After our tubing experience, we decided it was time to move on from Vang Vieng. We caught a bus to Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
Our first night we met a Lao man who spoke impeccable French at dinner. We asked him what he would recommend doing in the city, and his answer was pretty straightforward: 'c'est pas extraordinaire, it's nothing special'. Wow, you're really selling the place.
Turns out there really are things to do in Vientiane:
Located in the center of the tourist area, right across from the Royal Palace, Wat Sisaket is a unique temple in the sense that it has hundreds, if not thousands, of little sconces covering the walls inside.
Inside these little books are pairs of little metal Buddhas. Tres cool.
Wat That Luang
Seen as the most important monument in Laos, That Luang is located a bit on the outskirts of town.
It is a huge area, with gorgeous gardens all around.
The big golden stupa is said to house a hair or a bone of Buddha himself. Pretty legit.
There is also a grand building that has Laotian paintings on display, with another couple of temples that you can check out.
We even found a reclining Buddha statue! So cool.
COPE Rehabilitation Center
We checked out the COPE center to learn a bit more about the rehabilitation available for Lao people who have the unfortunate occurrence of encountering UXO.
We watched another informational movie on the USA 'secret war' with Laos.
I didn't realize this, but prosthetic limbs actually wear out in about 2 years.
Again, it was pretty emotional to learn about the devastating after-effects of war, and some first-hand accounts from parents who have list their children to UXO, due in part to the fact that most hospitals around Laos don't have the oxygen or blood necessary to save them.
If ever you wanted to donate to a cause, definitely check this place out!
The National Museum has information and artefacts from ancient Laos history right up to modern day.
It gets a bit patriotic and biased around the civil war and the USA 'secret war', saying a lot of thins like 'the gun used by comrade so-and-so to bring down the US imperialist planes carrying guns for their puppets'. No joke.
Either way, it was informative, although it closes promptly at 4 - we know because they turned off the lights at 3:45 and then chase us out at 3:58. They are serious about their closing times.
Lots of guns on display.
I saw the most unfortunate entry in the signature book. So disrespectful, although...slightly right on the biased part.
Arc de Triumphe
It's not much of a destination, but there is a big concrete replica of the Arc de Triumphe.
Our tuktuk driver dropped us off for a little looksy on our way back from That Luang (and obvi tried charging us more).
As per usual, there was also some great food to be had in the Lao capital.
The best ice cream I've had in Asia so far at a little place next to Joma cafe (the one near the Presidential Palace).
Amazing passion fruit juice. I've notice most things are garnished with mint in Laos...loves it!
An amazing hibiscus and lime daiquiri at Makphet, which is an awesome restaurant that trains street kids to work in the hospitality industry. We went for the 50% off happy hour (5:30-7:00) since the menu was slightly on the expensive side.
Cutest dogs getting a bath.
Overall, Vientiane is a bit of a sleepy town with not much in the way of activities, but there are still places to see nonetheless.
It is a great stop-off point between the north and south of Laos, and has many buses available to go to straight to Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia.
I'm headed south now to Pakse to get in some trekking and hopefully have a little break from the crazy backpacker route.
A la prochaine!