If you have thought about going to Lao, I would really suggest including Luang Prabang. The city has this wonderful soul and feeling with its huge night market, bustling public markets, nice people, and good restaurants. The city also sits at the confluence of two rivers and there are nice park areas, restaurants, and bars along the river. Sidewalks are pretty much everywhere. Motorbikes do not ride on sidewalks here that I have seen which is a nice change. Walking can be the only mode of transportation here since the city area is easily reachable. There are an inordinate number of temples and cultural sites in the city so besides the rivers and waterfalls out there, there are a lot of beautiful cultural sites to visit. There is a museum I have not been to that I am saving and some temples that are completely open but they ask you to be respectful, dress modestly, and be quiet. Most are active temples so you will see Monks doing their duties.
Today I saw a microcosm of the whole thing so I want to share what my camera found today both little and big.
What you see are a few temples including the oldest property in Luang Prabang. The white stupa of this Wat is easily seen down the street and its just beautiful to view with the blue sky behind it. You can also see smaller temples and park areas so its pretty to see that the areas are pretty well maintained.
My time is running here though and I’ll go back to Vientiane for one night this Sunday and then fly back to Phnom Penh for three weeks. I decided to go to Saigon to see L and have some fun with her and some other friends there so I spend a week there and then on October 19th I really go. Once I leave for Taiwan, I’m done with Southeast Asia for over 6 months. I don’t know what I will do when I get back. I am tempted to move to Vietnam and stay but I have also decided to not decide until the time gets closer. I have a lot of places to see in the next months. Places in the world I have never been and dreamt of going to. Things like a Nile cruise, the mystery of Morocco and Turkey, and then the bustling bit city and a friend in Dubai. I also will ride the Amtrak and have a sleeperette almost completely across the US which is another dream I have wanted to fulfill. So many things that take me away from Southeast Asia but I have to say that my heart and soul area here in the countries and cities and with the most wonderful, friendly, and authentic people I have ever met.
Onward though. Like a sign said over a colleague’s desk at work:
Some initial things from yesterday’s ramblings by the river and downtown. I love old buildings and windows and small things that perhaps lead to bigger discoveries. If not, that’s ok too. If you get a chance visit this town. It has this vibe and essence which could sweep you away.
Today is about it for me in Vientiane for the longer stay. I have one night back here before going to back to Cambodia in a week and some. Today I fly to Luang Prabang for a week, take a day tour, walk around there for awhile, and then go back to a few things demanding my attention in Phnom Penh.
Here are some last day photographs of the walking aimlessly around the city and just doing whatever I wanted to do.
As you can see from above mostly buildings and billboards and things that fascinate me about the buildings like their geometry and shape and how they combine with basic elements in front like fences. You can see the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and a nice 7up sign and a few cool looking buildings that captured my fancy.
Last night I went to Tyson’s Restaurant which is an American place down the street and had a bbq pulled pork sandwich, french fries, and two large BeerLao beers. I met the owner who is a fascinating woman from Vietnam that came here long time ago. We talked a lot about wandering around Southeast Asia and compared favorite places in Vietnam. We also discussed countries we either like or don’t like. I won’t name specific countries but there is one big one over here that it seems most Southeast Asian people do not like much. Over the course of her time here she has learned 4 different languages which is amazing to me. Her native Vietnamese, Thai, Lao, and English. She was very conversant in English and had a wonderful sense of humor bordering on the sarcastic. She told me a bit of her life story and what attracted her to Laos.
So that’s the end of the story for Vientiane for a longer stay place for me. I always ask after each place if I would go back. I really liked Vientiane but I don’t think I will come back. I have had a lot of fun here eating, drinking, and walking the city each day but I have other places to go and things to see and miles to go before I sleep. Today especially!
Gonna pull the plug on things here shortly and head the few KMs to the airport and get going soon.
Here in Vientiane is the most treasured and important temple complex in all Laos. It has been damaged in brutal wars and rebuilt. Now its acknowledged here as the most important cultural site in all of Laos. Its a beauty of a site. Admission is free and the temple complexes are simply stunning. So instead of gumming up the works with a bunch of BS words. Here it is. The incredibly beautiful and historic Pha That Luang.
Now the real question is when the hell are you going to get here? Its waiting for you. Its been through wars and history. Wandering the site is free and its just so beautiful and peaceful and quiet. The architecture is incredible. Stretch out and come to Laos. Its beautiful and different. Take some time here. Vientiane has your temples.
As a note, all of these were shot with the exemplary FujiFilm X-T30 camera with the 18-55mm kit lens. What a magical device for me!
Here in Vientiane there are lots of French restaurants and bakeries. I have found a number of really nice places for the late morning iced coffee and pastry. I am at Annabelle Cafe now. It’s right by the riverside. A peaceful spot to enjoy a Sunday morning.
It’s a good morning here. Nothing to do and all day to get it done. Retirement is tough folks.
