I was swatting mosquitoes while sitting on the Northern Bus Station in Vientiane. It was 7:30pm, 30 minutes before my boarding time and I started applying a mosquito cream lotion on my exposed skin. There were several buses online and I wondered which one would be the VIP bus I would be taking. I saw other foreigners starting to move on to the last bus on the right. Yep it was our bus, “Luang Prabang” as the sign says. I placed my large pack at the lower storage and hopped in.
My 2nd day in Vientiane is also the day I leave the city on my way to Luang Prabang. But before that, first, I have to visit Laos most important National Monument, the Pha That Luang. Officialy named Pha Chedi Lokajulamani, which means World-Precious Sacred Stupa is also the symbol of Buddhism and Lao Sovereignity. The stupa image, which is found at the national seal is located some distance from Patuxai, so it’s best to hire a Tuk-tuk going there.
From the main road of Th Lan Xang, it’s hard not to miss the very prominent monument of Patuxai. Even coming into Vientiane for the firs time, this Arch, which unmistakeably look similar to Paris Arc de Triomphe welcomed me coming from the southern bus station. But before I could take a picture and claimed I’ve been Lost in Paris, a closer inspection of this famed monument reveal their differences.
After visiting Xieng Khuan, I had lunch nearby and not to let the tuk-tuk blunder ruin my travel, I went on my afternoon exploring the city of Vientiane, which would be on spotlight in Asia later this year as Laos hosts the upcoming SEA Games on November 2009. For participants and audiences, there a number of attractions to keep them busy around Vientiane in between games. The city is dotted with numerous temples, it may not be as many as Luang Prabang, but there are special ones worth a visit. If I were only to visit a couple, I would definitely go with Wat Si Saket and Haw Pha Kaeo.
On my first day in Vientiane, I decided to visit the Xieng Khuan, also known as the Buddha Park, just 25km off the outskirts of the city. But before that I had to visit the Northern Bus Station to reserve a ticket to Luang Prabang. This is also my first foray to a Tourist Tuk-tuk just waiting at the side street a block away from where I was staying.
After getting cozy and comfortable at Lao Heritage Hotel, I set excitedly off to the streets of Vientiane to start visiting the sights. Unlike Pakse, Vientiane is many times larger, sprawling and streets are a lot busy. Tuk-tuks rules the streets here and my first foray with them was a hard (and expensive) at first but I learned to adapt as always and learned to travel the way the locals do and somehow minimize how the drivers here charge on a tourist basis.
Traveling on a VIP bus from Pakse, I arrived in Vientiane at the southern Bus Station by 6:00am. The southern bus station is somewhat rustic in feel. There was a sawngthaew there waiting, the driver said they would take us to the city for 10,000 Kip. Since I found that pretty cheap I agreed. But as expected, they packed the sawngthaew with other passengers, mostly tourist heading towards the city. Once full, we rolled off.