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Arriving to Vientiane, First Impressions of Laos

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To call our bus ride from Hue to Vientiane comfortable would be ridiculous, at midnight we had to change to a local bus which was packed with stuff. There were fish food and bird food sacks everywhere, including the corridor, there were rubber tubes and even old televisions on the seats. The seats didn’t work and I wouldn’t say that there was much air-con either. Thankfully the bus was nowhere near full, so you could get your own few seats to make yourself comfortable.

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So once we got to Vientiane after more than 20 hours on a bus, we were happy to get out of the bus and got ourselves a tuk-tuk from the bus station to the town with some Brits that had been on the bus, well, pretty much the only foreigners who were on the bus besides us. The tuk-tuk dropped us off at a sleepy little street and we look around uncertain if this really is the town centre, or just some ruse to get us to stay in the hotel that just happened to be next to the drop off point.

After consulting our maps we do however did agree that this indeed is the town center, however sleepy it may seem. So we set off in search of a hostel. We walked past a few, but nobody came out shouting cheap rooms to us, which is weird after Vietnam and Laos. Is everybody having a siesta or what, I mean it is pretty hot after all.

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But after finding a hostel and then walking around some more, it became clear that Laos, or at least Vientiane, is nothing like its neighbors Vietnam and Cambodia. Here a tuk-tuk driver might ask “tuk-tuk” as you walk past, but if you say “no”, he’ll just accept that and continue chilling with his mates or sleeping in his hammock.

Nobody on the street tries to sell you anything like they do constantly in the busier cities of Vietnam. And I quite like it, it’s peaceful, it’s chilled, you can just walk around and enjoy the city.

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The other thing you notice is the French influence Laos has, and while Cambodia and Vietnam also have a bit of French influence, here it seems somehow more predominant. There is definitely something Parisian about Vientiane. And it isn’t just the French street signs, nor is the huge copy of the Arc de Triomphe from Paris they have built (they called it Patuxai or Victory Gate here though), which by the way up and close looks bloody ugly, just unfinished concrete.

Of course me saying it feels like Paris, is a bit presumptuous as I haven’t never actually been to Paris yet (still on my bucket list), thou I have been to France plenty of times alright.

And the last thing that I also found surprising is how little there are motorbikes, the roads are mostly filled by cars, which is a big difference to Vietnam, where it is the motorbike that rules the road, not the car.

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Vientiane is a nice city, even if it feels surprisingly sleepy for a capital. Even in the rainy season, if the sky is clear it gets almost too hot to go walking around in the noon, so you don’t do much. But then again, there really isn’t that much to do, there are a few sights you can go see, like the Patuxai or the Wat Si Saket. But in the end, it is a stopover place for most

So after a few day of relaxing, we got our stuff, and got ourselves a minivan towards Vang Vieng, which definitely offers a little more things for those looking some action.

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If you’ve been to Laos, what were your first impressions?

10 Comments

  1. This looks like a wonderful area to visit. I like how relaxing it sounds with non-aggressive tuk tuk drivers. Sounds like my kind of place!
    Lisa @chickybus recently posted..Random Travel Moment #1: ‘Getting Scarfed’ in Sanliurfa, TurkeyMy Profile

    • It is really nice and peaceful, the tuk-tuk drivers are very different to the neighboring countries :) Laos really is a chilled out place, I’m sure you’d like it!

  2. I’ve been all over SE Asia, but not yet to Laos. I need to get there on one of these trips! Can’t believe there was a market inside the arch!
    Kristina recently posted..Tokyo Dome, Last Minute Shopping, Food Hall LunchMy Profile

    • Yeah it’s definitely worth coming here in Laos, so nice here! The market was a bit of surprise, wasn’t expecting that :)

  3. I think what sold me on this place is that you don’t get too pressured by people for your business. Its very stressful having aggressive vendors shout at you that they have something you want. The idea that you’re respected when you say no is appealing. And like you said, its a “chilled” environment and I really like that. Lovely photos, by the way. I’ve not made it to Laos yet, but I’m getting closer. I just have to practice saying their long names.

    • It is very stressful and tiring being constantly bombarded by people wanting to sell you things! Laos is so far the most chilled country I’ve found in SE Asia, it’s great, you definitely need to get to Laos! 😉 My favorite places I think so far have been Luang Prabang and Don Det.

  4. hi Arctic, just want to tell you I like your blog. very informative for a fellow traveler currently considering doing the same route. (lucky i bumped into your blog somehow!)
    we blog a bit ourselves – similar thing, some photos and stories – but wonder whether writing down our experiences is ever of any use to anyone else… now I think it could well be :)
    keep it up. maybe c u on the road!
    ken eder recently posted..China PhotosMy Profile

    • Thanks, always glad to hear that someone is finding my writings useful :) Travel blogs are these days where I get a lot of my travel advice, so it’s definitely worth writing one 😉

  5. Maybe I visited completely different Laos- Tuk Tuk mafia is very much prevalent on the streets of Laos. They were the only source of irritation during our travels across the country.

    • After Vietnam and Cambodia it felts so peaceful and quiet, thou I do admit there are some tuk-tuks around.