Asia | South East Asia | Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) | Mekong | Vientiane – Day 39 – Vientiane, Laos
After a fitful sleep again last night, due in part to the toilet in my room which did a loud impersonation of a spluttering outboard motor every time any other toilet in the building was flushed, I awoke this morning, stocked up on a thick wad of Kip courtesy of a Franklin, and scouted out much more preferable digs. My new room has air con, hot water, a writing desk and a real mattress. Luxury!
I then continued my admin chores (taking advantage of the big city) by wading into the Talaat Sao, the Morning Market (which is open all day). I bargained hard for shampoo to replace the globs of it that covered all my toiletries in two separate travel-day explosions earlier in my trip. I was quite proud when, after visiting several different stalls selling personal care goods, I got the price from 20000 down to 18000 Kip. Ok so the actual savings of $0.25US isn’t that impressive in absolute numbers, but on the scale of the economy here it’s worth a couple of bottles of drinking water. Similar investigatory forays through other sections of the huge market ended in the purchase of a flashlight, batteries and an umbrella, the latter a stunning pink and purple checkered number!
As I was finishing my shop-a-thon I ran into Pepe of Mexico, a traveler I had met twice previously at Kratie in northern Cambodia and at Don Det in southern Laos. He too was finished whatever power purchasing he had been doing.
We strolled down towards the river, took a leisurely lunch, and then followed my guide book’s recommended ‘architectural walking tour of Vientiane’. Among the highlights of this tour very few were architectural. (You kind of know what to expect when an architectural tour recommends going out of your way to view banyan trees.) Actually, a couple of the wats (temples) we came upon during the tour had some lovely wood-carved facades. And the walk was a nice way to pass the hot afternoon while connecting with the laid back feel of the city. Among the real highlights was a warm conversation with two early-20’s-ish Lao english language students who approached us along the river bank to practice their english. They were a bit shy but very pleasant and unassuming; sort of like Vientiane. The other highlight occurred when we happened upon a game of kick-volleyball on the grounds of Wat Hai Sok. Two teams of three players each face each other across a volleyball net. The rules are the same as volleyball except that instead of using their hands to move the ball around they used either their feet or their heads. The ball itself was smaller than a volleyball and made of wicker. The incredible coordination and skill exhibited by the players was fascinating as they set each other up for spikes of the ball accomplished by high-flying karate style kicks.
Dinner tonight was a group affair. Pepe brought along his travel companion, Dora of Denmark. Meanwhile, while waiting for them to show up at the appointed spot, who should walk by but David of S. Africa and Hadas of Israel, a couple I had travelled with in Cambodia about three weeks ago. They joined in the meal festivities. Drinks by the river followed, where we were joined by a half dozen other travelers that Pepe had some connection with.