It truly is, as my guidebook said, “a breath of fresh air”. Perhaps it is just escaping the madness and mayhem that is Bangkok but I think regardless of where I’ve come from I’d find this place magical…I’m in Vienteinne, the capitol of Laos. It lays in the central south of the country, about 20 minutes from the border of Thailand, in order to arrive here – you must cross “Friendship Bridge” which I find so appropriate, being that these people are so incredibly welcoming and friendly…did I mention this place is also cheap as chips?? well, it is. That is a nice welcome as well (given that I have pretty much blown my budget out of the water). speed dating
The city is lush and green because it is on the Mekong River, and as I write the sun is beginning to set, casting that dusky haze over everything, making it that much more beautiful. There are loads of vendors across the street, all busying about in their pointy straw hats selling fruit, fishes, and other asian delicacies whose names I cannot spell or pronounce. This city was once colonized by the French and, like Siem Reap and Phnom Phenh in Cambodia, the influence is not hard to find. Tiny French bistros line the riverfront complete with outdoor “cafe style” seating…much of the architecture includes French style facades and those adorable balconies that are so, so… jene ce pais…men ride around on bicycles with carts full of baguettes attached to them, and if that wasn’t enough – there is even an Arch de Triumph here as well! I am already in love with the place. Bangkok can definitely wear a person thin…
I arrived on an overnight bus from Bangkok – yes, that is approximately 15 hours of travel by bus. Unfortunately for literary licenses sake, there were no goats, chickens, or even locals aboard – it was strait “farang” (tourists) complete with air-con and semi reclining seats. Nothing interesting there. Upon arrival, I hired a “tuk tuk” driver which is a standard mode of transportation here. They are basically motorbikes that have been “souped up” with bigger engines and are attached to a 2 wheel cart with a little roof and open sides and back, which is where up to 4 passengers sit. They are fun as hell to drive around them – but frightening at the same time, as they seem able to go at mock speeds and weave through traffic (Bangkok is traffic HELL, thankfully there is none here).
I was exhausted, to say the least, but I decided to give the town a whirl anyway. I started down the little streets, strolling up one and down another until I had to find respite from the heat – which, by the way, was just short of unbearable. I sat down to have a drink and put my nose in my guidebook looking for things to do. What tickled my fancy?? An herbal steam bath…yes, that is right, ironic as it sounds that is what I opted for (it sounded so appealing and just so Laos). So I started on my way.