Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Day 6; trip to Vientiane, Lao PDR.

Day 6; trip to Vientiane, Lao PDR.
Today started with breakfast at the hotel after which we left for Nong Khai, a small Town located at the border with Lao PDR (People’s Democratic Republic).

After a 30 minute trip, having arrived in Nong Khai, we needed to wait for about an hour for the official papers for our Thai friends that allowed them entry to Lao. Nong Khai seems like a real nice and tidy place, especially between 8 and 9 am.

A consistent theme seems to be a Naga (snake like creature), which is to be found at the entrance of the city and in the city itself at this roundabout.

Building next to That Luang, Vientiane

After we got to the Thai - Lao border, both countries were always divided by the Mekong river but fairly recently they are now connected by the Thai - Lao friendship bridge, which we crossed into Lao.
At the border it was organized chaos, first I had to get a Visa for Lao, at the cost of 1.500,-Baht, which took about half an hour to obtain and than we were on the road to Vientiane, pronounced by the Thais as something similar to Vieng Chan.
Immediately after crossing the border and taking a right turn to Vientiane, you notice that life has a different pace. The speed limit is 50 km on a simple road and nobody dares to drive any faster. There are less cars and some of the cars around are of decent age and there are plenty of motorbikes.

Vientiane is a relatively small city, although it’s Lao’s capital city, but it’s nicely spread out with fairly big and wide roads and boulevards.

First we went to visit Pha That Luang, which is a famous and probably the biggest temple complex in Vientiane. Unfortunately it's hard to get good information about all the places we visited, since there was nothing available in any way that explained the things we looked at.

After that we went to Ho Phrae Keo. We got there just before noon and it’s closed between noon and 1 pm , just like the Sisaket museum, opposite Ho Phra Keaw, so beware.
Ho Prae Keo was built in 1565 a.d. by the great King Xaise Thatirath, the Lao Lanexan Kingdom.
It housed the Emerald Buddha which now can be found in Bangkok, Thailand within the grounds of the Grand Palace at the Wat Phra Kaew.

We went for an excellent lunch, at Khambang Lao Food, a place in a side street off the boulevard along the Mekong river. We had some delicious dishes, amongst other two of these grilled Mekong river fishes, grilled beef tongue, Laab muu and a great salad.

Of course, as part of the lunch we had some Beer Lao, one of the better beers in the region, which is now also widely available in Samui.

After the lunch we were off to the Sisaket museum again, where there are more than 6000 Buddha images on the premises. Some of them very old and beautifully sculptured.

Here are some of the 6.000 Buddha images, the couples in the background each depicting a man and a woman.

Our guide took us than to a market, which I sat out, since our son was asleep and I stayed with the children at the car.
This was our last stop within the Vientiane city limits and we continued on, back to the border, where it was time for some tax free shopping. A bottle of Port wine and Black Jim in the van later, it turned out that Chot and Kob purchased a 4 liter bottle of Red Label (Johnny Walker) and the driver than decided to stock up the car with another dozen of cheap whiskies, which he sells off after getting back home in Nong Khai.

Back in Nong Khai, we went and visited the very well known Wat (= Temple) Po Chai. This Wat houses a very famous Golden Buddha statue, the Luang Po Pra Sai which attracts pilgrims from all over Thailand.
We bought a couple of Buddha amulet’s in the Temple, something I more frequently do when traveling around and visiting local Temples. During a long time I thought that if you saw one Temple, you saw them all, but recently I find myself more intrigued by the various Temples all over Thailand (whenever I’m near one) and like to visit them and find out what makes them special. They also play a very important part in daily Thai life, so I’m kind of loosing my religion if it comes down to Temples.

On the way back to our hotel in Udon, we also made a stop in Tan Bo, were a former colleague of my wife now lives and she cooked dinner for us.

All in all a very busy but interesting and enjoyable day.

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