A Vientiane wat
Arriving in Laos was like arriving in the Emerald City from the dark scary forest. We could practically hear the chorus in the soundtrack singing, “You're out of the woods. You're out of the dark. You're out of the night ”
Suddenly the air was fresh, the surroundings were peaceful, it was quiet. The stress disappeared. To make things even stranger, only one taxi driver approached us. We said, “No” and he walked off. Then we changed our minds and called him over. He smiled and was friendly. We found him incredibly likable.
Vientiane's streets were empty. It was probably around 10 AM when we drove through. We saw several pretty wats and their Thai looking architecture made us happy. Tuk-tuk drivers who just said, “tuk-tuk?” once and accepted, “No, thanks,” as a reply made us happy. Rowshan found a hotel near the river front while I sat in a cafe drinking coffee and eating cookies-- this made me happy.
Main street in Vientiane
The afternoon hadn't made the streets any more crowded. We walked by a market and street sellers selling herbs, baskets and fixings for rituals including colored threads for baci ceremony bracelets. A little girl tried to sell Rowshan gum. He said, “No I don't want gum.” She kept persisting. “Are you from Vietnam?” I asked. She didn't get it. Rowshan said, “She just wants to sell something so she can go back and make her parents proud.” Rowshan was being way too nice. It was as if he had spent all his pissed off energy in Vietnam and only had kindness for everyone left. I think it is the effect of Lao people. They smile, are friendly, and non pretentious.
Basket seller cart
Along the riverfront-- or rather the dry area where the river probably is during the wet season. There are lots of restaurants-- open structures with just thatched roofs. They roll into action towards evening when seafood (and frogs) appear in buckets and grills are lit. Salt covered fish and skewered pieces of meat take their position on the grills and the smell of the bar-b-cue meat begins to fill the air.
Dry fish traps along the river
The Mostly dry river
The French Cultural Center started a festival last night so a section of the waterfront had free games, food stands and a wine/cheese bar. There was a platform with a movie screen and a stage where some musical instruments were waiting. The festival had a French circus theme with umbrellas on tall poles and a gypsy-carnival music band. Unfortunately we were tired so we went back to the hotel before the music started. Since our hotel is near the river we heard the music- rather loudly-- until midnight.
Xylophone player at Mekong Festival
Rowshan plays a tune at the festival for an admiring fan
Vientiane has a relaxing mix of Europe and SE Asia. There are French colonial buildings, a plaza with a fountain which Rowshan called, the “Plaza del Armas” because it reminded us of South America. There are also traditional SE Asian buildings – wooden houses slightly raised above the ground with pointed roofs, ornate wats, and the riverside thatched bungalow restaurants. The weather is perhaps the most pleasant we've experienced in SE Asia. It is sunny but not too hot, not too humid, and sitting at an outdoor cafe, a breeze occasionally lingers.
Sunset over riverside restaurants
The city is so restful. There aren't a lot of sights but that is OK because the atmosphere begs you to just sit and chill. There are lots of cafes and bakeries. We could really get on quite well just going from cafe to cafe. All the tension we built up in Vietnam seems to be dissipating.
Man cleaning his rooster