A Travellerspoint blog

Laos

Wandering, eating and drinking in Vientiane

sunny 39 °C

Today we got up nice and early and went for our complimentary breakfast. It was a choice of eggs and a baguette so Chelsea was extremely happy as she loves bread. After we set off on a mission to find the Thai embassy in order to apply for our visa. We decided to get a tuk-tuk and bumped into an American lad who was doing the same so shared the ride with him. It is only a short ride and cost 40000Kip. When we arrived we were immediately approached by several touts trying to get you to do the visa application through them, so we politely walked past and into the visa office. We collected the forms and released we had forgot our photocopies. We hadn't even brought a pen to fill in the form. Chelsea managed to cadge a pen of a nice man and we managed to get all our photocopies done upstairs in the embassy. The form is simple and you need, two passport photos, a photocopy of you Passport, any old Thai visas and your Laos visa. You also need your actual passport and a completed visa application. After you have completed the form you collect a number and wait in the seating area until your number is called. You then hand in the form and then wait in a separate seating area for your number to be called again so you can pay. It costs 1000B and they accept no other currency. It was a slow and perplexing process. There is no reason why the lady who you initially see can't take the money off you when you hand her our forms. You apply for your visa between 8.30am and 11.30am and collect it the next day between 13.30 and 15.30.

After we had sat with many other people in silence waiting to apply for our visa  we decided to walk it back to the city centre. We dodged all the tuk-tuks who were desperate to know 'where you go' and managed to navigate back. We passed several lovely pagodas and temples, as well as victory monument and the presidential palace. Some of Vientiane is beautiful and spotless. The streets are really clean and landscaped and especially around the palace it is gorgeous. Big mature trees line the pavement so you can escape the sunshine and small shops selling, wicker, cloth and bits and pieces nestle in between high, French style buildings. 

When we made it back we were extremely hot so we decided to duck into a cafe. We both had iced coffees and Chelsea had a cookie. The cafe was called Joma and was really modern and stylish with big artworks hung on the walls.  It sold sandwiches, bagels, salads and baked goods. It is such a novelty for us to be able to have sandwiches, we love all the cafes. We spent an hour cooling off in the cafe and then decided to have a walk down towards the Mekong river. There is a new park so we decided to walk, sit in the shade and read our books. When we got there the park was immaculate but totally deserted and we can see why. The sun was blisteringly hot and there was no shade whatsoever. We walked it to the river, which was partly dry and wandered around the gardens for as long as we could before we managed to find a half shaded bench. 

By this point it was late afternoon so we headed back calling at a bar for a few cheeky Laos beers. It was so warm we had to have ice in our beer to keep it at a cool temperature. We went back to our room and laid and watched a film in our hotel for a few hours before heading back out for some food. 

We decided to head for the bar we visited yesterday and have a happy hour beer and entrées. They were just as good as yesterday but today there was an egg one, a fish one, a mushroom and a blue cheese.  Luckily for us there was a rotund man at the bar who kept demanding more so we ended up having loads of little mouth watering bites before it was time to leave. Earlier today we spotted a fountain square with lots of bars and restaurants round it that was all closed. We assumed it would be open at night so we headed there. It was really lovely at night, it was all lit up with lights, the fountain was on and they had a band playing in the middle. All the restaurants and bars were open and we browsed the menus until one caught our eye. It was a tiny French restaurant tucked away inthe corner. We had a three course set menu for 67000kip with a carafe of red wine. We had salad, steak and potatoes and ice cream and fruit and it was totally delicious. 

We really are enjoying Laos capital city. Before we came we had heard a lot of bad things about it but we are glad we didn't listen. There is something for everyone, there is lots of street food vendors right next door to seriously upmarket bars and eateries. There are cafes on every corner and the strange mix of Asian and European food makes for a really interesting break from the rest of Southeast Asia we have seen. We seem to be walking from cafe to cafe, sampling different cuisines and atmospheres and we really like it. 

Posted by Chelsandliam 10:36 Archived in Laos Tagged laos vientiane Comments (3)

Kanchanaburi to Bangkok to Vientiane

sunny 38 °C

 Our first day off in several weeks started with a well needed lay in. We were up and packed by 9.30 though, said goodbye to our oversized kittens and on our way into town. We sorted out our motorbike which we hadn't paid for in around six weeks, paid up and went for some breakfast. We paid for a mini van to take us into Bangkok from a local tour company as the public bus takes you right to the southern bus terminal which is too far out for our quick departure through Bangkok. We sat and waited for it to arrive until 1.30pm on the river Kwai with a drink. It was lovely to be doing nothing. The bus to Bangkok only took two hours and we both fell asleep. When we arrived in Bangkok near Khao San road we immediately shared a taxi with two girls from our bus to the train station. Our bus driver had advised us not to pay more than 200B and the mans first quote was a million baht and then 800B. Anyone that knows Chelsea can assume she was not amused and after a small and intense barter/argument / game with the man trying to wind us up and rip us off she got the taxi man down to the right price. We don't actually think he wanted to take us at all and wasn't pleased he had to actually do some work we think. 

