With the train to Bangkok not leaving until this evening, I still had plenty of time to look around Vientiane. There’s actually quite a few landmarks to visit near central Vientiane. That Luang is possibly the most recognisable building in Laos. The huge gold temple that dates back to the 16th century is certainly beautiful. Behind this is a huge and impressive Reclining Buddha. On the way back to the city is Patuxai, the Victory Gate. Following Laos independence, the US donated some concrete to help build an airport runway. Instead it was used to build this monument. Probably as a dig at the departing French colonists, the Victory Gate resemble the Arc de Triomphe, albeit the Laos counterpart is slightly taller. You can climb to the top to for a nice view along Ave Lane Xang, towards the Presidential Palace. This wide boulevard wouldn’t look out of place in Paris itself. Quite a few streets in Vientiane have names relating back to the French Empire days and there’s still a fair bit of colonial architecture remaining.
To quote the cliché, it certainly felt a lot like the day after the Lord Mayor’s show in Vientiane today. Streets that were yesterday packed with people celebrating the new year seemed eerily quiet. The party central areas along the river were being dismantled to reveal a fairly ugly part of the Mekong by day.
At some point today I realised that I’d lost my camera. The last time I saw it was walking home last night. I can’t blame drunkenness after about only four beers and I doubt it was pickpocketed as I kept my pocket zipped up while in crowds. Presumably I must have dropped it somewhere. Annoyingly I’d become a bit slack about backing up photos recently so lost a few days worth, hence the note at the bottom of each page for the past week or so. However I suppose that if you walk around with your belongings in your pocket for a year, losing something is almost inevitable. I’m just glad it wasn’t my phone, bank cards or passport.
As promised the tuk tuk picked me up from the hotel at 3pm and took me to a station seemingly in the middle of nowhere near the Thailand border. After an hour of sitting on the platform, a train turned up and made the short journey over the Friendship Bridge to Nong Khai, just inside Thailand. I’ve heard that the Thai authorities are taking a hard-line on immigration. UK visitors are allowed a 30-day continuous stay in the country but people are staying much longer by crossing the border and then shortly returning in order to get another 30 days. Apparently these border runs are being clamped down upon. This will be the third time I’ve entered Thailand in 6 weeks. My intentions haven’t been to abuse the rule, rather use Thailand as a route to get to Myanmar and Laos. However you never know if you’ll get an immigration officer who may not see it that way. There weren’t any such issue and I was allowed into Thailand. It was then all aboard the night train to Bangkok. Like the Bangkok to Chaing Mai route, it was a nice modern train. Despite having my doubts regarding the organisation of the train ticket yesterday everything today went smoothly.
While Laos initially wasn’t near the top of my places to visit I’m glad to have given it a chance. I was fortunate to visit during new year, more by coincidence rather than planning though! Laos is a beautiful country with the alluring Mekong River, as well as some beautiful mountain and jungle terrain. There’s decent tourist infrastructure, although it still maintains a chilled and relaxed feel. The Lao people have been overwhelmingly friendly, making for a really nice week or so.
I managed to lose my camera in Laos and unfortunately hadn’t backed up any photos for a week or so. Therefore I’ve borrowed some photos from Instagram of pictures taken as close as possible to when I was in a location. I did consider asking permission to use these photos but communicating with around 50 people would have got complicated. I’ve credited all of the photos used and in some occasions cropped them to maintain a matching size ratio. If by chance anyone whose photo is used finds this blog and would like me to remove the photo please let me know and I apologise in advance.