The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Visa Runs and Other Fun in Vientiane

Days 383-386, December 15-18, 2011

Can I be brutally honest right now? My main reason for blazing past Pakse after the 4000 Islands was so I could get to Vientiane and apply for my Thai visa and receive it before the weekend. I did not want to get stuck in the city over the weekend waiting for my passport to be handed back to me from the Thai Embassy.

Funny how things don’t always work out the way you planned it.

Vientiane, LaosIMG_7985

I arrived in Vientiane on the night sleeper bus from Pakse. This was quite an interesting sleeper as all the beds were double beds in which you shared with someone. If you’re lucky, you share with someone you know. If, like me, you travel on your own, you get put with another single rider of the same sex. If you’re lucky enough, there won’t be any single riders of the same sex and you get the whole bed to yourself. But even then, I still got a decent nights sleep.

As soon as I arrived in the Laos capital city, I took off to find a place to stay. This was the one time I wish I had had a guidebook or something as I had no idea where the concentration of guesthouses was in relation to where I was dropped off from the songtheaw from the bus station. The cheapest place I could find was a $18 room with no window and no hot water(though it did have a TV!). If I had turned left instead of right I would’ve found all the cheap accommodations. But I wanted to get settled and take off for the Thai Embassy to apply for the visa so I was a bit short on time.

Applying at the embassy was easy, though quite busy. I arrived half an hour after they had opened and I was already #96 according to my ticket. And do yourself a favour, do not bother with the men across the street that will try to fill out your forms for you and then charge you. They have forms inside the embassy area. You will need, however

- 2 passport photos
- photocopy of your passport photo page
- photocopies of your Cambodian, Laos, and /or Vietnam visas. For sure the Laos one.
- money in Thai baht. They will not accept anything else as far as I’m aware.

After handing in your passport, filled out form, and all the photocopies, you move inside where you wait once more for your number to be called to actually pay. The whole process probably took two hours with a scheduled pick-up time for the next afternoon. I spent the rest of that day scouting out cheaper accommodation.

The next day, after moving to a much cheaper place, I grabbed a bicycle, picked up my passport with Thai visa(hoodoo!!!) and checked out a few of the major sites in the city. I stopped first at a nearby temple to get out of the sun. There were a group of girls who were just getting off of school. In their limited English, they waved me towards them and gave me some candles and incense to burn with them while they prayed. The one girl showed me the correct way in which to hold the incense and the procedure of how one prays. It was such an interesting and unexpected experience to have.


The main city sights are all within an easy bike ride from the old town where most of the guesthouses are located. The biggest attraction, it could be argued, is the large Golden Pagoda, Pha That Luang, the national symbol for Laos. While it has a “entrance fee” posted out front, I never paid a cent to go in. Either because the person doing the tickets wasn’t there, or because I managed to sneak past them while they dealt with the huge group of Thai tourists. Either way, it was free for me!

Pha That LuangIMG_7931

Back up the road from the pagoda, back towards the river, is the Laos version of the Arc de Triumph, Patuxai. It actually looks like a cross between European and Asian styles of architecture. And, supposedly, it’s actually unfinished, though I couldn’t tell. And it only costs 3000 kip to take the stairs to the very top for a great view over the city(see first photo).

Patuxai, the Victory GateIMG_7964

And of course, there’s numerous wat’s and temples that one can go and visit. I only checked out a couple as I knew Luang Prabang was coming up.

Wat Si SaketIMG_7998

Avenue Lang Xang, the widest boulevard in VientianeIMG_8026

That DamIMG_8028

For a nightlife, Vientiane is . . . not that exciting. Most places shut down by midnight because of a strange law in place. I was lucky enough to meet up with a Korean expat(thanks to Grindr) who took me out a couple times to the local gay bar. It was actually pretty cool. Quiet, small, but good music and decent prices for beer. I also met up with a few ex-pats at a small grill house run by an American. I was there at least once a day for the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches, which were AMAZING!

And not so surprisingly, I met up once again with Lucy and Janine. And, once again, we managed to meet up with Sanders and Pascal again. It was an interesting night trying to find a place that had good music and cheap drinks AND was open past 9pm. We finally found an English style sports pub. It was awesome until about 11:30 when we noticed that it was completely filled with men. And the only ladies there were prostitutes or ladyboys.

Pascal and SandersIMG_8061

Can’t say “Only in Bangkok” anymore!

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