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Monday, November 22, 2010

Vientiane and Away

Joe's Guest House - quiet after the festival was over

Sunday we came down to Vientiane hoping to join in the last day of celebrations of the festival of lights and after taking a tuk tuk to town had to bang on the roof and get let off to finish on foot because the river area was barricaded off due to the crowds watching the boat races.

We managed to walk our luggage to Joe's Guest House right on the river front and ended up with a noisy balcony room overlooking the river and all the raucous celebrations, which by now had finished floating candle boats the night before and had reduced to a drunken shopping spree and fun fair (the supposed climax of the festival).

Quaint comments in Joe's and the restaurant we ate in down the street

The street along the Mekong after the celebrations were over

Drunken celebrations outside the hotel

We had to wade through this crowd to get to Joe's

Fun fair and boat races

The last of the festival of lights boats stranded on the shore

The evening celebrations

The nearby Vientiane markets

Patuxay the triumphal arch made with concrete that was
supposed to be international support for the airport runway

Under the arches and on top

Panorama of Vientiane from the top

Children waving red flags for the reception for the Vietnamese prime minister

Today it's pouring with rain and we have ordered a Vietnam visa through the travel agent and are on the edge of booking a flight to Hanoi. The news is that central Vietnam has been ravaged by a typhoon and is out of water and electricity and Thailand has had a coup d'etat.

We have taken another amazing race punt. Today it was raining until 2 so we got a little travel agent called A-rasa to get our Vietnam visa in the morning for a budget agent price of $45 each (others wanted $48-$50) hopefully delivered Wednesday afternoon (3 working days).

Then I checked the prices of flights to Hanoi and got the same agent to do the safer Vietnamese airlines (Lao air is regarded as a wing and a prayer) for $115, only $1 more than the lowest quote, so they have taken responsibility for the tickets too, so that if anything fails they did it. Then they were confident enough to book us into a flight on Wednesday at 7pm, when the visa comes at 4.30, so fingers crossed we leave the same day and arrive in Hanoi mid-evening. It will land us in Hanoi at night but it will save a day, and three and a half days in Vientiane are more than enough to see four temples and find some chocolate milk and baguettes.

So tonight I'm here booking with a couple of cheap guest houses that have e-mail addresses and in the old city of Hanoi not too far from where the Vietnamese Airlines minibus stops so we have a hope of some accommodation in the night.

Going to North Vietnam will bring in a sweep of new horizons, including famous Halong Bay studded with hundreds of limestone islands where there is one island - Cap Ta I think - which has habitation among the national park treasures.

This should give time for Hue and a couple of days later Hoi An, which was inundated by the last typhoon, to recover a water supply and electricity if we are lucky.

Hope this all works out but if it does it will give us just a nice time to see the sights of Vientiane before leaving. Tomorrow we'll hire bikes and have a go at the temples and anything else we can find nearby.

A series of images of the Buddhist temple Wat Si Muang revered as a folk temple
by the ordinary people of Vientiane.

The temple garden and its figures.

Caged sparrows boxed to be released with good luck prayers
and the spider monkeys which were howling at 120 decibels.

Architecture styles in Vientiane

A series of images of Wat Si Saket

Room with wall murals illustrated below

Wat Pra Kaew (now Haw Pra Kaew) a former temple
which housed the emerald Buddha in the temple of the same name in Bangkok.

Another temple we passed by

And yet another

Peculiar that Thailand is visible from our hotel window just across the Mekong and that it has had a coup and is again a military dictatorship.

Thailand from Vientiane

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