Check out my timelapse of the city below (manually set at higher def):
I enjoy relaxed cities like Vientiane. The city has a nice mélange of French colonial and SE Asian architecture. I spent my time walking around the night-market and having drinks with friends at the rooftop bar. One afternoon we went to the public swimming pool to cool off. Another day a few others and I went to the three largest temples in town. As we entered the biggest of them, there was a woman striking a huge gong. We sat down and watched a young monk say prayers for two women. They all held a thin string in their hands connecting them while the monk was chanting in Khmer. We took turns approaching the monk and giving a small donation to the temple. In return, the monk tied a small bracelet around our wrists while saying a prayer in a hushed voice.
Another day, two friends and I were heading to the Laos version of the Arc de Triomphe (original in Paris). En route, we came upon a huge party at a local bank. As we got closer to get a better look, a couple people waved us over. They immediately gave us big Lao beers and started dumping ice-cold water on us (a Laos New Year tradition). We learned that Laos New Year wasn’t until the following week. Since the employees would go home that day, the bank threw a party for them one week early. They fed us and kept handing us beet after beer. Every time I had a drink in my hand, someone would cheers me and tell me to chug the rest of my beer. After several glasses, I felt a bit discombobulated. We eventually had to make our escape despite the bankers’ pleas not to leave. They were very nice people.
The most educational experience I had in Vientiane was going to the COPE center. I learned there that Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world. During the Vietnam War, the US dropped millions of cluster bombs all over the country. Many of them didn’t explode back then. To this day bombs are found by villagers looking for scrap metal. Oftentimes they are children and many get killed or seriously injured by these bombs. The COPE center custom makes prosthetic legs for people who lost a limb because of a cluster bomb. Many countries around the world donate to the COPE center every year. As an American I think that we should be the ones giving the most. After all, we dropped the bombs that are still affecting innocent lives 45 years later.
I stayed in Vientiane longer than I originally intended. My passport was out of blank pages and I had to go to the US embassy to add more before leaving Laos. Currently making my way south. TTFN…