Posts Tagged ‘Vientiane’

One last touristy stop before saying goodbye to Vientiane..we stopped by Wat XiengHuen which is very near to our guesthouse. The thing is that the more famous temples charged a fee whereas it’s free entrance for the not so famous temples but really, these lesser known temples ( to the tourist anyway) might be as  interesting too and has a certain charm.

The drum tower

 

Statues of the Buddha protected by the Naga

 

Statue of the walking Buddha

 

Interesting Dok So Far on the roof ( indicating royal patronage)

 

After Wat XiengHuen, we walked down to the guesthouse, had a shower, checked out ,  left our luggage  at the guesthouse and walked to the bank of the Mekong in search for lunch, walked into the Riverside – sorry, they don’t search lunch, Orchid Guesthouse – no, cook has gone home, no lunch too. We finally settled for  noodles at Nok Noy- a kopitiam/restaurant complete with wall painting and checkered table cloth..

We had Pepsi 4,000kip/bottle,

 

I ordered vermicelli with chicken – it was ‘tung fun’ with lots of vegetable, cabbage, spring onion, carrot, eggs, choysum. This was tasty but slightly salty

HC had crispy noodles which looked very good ( don’t cha think ?) as tasted good too. The noodles costs 15,000kip / plate

After the good lunch, we walked back to the guesthouse, retrieved our luggage- and hailed a tuk2 to get the airport – the ride costs us 30,000 kip (~RM12) …with the breeze in our hair we said our goodbye to Vientiane …

OK, before I end this series of postings on my Laos trip, I thought it might be useful to put up some information to future visitors to this beautiful country .

The cost of things  ( at that time, 1,000kip was approx RM4)

  1. 1.5 L Mineral water cost 4,500 ( at 7-11 type stalls)  – 5,000 kip ( guesthouse and convenience shops) . 0.5L ~ 3,000 kip , or for the local bottled water  6X1L = ~ 7,000kip .
  2.  Big bottle of Lao beer 8,000-10,000kip
  3. Coke/soft drink ( 280ml)  ~ 3,000- 4.000kip
  4. Rental of bicycle in Vientiane is ~10,000kip/day and at Luang Prabang ~20,000kip ( some are negotiable, we got ours at 15,000 and 18,000 )
  5. Plate/bowl of noodles cost from 10,000 -18,000 kip- depending on where you eat
  6. Please try the yummy fruit shakes 5,000- 8,000kip
  7. Set breakfast of baguette cost from 20,000- 25,000 kip
  8. Entrance fee for temples at Vientiane is ~5,000kip and at Luang Prabang is ~20,000kip
  9. The guesthouses that we stayed in were rather good-clean, safe and comfortable, you can get rooms from USD8-15 .

Information

  1. There are no free maps provided at the hotel /info counters- make sure u have a map ready before your trip- this will help- as most of the attractions in Vientiane and Luang Prabang are within walking /cycling distance
  2. Long distance buses – it will be cheaper to get the tickets directly from the bus station than the guest house/tour operators , but  the maybe 1,000kip( RM4) or so difference might be justified by the fact that it includes pickup from the guesthouse.
  3. Tour companies – most of the prices quoted are just for transportation and doesn’t include any guides – so either do your homework before the trip or pay more for tour companies that provide guides. And do check out a few companies before you make the bookings/purchase of tickets/tours
  4. If there is not a big group of you to share out the cost, don’t expect that going (on your own) by tuk2 will be cheaper than joining a tour company. Check out the price before committing !
  5. Some of the temple have closing time –best to check out the time before your trip
  6. Best exchange rates are from the banks.
  7. The bus journey from Vientiane to Luang Prabang is really long ~ 9 – 10 hours, although the roads are good- they are very windy – but the scenery is worth it , suggest to look at going by bus from Vientiane > LP and take a flight back LP> Vientiane  
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We purchased the tickets from Vientiane to Luang Prabang from our guesthouse yesterday evening,  these VIP bus tickets cost 150 ,000 kip ( ~RM60) for a ( said to be) 8 hours journey. Being a VIP, you are entitled to :   + snacks + toilet in the bus. Regular bus charges 110,000 kip and said to take 10 hours. (The tickets are cheaper if purchased directly from the bus station, but remember to factor in the cost for transportation to the station –might come to be the same lah)

