It was supposed to be a sixteen hours bus ride but turned into a twenty four hours land travel between Vietnam and Laos via Hanoi-Vientiane border. Definitely, the longest and by far the least comfortable bus ride out of all the Indochina border crossing, though I prepared my self for this trip and was looking forward leaving behind the gloomy Hanoi weather and longing for the typical South East Asian pleasant summer like weather in Laos.
The sleeper bus departs Hanoi in the evening and reached the border early morning the following day, just when you finally found a great sleeping position after relentlessly trying overnight to stretch your legs into whatever small space there is, the bus conductor will wake you up, asked everyone to step down and proceed to the immigration counter existing Vietnam and walked towards the one entering Laos.
Finally, we reached Vientiane at four in the afternoon.
I don’t know much or anything about Laos particularly Vientiane, trading my paperback in Hanoi for an outdated Lonely Planet is a good decision, now at least I have information that can guide me thru around the city.
I often think that a capital of any country is most often the busiest and loudest city but Vientiane though the capital and the largest in Laos is exactly the opposite.
The absence of high rise buildings and major highways with massive daily traffic and the fact that everything is within bicycle or walking distance, where streets can be easily mapped in your head gives Vientiane the ideal relaxing atmosphere that some people might mistaken for a small town stopover needed only when travelling towards the more popular city of Luang Prabang.
If you asked me, it would be a shame to miss out Vientiane for the very same reason what makes it great in the first place. I can’t think any city where a road roundabout is a stupa (That Dam) said to be once coated in gold.
It would not be right to call it as a “sleepy town”, in fact it is an active city with much to offer. If the vibe is too laid back it must be the presence of “wat” (temples) and Buddha statues in every corner of the town center it self.
The elegant five-tiered roof and golden spires of Wat Haisok, the Giant guards of the “Temple of Victory” or Wat Mixay and the historical landmark celebrating Laotian arts and culture at Wat Inpeng are only some of the temples easily reachable and located at the downtown streets of Setthariat and Samsenthai.
These “wat” are situated right next door to your hostel, they are free to enter and only requires one thing from visitors- that is to simply observe local customs and respect the monks living in the compound.
You know what makes Vientiane even better? To enjoy the capital city it does not require you to spend more than what you can afford, all you needed to do is to roam around the board walk at Nam Phu, pay King Anouvong statue a visit, then when tired go to the nearest convenience store for Magnum ice cream or a bottle of BeerLao, sit at one of the boardwalk stairs while waiting for the perfect sunset over the Mekong River.
I wish Vientiane will never change.