Vientiane – good-bye Laos

Posted from Vientiane, Vientiane Prefecture, Laos.

We pulled into Vientiane a good three hours after leaving Vang Vieng. The ticket was 40,000 Kip and it was on the best bus I’ve been on since Cambodia. It was clean and had aircon, though my vent was broken and just pummeled cold air on me the entire time.

There’s three bus stations in Vientiane. We got dropped off at the northern station which is a good far distance from the city centre. Here the tuktuk drivers wanted 20,000 Kip to take us into the center. Each. I tried to find a way around it, but having not really researched this part of my journey I didn’t know what to do. That’s half of what I paid for the journey there. I sucked it up and paid. On a good note, he did drop me off in front of my hostel.

I booked in for two nights at Vientiane Backpackers (40,000 Kip/night) and got a room in the Anaconda room. These are big dorm rooms, like 16 to 20 beds, but everyone gets a large locker, their own light and own electrical outlet. There’s free wifi, and a free breakfast of toast and coffee or tea. The beds are hard as stone too.

Once I got in I went to an I-site tourist office a street over and got a free map of the city so I could get to the Thai Consulate to apply for a visa. I rented a bike for 10,000 Kip/day and headed off in search of it. When I got there, though, visa times were over. You can only apply for a visa between 8:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. and then you have to pick it up the next day between 1 and 3 p.m. I grabbed an application form, got the list of what I would need to apply and headed on my way.

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Vientiane is like most places in Laos, or Southeast Asia for that matter – very French influenced. There’s even a monument called Patuxai Arch that is like the Arc de Triomphe. There’s a lovely waterfront where I can only assume the river gets higher and rages during the rainy season, but right now it was just a dryish delta filled with yellow grass and litter. And stoners. But people congregate on it. There’s a market. And you even can espy people exercising in the evening.

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Because Vientiane is so close to the Thai border there are warnings up in the hostel to not smoke any pot or get caught by the river area after 11:30 p.m. Most of Laos has a curfew of sorts. While it’s still OK to be out on the streets after this, most places shut down. They warn that the river area is often where the undercover police will catch foreigners after curfew and then extort them for huge bribes. If you haven’t guessed, pot is easily accessible in Laos. Apart from an incident in Ponsovahn that I never mentioned, I haven’t seen any. I mean, other than that one time.

Somehow, on my first night in town, we got into the lao-lao again. I don’t know how this happened. Honest. I also ended up drinking at a bar called The Drop Zone. I could tell by the décor that the owner was a jumper – of sorts. There were some old photos of someone landing at the Kenya boogie in the 90s. This bar also had a particularly large influx of lady-boys, one of whom took over the jukebox and played Gangnam Style over and over. I ended up leaving and going back to the hostel. But the next thing I knew, as lao-lao would do this, I was drunk. One of the workers at the hostel was trying to convince me to accompany him back to his guesthouse where we would just cuddle. I thought long and hard about it – I mean, a cuddle would be nice, but I ended up saying no and going back to my bed.

Here. Just look at a pretty picture of the sunset over the river.

Here. Just look at a pretty picture of the sunset over the river.

The next morning I woke up, headache, naturally, had my toast and jam, rented a bike and headed to the Thai Consulate to apply for my visa. This process took about an hour and I was off on my way, headache still, back to the hostel where I would again spend the majority of my day wandering the Internet. I booked a flight to Chaing Mai from Udon Thani, booked a room in Udon Thani and researched hostels in Chaing Mai. I also put up another blog post and talked to a few friends back home. I got some small bills in Thai Baht, had a gorgeous lunch at a little café down the road and walked to the river for some noodles for dinner. I didn’t feel right for the whole day. Damn you lao-lao.

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The worst part of the day was around midnight, when I still couldn’t sleep, noticing how itchy my legs had become. I touched them and felt welts. Distressed, I went into the hall and sure as hell had dozens of bites all over my legs. Bed bugs? I don’t know. How can one really tell. The guy on the bunk above me had been sweeping ants off his bunk earlier. The bites were in groups of three or four and were so swollen. I went to the front desk and showed them. The staff member from the night before said it wouldn’t have happened if I had taken him up on his offer. Hah! But they honestly hadn’t heard of them having bedbugs in the hostel before, so they didn’t know what to do. They let me switch beds and I fell into a restless and itchy sleep.

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In the morning the itching was nuts. I took 5mg of prednisone to try and counteract a lot of the swelling and itchiness. I know prednisone is evil, but I didn’t want to chance breaking them open and then having them get infected. I added copious amounts of white tigerbalm and tried to forget about it. Tried.

Check out time was noon, so I got some writing done after breakfast and then donned my bag and walked to the Thai Consulate. It’s about a 35min walk from the hostel. No biggie. I had only about 100,000 Kip left and wasn’t sure how much the bus (which I never ended up taking) would cost. I got to the embassy, met some girls in line who had done the trip to Udon Thani before and were doing it again as soon as they got their visas and decided to take me along with them. That, however, is a whole other story.

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