunny 35 °C
View South East Asia on Dan Smith's travel map.

True to my word, the next morning I was up and out by 8am and found a much cheaper, much more centrally located and much cleaner guest house (even to the point of having someone scrubbing the tiles outside my room with a toothbrush, which I felt bad stepping over in my dirty shoes, but in true Lao style the young girl just laughed at my muddy footprint, said a kind hello, welcomed me to the guest house and continued scrubbing). A complimentary breakfast, cheap laundry service and bus ticket booking facility made it one of the best guest houses I've stayed in so far. To add to that it was right by the river with a wealth of cheap restaurants, bars and shops all within easy walking distance. And in return, what do I do? Nearly rip their check in desk off the ground, wrecking their entire reception area. Not noticing a sharp metal spike protruding from the edge of the main reception desk, I manage to catch my shoulder on it and with an almighty crunch the whole desk heaves its way off the floor and comes crashing back down, much to the surprise of all the staff sitting behind it. Of course I casually stroll away, acting as if it were no big deal, and insisting "I'm fine, I'm fine". However, upon reaching the room a large gash reaching from the top of my arm to the bottom of my shoulder blade suggests otherwise. A gaping hole in my T-shirt also gives the impression that it was perhaps a little more than just a slight stumble. I guess another fine scar will be added to the list of my journeys. I wonder whether I should aim to acquire one in each country I visit and thus make a gruesome bodily map of my travels.

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Four sides of Vientiane - from Patuxai

Vientiane itself is much the same as any city with its busy streets, bars, restaurants, cafes, shops, countless internet facilities, gymnasiums, swimming pools and a whole host of other things I came on holiday to get away from. What I do like about Vientiane is the fact that it feels like a city in its own right, and although it caters for the mass of tourists it attracts, it would still be the same without them (although whether this would be true without their money I very much doubt). I also like the fact that a ten minute walk away from the main river and you will find yourself in a very local, very foreign city, without the bright lights, drunk tourists, and abundance of guesthouses on every street. Despite this however I found there to be little to see or do, other than feel as though you're not stranded in the middle of nowhere. I quite like the feeling of being stranded in the middle of nowhere and so wasn't too thrilled.

As with many of the places I've visited on my journey so far there are a large number of temples to visit, although even these begin to lose their appeal after a while, especially when sold as tourist attractions with entrance fees, professional cameramen, food and drink stalls, and souveneir shops.

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One thing I certainly didn't like about Vientiane was the constant harassment from tuk-tuk drivers. I believe that the most used phrase in the whole of Laos must be "No thanks". What follows is a conversation I must have at least 100 times a day with every single tuk-tuk driver I pass on the street:

"Tuk-Tuk my friend?"

"No thanks."

"Where you go?"

"I'm fine, no thanks."

"I have drugs."

"No thanks."

"I got good weed!"

"No thanks."

"Opium?"

"NO THANKS!!"

And even as I wander off into the distance I can still hear the ever fainter voice following after me:

"What you want? I get anything. Good drugs, nice lady, cheap price, boom boom..."

And so on and so on. Now this may sound slightly amusing the first time you read it, but let me asure you that if I were to read it to you 100 times a day, EVERYDAY, then you may just get a slight indication of how infuriatingly annoying it is. Despite this however, I still somehow manage to be polite and relply with a faint shake of the head and a kind "no thanks" each and every time it occurs. I don't know whether all tuk-tuk drivers decide to take up drug dealing as a way to earn a little money on the side, or whether all drug dealers decide to become tuk-tuk drivers as a way to increase their sales, but somehow it seems as though the two are intrinsically linked.

If you want to see what the locals get up to after dark then head to Patuxai, where during the day you would find it awash with tourists and yet by night the place comes alive with hundreds of locals, bright lights, fountain displays, lively local music, and not a single western face in sight. Strange, perhaps they fear to wander the streets at night or stray too far from the comfort and safety of the river bank with the notion that they might get mugged or run into nightcrawlers, and by nightcrawlers I don't mean thugs in hoodies and baggy jeans with knives and guns, I mean prostitutes in dresses and high heels with deep voices and five o'clock shadows. Far more terrifying!

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Patuxai by night

I stayed in Vientiane longer than I would have otherwise because I was hoping that there would be some parties, fireworks or celebrations for the Chinese and Vietnamese New Year. Unfortunately I was wrong and there were none. Perhaps they will begin tonight as I prepare to depart. Knowing my luck, I wouldn't be surprised! However, as I'm heading off again to the middle of nowhere with no phone service, no ATM, and no internet, I would hardly care if they did.

Posted by Dan Smith 20:55 Archived in Laos Comments (1)

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