July 21-24, 2015
We were willing to brave another trip by van, this time from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, Laos. Maybe because I knew what to expect or because the roads were less bumpy, this trip was way better than the last. It was 50,000 Lao Kip (LAK) or $6.19 USD. Our timeline:
8:30 – Ready to be picked up.
8:55 – Picked up and dropped off in the middle of nowhere, waiting for them to fill all the seats in the van.
9:10 – Crammed into a van and left Vang Vieng.
11:00-11:20 – Scheduled break to eat and shop, a percentage going to the driver, I assume.
13:05 – Arrive in Vientiane.
Upon arriving we booked a room at Lane Xang Hotel, which is hotel that has seen better days but is in an ideal location. Then, we were off to have good food and walk around the waterfront. There’s a plethora of superb food in Vientiane. My favorite three: Khop Chai Deu, Noy’s Fruit Heaven, and Lao Kitchen.
I had never had Laotian food before traveling to the country, but quickly learned how amazing it is. My favorite is larb (aka laap, larp or lahb) which looks like chopped-up who-knows-what, but it can be any sort of protein (e.g. chicken, beef, duck, fish, pork, mushrooms) flavored with lime juice, fish sauce, and fresh herbs.
Marcus and I parted ways here; he on a flight back to teaching in Saudi Arabia and I to stay and get my visa for Vietnam. I immediately missed my travel buddy, but was lucky to meet up with two Dutch girls we had perviously met in Vang Vieng. The three of us shared a room at the Funky Monkey Hostel, directly across the street from the Toh-Lao Coworking Space, which had the fastest most reliable internet I used in Laos.
Getting a single entry visa for Vietnam as a U.S. citizen was easy. I arrived when they opened at 9:30am, filled out a one-page application with a passport photo, paid $70 USD, and then walked down to the Patuxay Monument, Wat Phonxai and That Luang. I went back to the Vietnam embassy the next day at 4:30pm to pick up my visa.
I’ve been told time and time again that there isn’t much to do in this tiny capital city, but I think that it’s a great place to relax. I spent a few days eating good food, taking long walks to admire the mix of Soviet-, Sino- and Franco-styled architecture, and enjoying speedy internet. It’s also an excellent place to get to Four Thousand Islands (Si Phan Don) from, which is supposedly be endlessly beautiful, and a reasonable bus ride to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Don’t forget to convert your Laotian Kip into USD before you leave the country, as it’s difficult to get any other country to exchange that currency.