We booked our ticket no problem and with no reservation. There are several people with official name tags in the station that are there to give information and help, just be careful as there are also lots of people pretending to help. We got a second class, air conditioned ticket for the 8pm nighttrain, costing 700B all the way to Nong Kai. We had four hours to kill so we wandered accros the road to a street stall and had some food. Chelsea had duck and rice and Liam has spicy Papaya salad. It was delicious. Bangkok is hectic and often unpleasant but the food is awesome. After our bellies were full we went into a bar and had several drinks until it was around half seven and then we crossed the road backI to the station to get our train.

The train was a lot better than expected. The bottom bunks are marginally more expensive that the tops but they are both really comfy. The bottom bunk starts off as two chairs and then as it gets later the train porter comes around, makes the beds and then one person moves to the top bunk. There are fresh sheets, blankets and a mattress, as well as a curtain. There are sinks and toilets and a dinner and breakfast service. It is really nice and we enjoyed sitting on the bottom bunk talking and reading until we were too tired and went to sleep. It gets a little bumpy but we both had a really good sleep and the man had to wake us up to serve us breakfast. 

Breakfast was chicken rice soup, coffee and orange juice and after we sat on the bottom bunk snoozing and reading until it was time to get off. We arrived in Nong Kai at around 9am to 9.30am and didn't even feel groggy from the travel. We would definatey recommend night trains in Thailand. They are spotless and comfortable and we got a lot better sleep than we do on a bus. 

When we arrived in Nong Kai we then had to get a shuttle train across the border into Laos, to Thanaleng. It only costs 20B and is really easy. You go through Thai immigration at Nong Kai and they stamp you out of Thailand on the platform. You them board the train which only takes around fifteen minutes. When you arrive you are in Laos. We applied for our visa on arrival at the station which costs 35 dollars and filled in the form and then caught a pickup truck into Vientiane, which is only around half and hour to forty minutes away.

The whole process was incredibly stress free and simple and we actually really enjoyed the traveling which never happens. We would even go as far to say we are looking forward to the train back. Haha

When we arrived in Vientiane we weren't sure what to expect. We had done no research on where to stay or what the city was like so set off in search of a guesthouse. We looked in around five before we settled on one. We are staying in Mixok Guest House for 130000Kip a night. It has air con, an on suite, wifi and free breakfast. It is clean but basic so we are happy. We settled into our new home for a few days and then decided to explore the city. 

Some of the streets are quite wide with lanes of busy traffic while others are small side streets with independent guesthouses, cafes and shops. We wandered the streets and went into a little French cafe for some lunch. It was beautiful inside and outside and  we were instantly transported to Europe. We both ordered warm sandwiches, Liam roast beef, potato and mustard and Chelsea, tomato, pesto and mozzarella. It was delicious and for desert we had a macaroon. We are surprised by the amount of French inspired cafes there are in the city. We are aware of the French occupation of Laos but we didn't expect such a big presence still. Some of the places are small and charming but others are extremely glitzy and modern. It is like no other city we have been to so far.

After a slow paced afternoon wandering we showered and decided to go out for some tea and drinks. We were on route to a restaurant called La Vendrome which had good reviews when we spotted a posh bar called I-Bar  with a happy hour sign. We went inside and with any beer you got one free and received free entrees. We ordered our drinks and they brought round tiny offerings of different flavours, pate, blue cheese, sun dried tomato and olive. It was a lovely atmosphere and we made ourselves hungry with tiny offerings of delicious bite size snacks so we made our way to the restaurant. The place was a small building, covered in ivy and was really cute. We ordered our meals and a carafe of wine and really enjoyed it. Liam had pasta and Chelsea has pizza and both were extremely good. 

Just as we were about to leave it started to pour down with rain so we decided to wait until it passed. It was a massive thunder storm, the biggest we have ever seen. The lightning lit up the whole sky and the thunder vibrated inside your chest. Chelsea was a bit scared to walk through it so we waited for it to pass a little before we headed back.

Our first impressions of Vientiane are really good. It is a lot more upmarket than we expected and there is no shortage of nice bars and places to eat. Hopefully we can fit quite a few in before our time is done :)  

Posted by Chelsandliam 09:59 Archived in Laos Tagged thailand laos kanchanaburi vientiene Comments (3)

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