That morning, at 7:40,  a van came to pick us up at the guesthouse and I must say that the buses in Laos are prompt ! The double decker bus named ‘King of Bus’,  left the station at exactly 8 a.m. Everyone on board  were given a 0.5L bottle of water when we started the journey. The seats were comfortable but  there weren’t that much of leg room. We passed small villages, markets, stretches of bushes, petrol stations – petrol prices : Regular 9020kip/L ( ~RM3.60) and Diesel 7460kip ( ~ RM3) but these varies…

About 1 hour into the journey,  a woman approached the driver and I heard her said ‘toilet’. Driver mumbled something and a few minutes later, we stopped in the middle of nowhere ( that was what it appeared to me, see the pix below and you judge for yourself lah) and umm….those that need to ‘go’ , went  searching for suitable sites to fertilize the Loatian soil… (btw, I don’t think the toilet in the bus works)

 

About 4 hours into the journey ( ~1 pm) the bus made it’s second stop. Ahh Lunch ( and toilet break) .

 

We surrendered a portion of our bus ticket to the shop as we ordered lunch ( choice of noodles or rice with dishes) , the idea of having  piping hot noodles was very appealing . 

 

My bowl of pho, which came with a bowl of ulam . 

 

 After lunch, as we traveled into Kasi province, the roads started to get windy , I rephrase that, the roads started to get very windy and it seemed to go on and on and on. Whiffs of unpleasantness reached my nostrils as the passenger sitting behind me start to empty his stomach…. But the scenery was breathtaking, mountains, valleys, and villages that are built a bit too close to the road.

 

After about 9.5 hours on the bus, we finally reach Luang Prabang bus station. We shared a Tuk2 with some of our fellow travelers and paid 10,000 kip/pax to get to the town centre. As we stepped down from the Tuk2, we were surrounded by a few guys carrying printout /pictures  of the guesthouses that they were representing.We got to know a Vietnamese couple during our lunch stop and decide that we go guesthouse-hunting together.

 We followed one of the ‘promoter’  to inspect the rooms of the guesthouse, looked ok, was at USD10/day, I was rather happy with the room ( 2 single beds, attached bathroom, hot shower, TV and free bananas) but as we were discussing amongst ourselves, a young guy came up to us and ask us to see his guesthouse which according to him is new and at priced at USD8/nite .Voila, the rooms were even better ( except  there were no free bananas) –guesthouses lined both sides of the lane and we could do more hunting , but we were satisfied  with what Oudomsouk Guesthouse had to offer  

 

 (Oudomsouk Guesthouse, Houxieng Rd ,  tel (856-71) 254863 , e-mail sisoudaods@yahoo.com)

 After a quick shower ,  we went for a walk (and to search for dinner too) , the Mekong was less than 5  minutes walk away from our guesthouse, we got there in time to view the sunset

 

There were a lot of food stalls along the bank of the Mekong, we decide to have a simple dinner, and I had chicken fried rice (15,000kip ~ RM6)  while HC had pork fried rice, The ferocious mozzies were feeding on us as we feed on the rice, the meal was average , the rice was a bit too soggy for my liking but the fruit shakes were heavenly.

 After our meal, we decide to walk to the night market. WOWww…so many stalls .. one of the guidebook described this as possibly the quietest pasar malam , I concur as the sellers never seemed to hassle the buyers, there weren’t loud music ( no illegal DVD or CD sellers) , overall a very peaceful market. Most of the items at the market seemed to be handmade and include : bags of various colours /sizes/patterns, bedspreads, runners, pretty paper lamps, t-shirts, jewellery, paintings etc etc…

 

The stalls were (mostly) manned by womenfolk of all ages : from wrinkled grandmas to girls of 9 or 10. 

