Solo Overland Backpacking Trip to Thailand & Laos – Part 13: A Peek on Vientiane

Previously: Part 12 – Sabaidee, Vientiane!

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Still Day 5: Friday, 30 August 2013

I spent a night sleeping on the train from Bangkok to Nong Khai. In other words, I have not had my proper morning bath yet, though it was almost noon here in Vientiane. My initial thought was to sleep throughout the day and then on the evening, venture out to see what Vientiane has to offer. But it would be such a waste. So, although still tired and deprived from a quality sleep, I took a bath, wore a nice attire and went out on foot to explore the city.

Sebab aku tidur dalam keretapi je malam tadi, jadi aku pun rasa belengas sebab belum mandi betul-betul. Tadi, kat stesen Nong Khai mandi gitu-gitu je. Mulanya aku ingat nak tidur je sebab ngantuk sangat. Lepas tu, petang baru keluar jalan. Tapi, rasa rugi pulak. Aku pun pergi mandi, pakai baju elok sikit, lepas tu jalan kaki nak tengok apa yang ada kat Vientiane ni.

Walking to the cafe. The uncle in pink is a disabled man who prayed and tie a wristband to anyone who gave him money.

The first stop was the money changer. Money changers are aplenty in Vientiane as this is the capital city of Laos and I could see backpacking scene is also mushrooming. I exchanged my THB 500 to Kip, which I hoped could sustain my stay here. As I walked on the main street, I noticed that there were a lot of cafes, guesthouses, bars and restaurants on the main street near the riverside.

Tempat pertama aku pergi, pengurup wang. Ada banyak pengurup wang kat sini. Aku tukar THB 500 ke Kip lepas tu jalan-jalan. Sepanjang perjalanan, aku nampak banyak kafe, rumah tumpangan, bar, restoran kat kiri kanan jalan utama ni.

The entrance to the main library of Vientiane. The sign in French reads: The National Library.

I went to one cafe and ordered a cup of cappuccino and sat at the outside patio. Well, basically I was just trying to try and feel, how it feels like to be a foreigner in a foreign land, not working on a particular day and sipping coffee looking at the road, as what other foreigners did when they were in Malaysia. The feeling was awesome. Like a boss! Lol.

Aku pergi satu kafe kat sini dan order cappucino, lepas tu duduk kat luar, tengok-tengok orang. Saja nak tengok macam mana perasaan buat mcam tu. Selalu, Mat Salleh je buat macam tu kat tempat kita. Best jugaklah. Macam bos! Hahaha.

The library looks so run down.

From the cafe, I saw people walking on the tiled pedestrian walk. Cars were pushing their way through the small 2 lanes road and bicycles with travellers were in abundance. On the pedestrian walk, I saw one uncle sitting on the floor as if he was selling something. I focused on him when I saw a white guy bowed and sat in front of him. The white guy gave some money, the uncle said some prayers and put a wristband onto the guy’s wrist. Such an interesting sight for me.

Dari kafe tu, aku nampak ramai orang jalan kaki, naik kereta dan basikal. Sini macam pusat backpackers kat Vientiane, tu ramai sikit orang. Lepas tu, aku nampak sorang pakcik tua duduk atas tempat pejalan kaki. Ingat dia jual apa. Rupanya, dia macam minta sedekah tapi instead of tissue, dia bagi gelang. Ada seorang Mat Salleh ni bagi duit, dia doa-doa lepas tu pakaikan gelang kain kat lelaki Mat Salleh tadi.

Glad I noticed this signboard.
The road leading to the mosque.
Entrance to the mosque.

As it was a Friday, I then made my way to find a mosque at the area. Turned out, the main mosque was not far from the cafe, just a lane off the main road. I was not sure if this is the main mosque of Vientiane, but the lane leading  to the mosque was very bad. The mosque’s building has no amazing architectural design. It was designed and built in a simple manner, with high walls erected, technically separating outsiders from having a peek inside the mosque.

Kebetulan hari ni hari Jumaat dan aku pun nampak papan tanda masjid tak jauh dari kafe ni. Aku masuk ke dalam jalan nak ke masjid. Jalan dia, teruk giler! Masjid dia pun bukan jenis masjid untuk tarik pelancong. Memang simple je. Dinding dia pulak tinggi giler, dari luar memang tak nampak apa.

