Vientiane: Thursday 28th February 2008

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We went for a morning walk in Vientiane; the city is quite nice, small and relaxed. We walked along the Mekong River, passing river front restaurants with lots of tasty looking BBQ treats on sale: chicken, quail, fish and vegetables. We also saw live toads and large prawns in pots ready for cooking. I did a currency exchange of US$100, getting just under 9000kip at the Bank deCommerce. The Lao Bank further in town would have given a slightly better rate.

We walked past all sorts of shops, bought a few items from a minimart, saw laundry shops quoting 800kip for a kilo and stopped at an internet café and caught up on all of our e-mail. The speed and being able to access g-mail was a luxury after Myanmar.

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We got a lift back to the hotel and met up with Mone for our afternoon guided city tour.

Mone was very formal and polite, always greeting us as Mr. Mark and Mrs. Michelle. We went to Vat Sisaket and learnt of the four items in each temple (but now I can’t remember them!) I think it was the cloister, the stupa, the monastery and the sim.

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We then went to Vat Phra Keo which is the royal temple. Inside are museum pieces brought in from other temples around Laos. The Emerald Buddha once housed here was taken to Bangkok by the Thais when they raided Vientiane, and still remains there much treasured by the Thais and lamented by the Lao people.

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From here we drove to That Luang Stupa, Laos’ most revered temple. Here there were golden paper offerings floating in the breeze, and the temple cloister was filled with old Khmer artefacts. As we were leaving, the sounds of drums filled the air.

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We visited Patouxy, Vientiane’s vertical runway. So named as it was built with cement donated by the Americans to build the airport runway. A mix of styles from Laos and France, I climbed to the top where there were panoramic views over the city.

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The market was now closed, so Mone dropped us off on the river front. We stopped in at the Mekong Riverside Restaurant. Fried spring rolls, chicken satays, veges and grilled fish. Delicious! There were a couple of creepy, fat, ugly, old white guys at the bar with some younger women, probably Thai. They were swearing at a lady with four children who was coming up to the restaurant hoping for some handouts. Lovely sorts.

Nearby some outdoor aerobics was on to some very boppy music as we walked back to our hotel. I wanted to have a massage, not being able to arrange one in Myanmar and there was one on the side of the road for $3 per hour. However I was absolutely busting and barely made it back to the hotel in time. By then I couldn’t be bothered walking back so crashed at the hotel instead.