The next destination on my travels through Laos was Vang Vieng. The bus ride through the mountains of central Lao’s from Luang Prabang proved to be the worse of the Laos bus rides so far; so bad in fact even the locals were all being sick! I dealt with it better than expected, but I guess the 80 or so trains and buses I’ve taken in the past six months may have made me somewhat immune.
I’m not sure, but I suspect that Vang Vieng is one big cartel of locals selling the same thing such as the tube rides, sandwiches, accommodation at the same high price ; I guess if you can get away with it why not?? I had come to Vang Vieng partly for the scenery, but mainly the tubing; which is a ‘rite of passage’ on the South East Asia backpacking circuit. Basically it involves tubing down the Song River, meeting lots of travellers, drinking at bars with ridiculously high rope swings and trying not to injury yourself too badly as most will do it again the next day. Sound like fun? It sure is.
With river tubing well and truly out of my system and with a few sore muscles I would head south to my last stop in Laos; the capital Vientiane. Anyone who has visited Vientiane will tell you the same thing – a day or two is plenty as there really isn’t much for the traveller here compares to other parts of Laos. Still, Laos’ most important national monument (Pha That Luang), a symbol of the Buddhist religion and Lao Sovereignty, is here and that is definitely worth a visit. Vientiane is also a convientian place to cross the Mekong and the border to Thailand as the city lines the shores of the river.
Approximately 210,000 thousand live in Vientiane, and at the heart of the city is the Patuxai, which is reminiscent of the French Arc de Triomphe, although even the Laotian admit it’s a poor substitute as there is a sign on the side of it which reads:
“…..never completed due to the countries turbulent history.
From a closer distance, it appears even less impressive,
like a big concrete monster.”
The final day of sightseeing I did in Laos was to a park on the banks of the Mekong River called Buddha Park. The park is filled with Buddhist and Hindu statutes that an eccentric artist constructed some 40 years ago. I talked to some Monks while I was there and they seemed like perfectly normal teenage guys.