If Bangkok was the Melbourne or Sydney of Indochina then Vientiane, capital of Laos would be the Adelaide. Basically a flat, spread out, sleepy little town with Wats (Buddhist temples) in place of churches and plenty of them. Like Adelaide though, it has great food in abundance and you only need to scratch the surface to find a good time.
Most people agree you can do Vientiane in 2 days. To be honest, they’re right. There’s no tubing, hiking, kayaking or going crazy. There’s plenty to look at though. So if you like to wander around and just take a place in at your own pace, then you will enjoy your time Vientiane. If you were say coming down from a crystal meth fueled bender, then welcome to hell.
So if you find yourself in Vientiane, here’s a few things you have to do.
- The Scandinavian Bake and Pizza House is absolutely amazing. Without question one of the best pizzas I’ve had anywhere in the world in a long time. Great for lunch or dinner, or both! Word of warning though, the spicy pizza is not being modest. Those unseeded Lao chillies will bite your arse off.
- The Buddha Park is bizarre to say the least. It’s a good 30 odd kilometres out of town, or about 45 mins. It’s an interesting drive past all the consulates, the Lao Thai Friendship bridge and the daily grind for the locals. Apparently it was built in the fifties as some awkward merger between Hindu, Buddhism, concrete and Disneyland. Hey I said it was weird!
- There are some grotty Vietnamese restaurants crowded with locals that will serve the best spring rolls known to man. Lao people do spring rolls too, but the don’t do all the trimmings like the Viets do, they just fry and eat. These restaurants turn the humble spring roll into a sumptuous main course
- Dodgy shopping. There’s not quite department stores here, but there’s places like Walkman Village that sell quasi dodgey clothes and suspiciously light Nike sneakers! Some stuff is clearly wrong ($4 Mont Blanc pens anyone?) and others very legitimate. You be the judge.
- Eat, eat, eat! Food is such high quality and so fresh here that if you can find a bad meal, you’re really, really trying.
- Don’t be scared to rent a motorbike. They’re effortless to ride and great fun. There’s traffic but it’s not insanely bad. I started riding in Vang Vieng, but there was no need. I wish I picked up the bike in Vientiane.
What NOT to do!
- The Lonely Planet guide mentions there’s a shooting range. Sadly it’s no longer open to the public. The sign simply says ‘close’. However they mean ‘members only. Piss off whitey, we’ve had enough’. It’s part of a sports stadium where it looks like heaps of local athletes train.
- Again the Lonely Planet mentions the Australian Consulate have some sort of social club. That’s only open to Embassy officials now and you can’t simply rock up. Apart from those two things, we’ve had absolutely no problem with the LP and every recommendation was a dead set winner.
Laos by and large was one fanstastic surprise of a holiday. If you have any questions, leave a comment. I’ll see if I can help out!