I have another 4 or so days left here in Vientiane and then I go to Luang Prabang for a week. I will be doing a tour there one of the days to see a waterfall, a few traditional villages, and cruise the river. Vientiane is an interesting city but its peaceful and quiet and people mostly go to the Riverside Night Market in the evenings for some lights and action. I went there last night to get some gifts for this cute Khmer girl I know. The Night Market is different since it seems to focus on electronics and shoes a lot. I saw more stands selling phone gear and shoes but there are a lot selling clothing but not touristy type stuff. I finally found a stall that sells touristy t shirts which is what my friend wants. I will go back before I leave because I accidentally got her two t shirts which say the same thing but in different colors. I need to find a yellow t shirt for her.
There are a lot more French people living and working with restaurants and shops here than other places and I think a lot of people here speak French. Some streets have French names and French named coffee shops and bakeries are all over. Last night I went to this restaurant for dinner and had a really nice pepper steak with mashed potatoes because I felt like something a bit different. I paid about $10 for dinner which in comparison to my lunch was a lot seemed okay to me. I paid about $2 for lunch yesterday which was chicken fried rice and a nice melon shake at a small restaurant I happened across while walking. They were delighted to serve me and the food was really good!
So today I will try to find a place where I can see some different tourist type stuff during the day around the downtown part of the city. I am hoping that there are places to buy souvenirs or t shirts that say stuff like “Visit Lao” on them. Here are a few things though I got to see yesterday during my walk.
In way of explaining, one is the every present tuk tuk that can take you just about anywhere in the city. You can also see a few black and white photographs of the Vientiane Center area with new development occurring. Temples are all over the city and most are in good shape although I have seen older ones not so well preserved. You can see a few here. Finally there was a park with a statue of a past King. The park was a very peaceful spot to stop and sit in. Kind of like the rest of Vientiane actually. The city is very peaceful and quiet at night. I have not heard a siren or loud voices or anything here all the nights here.
Now its breakfast time on a Sunday morning. I am getting tired of the asian breakfast foods. I wish somewhere here had american style breakfast. Some potatoes would be so good! Back in Phnom Penh there are places to get something a bit different but I am not really complaining since the breakfast comes with the room.
Time to go forth and conquer the breakfast! Will post some more photographs tonight perhaps of my day spent wandering shopping areas here in search of places that sell t shirts and trinkets for tourists.
Today was a good day for getting out and seeing another direction in Vientiane Laos. I made it to a beautiful park and monument called Patuxay Park. On the way up, I saw this and that along the streets. Not big things mind you. Just the small stuff I get completely caught up in as i walk.
After the Park, I walked another way home and saw some things. Again not truly instagram moments but since I don’t post pictures there I am safe. Here’s some of my day captured with my FujiFilm X-T30 camera with the 18-55mm kit lens and the F2 35mm prime lens. A good day was had by old retired guy and camera today.
Another day in Vientiane spent wandering the city with no set goals. Tomorrow more of the same. Tonight I will have a hamburger and fries at a western burger joint I found.
Vientiane is a different experience. There are nice restaurants and really nice bakery shops. Lots of French restaurants but also a number of international places. Its quieter here at night. Peaceful. Siagon is rambunctious. Phnom Penh is frenetic. Hanoi is kind of different still. I will remember in Hanoi forever the woman Grab driver offering me “boom boom” as I walked back to the hotel. Here, things just quiet down and people sit outside with their beer talking. The warmer day comes to an end and the tuk tuk drivers settle down in front of their haunts looking for the elusive fare. People start coming out for dinner and drinks. There are a good number of tourists here but there are also people living here.
During the day its rather peaceful too. Traffic for the most obeys the traffic lights and stop signs. There is notably less garbage on the streets than just about anywhere else. Small shops and restaurants are all open catering to the needs of locals, visitors, and just about anyone. Coffee shops are like coffee houses anywhere. I have been warmly invited in on Phu Quoc Island even though its a local coffee place and then was served my favorite iced coffee with milk and to sit outside is a joy with it. Other places like Siem Reap last time I had my favorite coffee shop and they would greet me every morning with smiles and hello’s.
No real difference here. Vientiane has more historical and religious sites than other places I think and they seem to be very well maintained. I have spent two days walking the city in different directions and its been good. Tomorrow will strike out in a different direction to explore. Here are a few things to look at.
You can see that the mighty Mekong River runs right by the city. There are lots of statues and beautiful temples which I will get around to taking pictures of in the next few days. I have another week here to get to the places I want or find others. You can also see the presidential palace in the last shot. That was as close as you can get.
I have been using my iPhone 7 Plus for photography lately. Its just easier and I like the photography it does with the Halide app. I am not sure whether I will use the FujiFilm camera again or find a home for it in Cambodia when I go back. I am just very satisfied with the quality and the ease of use of the iPhone.
The next days are just xerox copies of these days. Breakfasts at the hotel and then coffee somewhere. Walking the city in different directions to find and see things. I will leave a week from Friday for Luang Prabang for a week. I have a tour there for all day one day to see waterfalls, caves, and villages.
Then back to Phnom Penh and its time to take care of my retirement extension for another year and prepare to leave Southeast Asia for about 8 months. I won’t be back after October 19th until June 10th 2020.
Lots left to see here though and food and beer to drink!