Laos > Vientiane
VIENTIANE or VIANG-CHAN, 05-06 Oct 2009
From our hotel room, we have a good view of Vientiane city, with a population of about 200,000 people.
We have got ourself a car today, so a quick outstation trip is in the offing.
And traffic is always interesting to watch here. No hordes of noisy motorbikes, as found in Vietnam or Cambodia. Well, not yet.
As I said before, coconuts are very useful, even in the streets of Vientiane.
We soon hit a gleaming highway …
… and 23km from downtown Vientiane, we come to the 1st Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, built across the Mekong, linking Laos to Nong Khai (Thailand). Courtesy of the Aussies, the first ever bridge across lower Mekong.
At the head of the bridge, on the Laos side, there’s a commemorative plaque …
… with all the details. By the way the 2nd Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge opened in 2007, located in southern Laos, while the 3rd one is already under construction, somewhere between the 1st and the 2nd.
Laos drives on the right, Thailand on the left, but on the bridge, vehicles follow Thai rule. Note the single 1-metre-gauge railtrack right down the middle.
At last I’m over the Mekong, as rusty-looking as ever! In the distance see the power transmission towers sending juice to Thailand from a major hydro plant north of Vientiane. This electricity sale to Thailand nets Laos 25% of their foreign earnings.
Cars arriving from Thailand are most welcome!
We return to downtown Vientiane, smackbang in the middle of a festival – the Annual Traditional Boat Race on the Mekong, always held the day after Ork Phansa. Offices and schools are closed, but the race site is so congested …
… that this is all I could muster.
Food stalls everywhere, and I spot the Lao lemang (glutinous rice cooked in bamboo) among the roast chicken!
Tired by the sheer number of people, we soon leave and pass by the phalanx of security kids, manning all roads and lanes leading to the riverside festivities.
Monks are also keen on the boat race.
True Francophiles here, unlike in other Indochinese countries, …
… but English is making a strong challenge.
Rue Pangkham is tailor-and-fabric street …
… where one can get fine sinh skirts.
One of the many well-tended roads in Vientiane …
… which are patronised by equally well-tended sets of wheels.
The city is hosting the 25th Southeast Asian Games this December, and preparation is in full swing …
… especially the new shops selling all manners of souvenirs and trinkets.
And the Laotians have selected a cute pair of mascots. Haven’t seen any nicer Games mascots.
After 5 interesting days in Laos, we are back at Vientiane Wattay International Airport for the flight home. Not a bad outing, really; Luang Prabang has been beyond expectations, Vientiane so-so only.