|My first introduction to Vietianne occured at night. We landed around 7:30 pm after a 4 hour delay in Luang Prabang. Apparently delays are common. We were met at the airport, piled into waiting vans and sped off to the hotel. At night Vietianne looks like any other city: neon signs enticing you with the promise of food and entertainment, great deal of traffic (with a suprising amount of SUV's), and constant construction with no end of completion in sight. The big difference here compared to Bangkok or Chiang Mai is the conspicuous lack of Wats (temples), alters, flags or any other identifiably Laotian structure or advertisement. It seemed to me just a endless maze of dirty streets. The morning brought about a new perspective of this city.
In the center of Vietianne is a replica of the Arc de Triomphe and the street system around the Champse d'Elysee in Paris. The city planners actually copied the orderly grid of European city streets thus making it relatively easy to find ones way here. Vietienne boasts the best place to see French colonial architecure. While this is true, it was shocking to see the level of delapitation on these once stately houses. Structurally you can see that at one time they were seriously impressive now these belle epoque ladies look aged, dirty and neglected. This morning we went to the day market. Trippy experience. The market is covered, two stories, and takes up an entire city block. Inside you will find row upon row of cell phone vendors, refrigerators, stereos, watches, cameras, and silk. Upstairs the entire floor is monopolized by gold and jewel vendors. Remember, one city block, that's alot of gold. Dispersed throughout the crowd are the police. Usually drinking coffee, or playing checkers except these checker players had high powered machine guns laid out across their laps. Seriously a surreal place. Once we left the market, we walked down a boulevard that apparently had a couple of schools on them. The school children were running around in their school uniforms.Blue bottoms, white button downs and the red tie of the young pioneers. I haven't seenthose red ties on anyone for a very very long time.
Admittedly today wasn't a great day for me. I woke up light headed and stayed that way all day. My guide said I was dehydrated so I've been chugging down these rehydration powders. I also am sporting a heat rash on my shoulder that is itching like crazy. I spent the better part of the afternoon napping and drinking fluids. We leave tomorrow for the boonies. We are going to Hin Boun in Laos were we will be staying with families in their houses..on stilts. Sleeping on mats with mosquito netting all around. I will be incommunicado for two days. I hope everyone is well and thanks to you who have been leaving me messages, I love reading them. Sabadee!