Monday, January 5, 2009

Travels:Laos. Sabaidee Vientiane!

Vientiane, Laos
Day 1
Saturday, December 20, 08

The flight to Bangkok took off from KLIA a few minutes later than scheduled, as the airline staff had to unload luggage from missing passengers who failed to show up for the flight. I wasn't too concern, I was going on a holiday!! We flew on Thai Airways, Business Class, and it was nice! Husband J was happy he could stretch his long legs. However, the food at the business lounge was kinda sad. Maybe it was too early in the morning, the flight was initially scheduled to take off at 7.55am.

2 hours later, we were in Bangkok, lounging around at the 'Royal Silk Lounge'. It was a 3 ++ hour transit, and nothing too exciting. The Thai Airways flight to Vientiane finally took off at 11.45am.

When we arrived an hour later, it was a hot afternoon in Vientiane. I got stuck at the immigration because they couldn't comprehend why I was flying in from Bangkok, but didn't have a Bangkok stamp in my passport. And they didn't ask me!! All the officer did was stare at me!! As if I could read his mind!! Haiiya..

*smacks forhead*

After much staring questioningly at me, one of the other officers asked me how long I was in Bangkok. I then understood the confusion, so I said, "Transit!" Confusion ended. I was free to be a tourist in Laos! J had to pay USD40 for Visa on-arrival (which was virtually easy), and we made our way to our hotel.

Vientiane is like any other Indochinese city, though it was not as busy as Phnom Penh. The city is littered with little local eateries, with french-influenced architecture, and cafes. At this time, there's less to no rainfall, so the city was a bit dusty. We got to our hotel, Lane Xang Hotel, across from the Mekong River. Lane Xang was the old name of Laos, and the hotel which we stayed in was said to be the meeting place of secret communist agents and high-ranked Soviet and Lao officials during the height of communism. So we were staying in a piece of communist history! But the hotel looked like it hasn't gone through much change, still looked like it was from the communist era! The rooms are decent, although for the kind of money we were paying, I've seen better. J and I were amused every time we entered the elevator, the carpeting had the day written on it! Typical if you are travelling and forget what day it is, just pop by Lane Xang Hotel, go into the lift, and read what's on the carpet!!

The local currency is Kip. And the notes carry many zeros....yeah, one of those. USD is of course accepted, but if you carry Thai Bhat, you're OK too. We decided to change our US Dollars to Kip. And you can only change in Laos. The Kip is not available outside Laos!

watching the sun sink over the mighty Mekong at 5.30pm

We decided to do a walkabout along the Mekong bank, wide-eyed as we passed by the numerous river bars scattered along the Mekong. We took the restaurant closest to the hotel, and it looked newer and swanky, compared to the others, which were essentially shacks. We sat and watched as the sun sink over the Mekong, and the temperature dropped. Vientiane goes dark by 5.30pm and gets quite chilly at night. We had rice for dinner, with mixed veggies in oyster sauce, fantastic seafood tomyam and fried beef in basil with chili that exploded in our mouths! Lao food is super hot!! That dinner on our first night, was fantastic, so we couldn't wait to sample more during this journey.

awesome, explosive food!!

At the restaurant, J and I were amused to find a replica of KL's twin towers at the restaurant next door. Surely not!! Which we later found out that Tourism Malaysia was holding a show at the restaurant next door. Yeah, OK. But bringing the Twin Towers was tacky at best!! We had to sleep through traditional Malay music as the noise was just from across the road from us. It was a tad bit annoying for me... Why couldn't they do the showcase in a proper hall??? In fact, there is a community hall nearby where the locals would go and do group aerobics...

KL's Twin Towers by the mighty Mekong!

J had to sample the coffee, so we stopped by at a swanky-ish local coffee shop called Sabaidee Coffee. I stuck to the safest - a chocolate latte - which was a good call, because I found Lao coffee to be a bit too strong for my liking.

The weather was pleasant, but I guess I would be at least in my wrap or light jacket when walking in Vientiane at night. Tomorrow, we'll do the sightseeing, so hopefully, the sun won't be too hot for us to move around.