An artist at work..

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At Patuxai, we said goodbye to Mr Som our trusted Tuk2 driver and henceforth, continued our journey on foot, we walked to Talat Sao (morning market) -although it was already no longer morning lah

 

We passed stalls that sells herbs, food stalls etc  and  inside the market was a big section selling  touristy stuff ( some of the items looked like what you might also find in Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam )

 

From the market , we headed towards the bus station to check out bus tickets to Luang Prabang but was told by the lady at the counter  that the tickets were sold at another station. There was some promotional thingy going on at the red canopies set up at the grounds of  the  station, Akon can be heard singing over the PA.

 

We braved the sun and the trusted GPRS – HC my traveling companion who  is great at map reading, directed us towards Haw Prakeow.

We paid the entrance fee ( 5,000kip) and  saw this beautiful view

 

Ho Prakeow ( Emerald Hall Buddha)

below info extracted  from :  http://asiaforvisitors.com/laos/vientiane/hoprakeo/index.html

This building was once the private chapel of the King of Laos, and the only surviving part of the old royal palace. The chapel was built around 1535 to house the Emerald Buddha image, which was obtained from the Lanna capital of Chiang Mai . The image was housed here for nearly 250 years before Chaopraya Chakri – the future King Rama I – of Siam recaptured the image a took it back to Thailand and the new capital of Bangkok . In fact, the original Ho Prakeo was almost completely destroyed when the Siamese went to war with Laos again around 1828, and sacked the capital of Vientiane. It was restored with French help in the late 1930s.

There were many bronze Buddha statues surrounding the walkway of the hall

 

 The entrance to the hall with the grand and intricate columns  

 

Inside the hall ( no photography) , there were more Buddha statues in various postures, various sizes, made from  wood, bronze etc , some with missing limbs

The oldest Buddha statue ( said to be since 5 BC) is placed at the entrance

 

Intricate carvings

 

 

View a videoclip of Haw Prakeow – click here

 We were in a bit of a rush to exit Haw Prakeow as the temples closed at 4 pm and it’s already 3:45pm which means  we must head towards Wat Si Saket ( across the road) – FAST.

 Similarly,  paid  5,000 kip for  the entrance fee

Excerpts  from http://www.asiaexplorers.com/laos/watsisaket.htm

Officially known as Wat Sisaketsata Sahatsaham, it is Vientiane’s oldest temple still in its original form. Wat Si Saket was built by Chao Anuvong, the last king of the Lan Xang Kingdom, in 1818 in the early Bangkok style, when Laos was a vassal of Siam. Probably due to its architectural style, when the Siamese attacked and destroyed Vientiane in 1828, Wat Si Saket was relatively spared, making it the oldest original temple in Vientiane today.

The Ordination Hall ( sim)

 

During our visit, part of the sim was being covered for restoration work, just hope that the temple will still maintain it’s original flavour after this massive project.

 The most fascinating thing about Wat Si Saket is what is housed at the cloister that surrounds the ordination hall –  three rows of ( larger) Buddha images and at the wall behind these- pigeon holes ( the correct word is – niches) housing smaller Buddha images .

 

 

On the western side of the cloister we saw a collection of broken images – the result of the Siamese-Laotion war of 1828, these were discovered during excavations in support of restoration.

 

 This wooden device ( with some happy looking Nagas)  is used during the Lao New Year celebrations to pour cleansing water over the Buddha images.

 

Tucked away in a corner, with the rows of stupas containing the ashes from cremation  – we saw the  nearly completed restored library  

Offerings to the dearly departed

 

 

View a videoclip of Wat Si Saket , click here