Luang Prabang and Vientiane
(Carry lots of moist towelettes--my number one tip for all SE Asia)
pancakes, tour guides and gift shops everywhere. But it did not take long to get over that and fall in love with the place. It's beautiful. Traditional wooden houses mix with colonial French architecture on small streets studded with palm trees, bouganvillia, datura and orchids. There is almost no traffic--a few cars, motos, and bicycles. The windows of our room in an old guest house look out on a Buddhist wat (temple). This morning at we watched from our window as the monks went out with their bowls in hand to receive alms from the villagers.
This is the only food they eat. We, capitalist piggies that we are, have been chowing down on green papaya salad, spring rolls and grilled fish. I have been avoiding the meaty things, afraid they might be some of the sun-dried rats we saw being sold in the market.
Next time I’d check out the Auberge Sala Inpeng which looked lovely (www.salalao.com)
I picked up a brochure about an eco-lodge that looked interesting—about 50 km from
Also along the river was a nice bar on top of one of the tallest buildings (about 4 stories—forgot the name, but just look up and you will find it). It was a pleasant place to sit and have some lao-lao, a local rice liquor.
We ate twice at the Kualao Restaurant (111 Samsentahi Rd.) in an old house.
There is not really much in the way of sights in Vientianne, but the place has a wierd other-worldliness about it. It’s hard to believe it’s the capital of anywhere. Of course, there are wats, simpler than in Thailand. The Patuxai Monument is worth a visit to see Lao people hanging out. We liked the morning market, which is geared to tourists as well as selling everything from clothes to electronics (we bought much needed new pants and had them hemmed in one hour) but even more interesting was the Talat Khua Din, the produce market, nearby behind the bus station. It is funky and colorful.
We met long-time ex-pat Carol Cassidy at her very high-end Lao Textiles shop (in all the books) and had a good chat--the work is amazing and expensive.
Flights in and out of Vientiane can be expensive. You can take a bus (about 90 mins.) to Udon Thani over the Thai border and get a flight to Bangkok for a fraction of the price.
We did this, staying 2 nights at the border town of Nong Kai, which we enjoyed.