Arriving at the hotel I was quick out to explore the Vientiane city centre. As always I was residing out of centre avoiding the tourist and traveller crowds and had scribbled a self-mapped city tour ready to follow. I would start nearby and work downwards towards the banks of the Mekong River and Vientiane city centre tourist area.
Meeting the busy Avenue Lane Xang I turn left towards the Patuxay Monument. This towering Arch de Triumph has obvious influences from colonial French but in contrast is topped with magnificent Lao and mythical Buddhist design. Unlike the Fiats, Citroens and Peugeots of Paris the monument was circled by motorbikes, tuk-tuks, trucks and street carts. After a quick walk through surrounding gardens, fountains and the nearby Wat That Foon I turn back onto Lane Xang and venture towards the Vientiane city centre.
That Dam (Black Stupa)
Cutting into a pedestrian alleyway, the Frenchly named Rue Bartholonie, I come face on with That Dam a large stupa squashed secretly into a small circle of road. The stupa surrounded by quiet cafes sat peaceful at the time only to be interrupted by an occasional car passing as a short cut to the main road. The named Black Stupa is lit up in evenings and may better be described as green with moss and crawlers climbing to its peak.
Mekhong Riverside Area
In the Vientiane city centre I find the tourist area, leave the tourist area, find the hi-so area, leave the hi-so area, take a quick walk through Riverside markets then make my way back to the busy streets in search of food. I had two recommendations from TripAdvisor which both proved to be duds. The first packed with travellers and sounds of Hotel California and the second an overpriced French restaurant beside the Nam Phou fountain in the hi-so area. I opted for the first place I came across with more locals than tourists. The restaurant named ‘Three Sisters’ is far from tourist orientated and doesn’t front a sign in English (good luck in finding it). I sat creepily overlooking the cooking and ordered Lao Noodle Soup, Beer Lao, Lemon (Lime) Juice and the fried meatballs which proved popular with local patrons.
Out and About
I spend the remainder of the evening wandering in Vientiane city centre streets. My aimless walking prompts Ladyboy motorbikers to offer me unmentionable things for free. I decline and hurry on. Heavy rains hit. I seek refuge in a massage shop. I find ‘Lao massage’ to be identical to ‘Thai massage’ (bar the name). I opt for the oil massage. I am forced to wear embarrassingly small and thin underwear. After massage I climb back into my drenched clothes and step out onto empty streets of Vientiane city centre. With the roads empty the rich are out to play. I pass a Bentley or two and a black Ferrari speeds through the Vientiane City Centre. The social gap between rich and poor is obvious. I meet more humble folk burning Joss Paper (fake money) on my return to hotel. Burning Joss ensures deceased ancestors are well taken care of in the afterlife.