crossing the road becomes adventure
One first things we noticed when we returned to Vientiane after almost 4 years was increased traffic in the capital and main roads. This is silly - even there is nowhere to park the car anymore in centre people are still travelling in cars, just because they have air con inside. There were lots of modern public buses donated by Japan and guess what - they're driving half empty.
Now, with that many cars the air quality got worse and with so many people driving without knowing how to drive or ignoring/not knowing the rules or both together you really have to pay more attention when you cross the roads than ever before. Ah! Not to mention rush hours. I also feel as a cyclist you're more vulnerable than pedestrian.
Yeh, that's development - but the infrastructure remained more - or less, the same. In this respect, Vientiane is anything but sleepy capital by Mekong.
- Budget Travel
During my few days in the capital i met a German couple who had their bag snatched by motorbike riders in the area of the Patuxai. Unfortunately the embassies were closed due to the New Year festivities so they were stuck for a while before they could replace their passports. Actually i think they were rather new at travelling as their bag was in the basket at the front of the bicycle they hired, so please don't repeat that, you will be asking for trouble. I also noticed that someone had put signs up on lamp posts throughout the city, offering $2000 reward for a laptop that had been stolen . And I met a couple wjho had their camera snatched, so tourists BEWARE and be SECURITY CONSCIOUS!!!
Rough Roads - Beware If Driving
The roads within the Vientiane CBD left a little to be desired. Our hotel was located on one of the main streets and a van pulled up outside our hotel and the front wheel fell through the drain cover.
10 metres from the van the road had potholes. As you move out of the city the roads we travelled on usually needed repair. Our stay was limited to 3 days and my assessment is based upon limited road use.
- Business Travel
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
Laos is a very hot and humid nation make sure you are prepaired. I am from a hot and humid place and Laos was almost too hot for me. Lots of water and cool off as often as possible the heat sneaks up on you before you know it!
vientiane atm charges
All atms in Vientiane charge a fee, but they don't all warn you about it eg. BCEL.
It's better to stick to the ANZ ones, light blue in colour, as they charge a standard 20,000 kip, are up front about it and they have the highest withdrawel limit, so it works out better value, but better then bcel, with is 70k per withdrawel, less than $100, so use it two or three times to get what you need, and pay a fee for each use!
Note for the visa runners
If you're going to the Thai embassy in vientiane for a visa, don't forget your two ID pictures and two photocopies, one of your passport photo page, one of your current visa for laos.
Once at the embassy, there are no ID pictures. There's a Xerox in the Thai embassy, but the power cable mysteriously missing and outside there are a couple of booths waiting to rip you off.
Don't let the staff at the gpo put your stamps on the envelope or card like I did recently. After I'd paid the envelope was dropped in her draw. I insisted on seeing it and she pretended she didn't understand, but eventually made out she'd 'forgotten' pulled it out and stuck more stamps on. I.e. the stamps she'd affixed were less than I'd paid.
But then the envelope went back in her draw. I still wasn't allowed to examine it, but eventually, she cancelled the stamps and dropped it in the outgoing mail box rather than her draw.
I think it would be better to let them know you want to stick your own stamps on from the start.
Holes in the Footpath - drowning trap!
These were massive, gaping holes where the full concrete cover was missing - and filled with foul looking and smelling water. Pays to watch where you are putting your feet, rather than ogling the closest temple or food outlet! Aaaarrghhh....the idea of ending up in here still makes me nauseated!
- Road Trip
Going South from Pakse
When you go travel south of Pakse be carefull not only for mines but the more you go down,the more you can find yourself in 'red' the zone. It does not meant that 'red'zone is the end of the world it is only that those people have other ideals,values.Those are not better or worser than ours they are just different and we have to respect them and their world.
Driver and "friend"
When we took the trip from Luang Prabang to Vientiane on the so-called first class bus, the experience was a once only! We firstly found out fairly quickly that there was no real efficient air conditioning - particularly on the mountainous road, in the heat of the middle of the day!
Secondly, the driver had a "girlfriend" with him, sitting right on top of him in the front of the bus. She clearly needed a lot of attention - and gave as good as she demanded! While it was clear that full attention was required to drive over the steep hills, and poor road condition, she cuddled, kissed, prodded and cavorted with him - I think the low point was when I realised that she was picking his pimples!!! There was a collective sigh from the front passengers when she alighted at a town enroute!
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
No Photos (in Si Sa Ket)
The pull out 35mm negative speaks about no photo taking of artifact at main chamber of Wat Si Sa Ket.
But taking photograph on things outside the main chamber is however allowed. I don't know whether they going to take away your CF or MS if you're using a digital camera? May be they know that most aim & shot digital will not get the effect of SLR & they are not so worry about it.
- Road Trip
Visa on arrival
There is a long queue to get a visa on arrival at the airport.
Try to get one before coming to Laos.
Otherwise, try to sit near the front of the plane so you can get off first.
Go straight to the visa on arrival queue, taking an application form (by the visa on arrival desk) and fill it in while you are queueing.
Don't forget to take passport photos (you need only one) and $30 cash.
- Business Travel
watch the glare
Pha That Luang is the main attraction in Vientiane but if you are lucky enough to visit it on a bright sunny day, be sure to wear sunglasses. There are so many gold surfaces in the compound that the reflection is blinding. It does make for great photos against crysal blue skies though. :)
- Religious Travel
UXO (Unexploded Ordnance)
Laos has the dubious distinction of being the most heavily bombed country in the history of warfare. During the war against North Vietnam, the U.S secretly (and illegally) conducted a massive bombing campaign of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in eastern Laos from 1964 until the ceasefire in 1973. Over this period more than 500,000 bombing missions were launched, dropping more than two million tonnes of ordnance. The bombing was concentrated in the north and southeastern provinces of the country.
Most of the aerial bombardment consisted of anti-personnel cluster bombs filled with bomblet sub-munitions. Each cluster bomb container was filled with up to 670 individual bomblets, each one about the size of a tennis ball and capable of killing and/or injuring a number of people. It is estimated that up to 30% of these bomblets did not explode.
Extensive ground battles also left a staggering amount of UXO including artillery and mortar shells, mines, rockets, grenades, and other devices from various countries of origin.
Even today, some 30 years after the end of the war, the Lao countryside remains littered with innumerable UXO. In Laos, there have been over 11,000 reported UXO related deaths or injuries since the end of the war. Various government and international agencies are working diligently to clear UXO from Laos, but it is a painfully slow process. The impact of UXO both in humanitarian and development terms, is a significant constraining factor on a country struggling to overcome poverty.
Note: The city of Vientiane does not pose a hazard from UXO. This warning is intended to alert travelers who are venturing out into the rural areas of the country.
- Hiking and Walking
On Highway 13, sometimes after long drive you will see a stetch of houses, around 6-7 of them built along the road.
These houses are in very basic structure.. using wood and leaves.. the bus can suddenly stop in front of a house and someone from the 'village' (6 houses can consider as a village?..) carrying a dead wolf or what run out, following by a group of children.. asking if the driver want to buy the animal.
After negotiating the price, the driver refused to buy and the man and those children disappeared at the other corner of the house..
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