|Long bus ride here on a 'VIP' bus, which basically means there are no passengers sitting on your lap or carrying chickens. The trip is about 340kms, but takes 11 hours - gives you some idea of the terrain and the condition of the roads. Even though it was a long trip, the scenery in places is spectacular and the life of the locals living on the roadside always presents something new.
Vientiane is the capital city of LAOS, situated on the banks of the Mekong with Thailand visible across the river. Many (formerly grand) old, French colonial buildings are now being used as government buildings, museums, banks and NGO offices.
The city is small as Asian cities go, with only a couple hundred thousand people here.
We visited a few wats, though most of them are new and not as charming as what we saw in Luang Prabang. The national symbol of Laos is Pha That Luang - a large, golden stupa that reminds me of what a communist wat would look like (judge for yourself).
The other main sight of interest was the Lao National History Museum which had a good overview of the country's history - including an entertaining section with lots of photos of the communist takeover and captions like "US imperialists and their puppets". Christy felt like such an oppressive puppet master after the museum visit! Still trying to overcome the guilt.
We met a nice Australian couple from Canberra (the first non-Melbourne Aussie's of our trip) on the bus trip down and shared a few nice meals with them. Spent Christmas with a bottle of wine and takeout pizza on our balcony. Not too bad, though we were thinking of our families and friends, far-away. We will head further south on the 28th aboard another VIP bus - a sleeper this time. More to come on exactly what that entails.