Finally landed! I thought the flying would never end for this trip but I couldn’t wait till we finally arrived.
Allow me to fill in the blanks here, so after an excruciating 13 hour layover in Singapore we made our last leg to Vientiane. Upon landing we made it through customs with ease and speed, picked up our luggage and walked out the receiving door to meet our driver, Si.
As much as I wanted to take on the whole city as soon as landing…just to get out and to start moving again I realized as soon as we got in the van, after a shower and some food I wouldn’t want to be up for anything but sleeping horizontally. After a good night’s, much needed sleep we were in business!
We headed down for breakfast in the hotel lobby and the food looked amazing! I had to smile to myself as two Buddhist monks joined our table, thinking ‘where else could you say a monk joined you for breakfast?’
We still had a few hours before our driver was coming to pick us up to go tour the city so we decided to take a walk to kill time. This sight is apparently very confusing the men here, seeing Harmony strapped to my chest got a lot of strange looks as we walked down the broken and uneven sidewalk.
My favorite part of visiting somewhere new is setting out with an idea of where you want to go and then along the way following ” rabbit trails” and finding something unexpected…that’s exactly what we found. We were walking towards the statue of the last king of Laos, King Anouvong, when we saw hoards of people funneling into a small walkway that looked like a market. We decided to go with the flow of traffic, else be trampled, and we stumbled into a morning market!
What fascinating items everyone had for sale, nothing was off limits. Fruit and herbs, fresh caught Mekong fish, and animal intestines! I am thankful this is a morning market, where the heat of the day isn’t too bad, else the smell would he so strong you could see it.
Time and time again thus far on the trip I am constantly surprised on how much attention we get because of Harmony. To those parents traveling with children and are concerned, don’t be! We have been accepted here with open arms, people go out of their way to say hi to us, making funny faces just to see her smile.
I am impressed thus far with my navigating skills on this trip, usually I have a difficult time finding my way around without a map but on this trip I have a good record of using landmarks to find my way around! We worked our way back from the market down the small and always busy streets of Vientiane to our hotel where we were going to meet our driver to see the rest of the city.
We started our adventure with a slice of history, visiting the oldest temple in the city – Wat Si Saket “home of ten thousand Buddhas”. Build in 1820 by King Anouvong, (same king I mentioned before). It is one of the very few temples that survived the destruction that came with the Siamese armies, that looted and burnt the city in 1827. I was awe struck by the structure of the temple. Finely carved details on every surface of the structure – each with it’s own symbolic and religious meaning. Along the outer walls of the temple are the final resting places of over 10,000 Buddha statues and we found them in every size and color!
Once I had collected every possible angle to photograph of the temple – other than inside due to it being forbidden (though I was tempted) we loaded up again. Our driver took us the “The Heart of Vientiane” if you don’t visit this square some would say you never came to Vientiane. That Lang Stupa square is absolutely massive! It is where most festivals in the city are held and is surrounded by many city official buildings making it truly the heart of the city.
Sadly, many of the locations we wanted to visit were closed. But one place that was open was the Vientiane Cope Visitors Center. This somber location is one I believe that everyone should visit during a trip to Vientiane. It is important to understand history and sometimes that history isn’t very pretty, the Cope Center is the Prosthetic Outreach program for the Un-exploded Ordinance (UXO) across the country of Laos. Every year dozens of people lose their lives or limbs to pieces of bombs that were dropped during the “Secret War”. This is a battle this country is facing daily. A sad and soulful location but it is one I believe is very important to visit because then you will be able to understand a little of the suffering this country has lived with for decades. For more information on this visit http://copelaos.org/
Our day continued by seeing several of the city’s sights but none of them compared to our last place to visit for the day, the Night Market.
To anyone who knows me, you know that I am a sucker for a market. I love the colors, people and the items you find at a good market. This one was no different…
We got to the market location early so vendors were still setting up so we decided to take a stroll down to the Mekong River. Standing on the banks you can see Thailand on the other side. I didn’t understand the close proximity of the city to Thailand, I thought there was at least a little more distances between country lines. The market square came alive! Ladies on bicycles offering manicures, street performers setting up the speakers, food vendors were getting the grills heated up for business. The whole area transformed in what seemed like a few minutes. I will be sad to leave this city tomorrow but I am ready to see more of this beautiful country! More to come later
Traveling Photographer Out!