Saturday 26 August, cloudy, mainly fine, thunderstorms, 32°
I got up early to shoot the sunrise in the hope that the cloud had cleared overnight from the mountains, but it hadn't. So I headed back to the room, and then wandered to the hotel restaurant for breakfast at 7am. We then went back to our room to pack ( again ). I then went to the restaurant ( where the wifi was better ) to work on blogs until about 9:40am when our pickup arrived for the transfer to the bus depot ( we booked the Vang Vieng to Vientiane bus through the hotel, for K60,000 / NZ$10 ea ). The main bus arrived at 10:15 ( 10:00am departure time ) and it turned out to be a minibus ( 20 seater ) so we jumped on board and all our luggage got piled on the roof ( tied down and covered with a tarpaulin ), and we left at 10:30am.
The road to Vientiane is less winding that yesterdays road, we headed along the bottom of river valleys, passed a massive reservoir, then over a low range of hills and then down onto the plains that are north of Vientiane. We stopped for lunch at 12pm and then carried on across the plains into Vientiane at 2pm. Being in a minibus we did suffer some of the bad sides of driving, we had a couple of sudden stops due to us sitting too close to the car in front, and at one stage we tried to overtake a truck on a hill and blind corner and we had to bail out when a car came the other way .
Once we were off the bus we jumped into a tuk tuk ( we knew our hotel wasn't too far away but we didn't know the exact location ) and were quoted K40,000 ( NZ$8 ). Turns out our hotel was only about 400m away, so we could have walked!
We checked into the hotel ( Vientiane SP Hotel ) and went up to our room on the 1st floor ( no lift in the hotel so 1st floor is fine ). We dropped off our gear and went for a walk around town.
We were walking along the street when something that I thought was a branch fell from a tree beside me. When it hit the footpath it made an a soft thud noise and, as we carried on walking, I turned to look at the branch and saw it slithering away across the footpath. This was one of only 2 snakes that we saw on trip, but this was by far the closest encounter.
We grabbed a coffee / drink at True Coffee and some food at 3pm then we walked along past the Presidents Palace and then down to the Mekong ( and had a look across to Thailand on the other side ) and then walked back to the hotel. We were looking for a shop to get supplies but we wound up walking right around the ( large ) block to find one, then back to the hotel again.
Being a Saturday the main part of town seemed to be very quiet, and we were a little disappointed in Vientiane; it was not as nice as we had read in travel books and blogs. That opinion changed a bit over the next couple of days....
We rested in the hotel for a bit then grabbed a tuk tuk at 5:45pm.
You normally can't go 10m in SE Asia without being asked if you want a tuk tuk, so they are normally pretty easy to find. We always agreed a price before getting in ( although the price seemed to be somewhat random; we were charged between $3 and $5 for the same trip by various drivers )
So we grabbed the tuk tuk and ( after a language issue with not being able to pronounce the place name properly ) headed to Patuxai Park to photograph the Monument there at sunset ( the Laos version of the Arc de Triumph ). Apparently it was made from concrete donated by the Americans to build a new runway, so it gets called the 'vertical runway' by locals.
After hanging around in the park for a while we walked back to the Samba restaurant near the hotel for some burgers ( we felt we had deserved some western food after 3 weeks away ) for K122,000 ( NZ$20 ).
We walked back to the hotel at 7:30pm and had a planning meeting for the next stage of our trip: we booked a hotel in Hanoi, and the train from Hanoi to Danang, and the train from Danang to Ho Chi Minh. We will book our excursion to Ha Long Bay once we arrive in Hanoi. It turns out that the weekend we want to take the trains south from Hanoi / Danang / Ho Chi Minh is Vietnam National Weekend so the trains are heavily booked. Thankfully the website we are booking through ( www.12goasia.com ) are very helpfully and suggested a different train to the the one we wanted to book, as it will get us in the same cabin rather than being split up.
Time for bed; tomorrow we will see the sights of Vientiane.