When we told people we were spending eight nights in Vientiane to finish our month in Laos everyone said we would be bored senseless and that we should spend our time elsewhere. However, after a busy three weeks we were looking forward to a quiet week and that is exactly what we got.
Vientiane, like Luang Prabang, though to a lesser extent, has areas of French influence; none more so than the Vientiane’s Arc De Triomphe or Patuxai. This archway stands in the middle of the town and offers views over all of Vientiane. It was built-in the 1960’s to honour all the Lao soldiers who died in the pre-revolutionary wars. It is a stunning piece of architecture, however the beauty of it is somewhat let down by the fact that souvenir shops selling Laos t-shirts and fridge magnets actually fill the interior as you climb to the top. With Vientiane being a very flat city the views from the top of the archway provide an extended view of the city and the area; there are also no tall buildings, so the view is unobstructed in each and every direction.We decided on hiring bicycles in Vientiane as they always prove to be an activity the whole family enjoys and also have the added bonus of being a very budget friendly activity at only 8,000 LAK/$1.45 NZD per bike per day. The bikes allowed us to explore the city further and tick off our ‘must sees’, including Pha That Luang, That Luang Tai Temple and the War Heads Monument.Apart from exploring the city on our bikes, we managed to visit the Vientiane night markets a couple of times during our stay. These markets are on every night and held in Chao Anouvong Park, located near the Mekong River allowing you views across to Thailand. The markets contain hundreds of stalls, mainly selling clothing and electronics but with the odd souvenir or toy stall in the midst. It would appear that the markets mainly service locals with not many foreigners walking through the stalls or even eating at the roadside stalls.The food stalls are limited but can be found outside the market on the nearby roadsides. The boys quickly found a sushi cart on our first visit which was returned to on each and every subsequent visit and anything cooked over charcoal is usually a hit as well.The rest of our time in Vientiane was spent around the pool at our guesthouse, Villa Manoly, researching and planning our upcoming Cambodian adventure, doing some schoolwork, and for me even reading a book. For those that know me, you will know I don’t read and it would have been 10 plus years since I actually read a book; apart from books for the kid’s night time stories. However, I actually managed two books during our stay, ‘A Shattered Youth: Surviving the Khmer Rouge’ and ‘The Big Mango’, and I’m currently on the hunt for my next one.
In the end, Vientiane did prove to be a little unexciting and boring and eight nights would definitely be too long for a holiday if you were visiting; but for us it proved to be a very relaxing week to round out a fantastic month in Laos. Where we got too experience many new things, eat many new dishes and meet many great people. In the end it will be a month that will not be forgotten in a hurry.
Average Daily Spend – Vientaine: $109.67 NZD ($62.83 under budget per day)
Average Daily Spend – Laos: $143.67 NZD ($28.83 under budget per day)