French is widely used here in signboards. Rue means street.

After the prayers, I continued walking along the street.

Lepas solat, aku teruskan perjalanan menjelajah kota ni.

More signboards in dual languages. Notice the quietness of the road.

Laos was a former French colony and although its citizens could not speak in French, the official signboards for roads and government offices were still being written in both Lao language and the French language. Although my ability to converse in French is very rusty, I could still understand several terms.

Laos ni dulu dijajah Perancis. Tak hairanlah banyak papan tanda guna dua-dua bahasa – Lao dan Perancis. Malangnya, bahasa Perancis aku dah berkarat giler. Adalah sikit-sikit vocab yang aku ingat lagi.

Just walk and walk…

So, I was shocked when I saw a building with the signboard stated National Library. I was shocked because while the building is a nice colonial building, it was not properly maintained and it looked dark and gloomy to become a place where knowledge is to be gain. Plus, it looked so small and from the look of it, I could say that there were not so many people inside the library.

Contohnya, bibliotheque untuk perpustakaan. Jadi, bila aku tau bangunan tu Perpustakaan Negara, aku terkejut. Bangunan dia cantik dah, bangunan kolonial, tapi tak jaga. Nampak gelap, suram. Kecik pulak tu. Aku intai-intai tengok tak ramai pun orang kat dalam perpustakaan tu.

That Dam or the Black Stupa.

I walked further and I saw a very black stupa at a roundabout. It attracted me to walk towards the stupa because while most stupas are located in a temple ground or are yellow-ish in colour, this one looked black and isolated here. I did read a sign and the stupa is called as That Dam or black stupa, which was already in existence since 1827.

Aku jalan lagi lepas tu nampak satu stupa hitam dekat bulatan jalan. Terus aku berjalan-jalan anak ke sana. Pelik giler. Biasa stupa warna cerah lepas tu dekat dengan tokong, ini kat tepi jalan je. Warna hitam pulak tu. Banyak pokok liar kecil-kecil tumbuh kat atas stupa ni. Aku cari info, dan nama stupa ni ialah That Dam atau Stupa Hitam. Sejak tahun 1827 dah wujud rupanya.

A single motorcycle waiting for the traffic light to change colour.

After taking several photos, I walked without any guide or map but just walked and walked. It felt so quiet here in Vientiane. Despite being the capital city of Laos, it was so laid-back and quiet. As I moving towards the centre, I could see that even the main road was not so busy.

Lepas ambil-ambil gambar, aku teruskan perjalanan tanpa peta, tanpa panduan. Main redah je. Tak rasa bahaya langsung jalan kat sini sebab sunyi giler jalan terutamanya bila lalu jalan utama nak ke kawasan pusat bandar. Rasa tenang je. Sangat-sangat tenang dan rileks.

Do you wish Kuala Lumpur (or your capital city) is more laid-back like Vientiane?

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To be continued – Part 14

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Vientiane is the capital city of Laos. Despite having dual-languages signage, most if not all Laotians can only speak in Lao. The handwriting of Lao is almost identical to Thai with slight differences. In fact, some people living in North-Eastern Thailand can read Lao.

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14 thoughts on “Solo Overland Backpacking Trip to Thailand & Laos – Part 13: A Peek on Vientiane

  1. How I wish about Kuala Lumpur? I wish all the rich man use public transport to go to work daily. Less air and sound polution.

    Anyway, citer ko pasal 1st day kat Lao ni seakan akan masa aku jenjalan sesuka hati masa dekat Siem Reap. Tapi itu 5 tahun lepas. Skrg ni kena boost up energy semula untuk trip macam ko ni ha.

    1. Haha.

      Betul.. and also improve the public transportation system. Increase the numbers and frequencies :)

      Seronok kan main jelajah sesuka hati! hehe

    1. Thanks KKSiew!

      Well, basically Laos is a very laid-back country and I love how the people there are not rushing for everything. Because sometimes I think too rush is not good either. Hehe

      Wait for my next entries for other places I visited and other people I encountered throughout this journey :)

    1. Hi,

      Unfortunately I am not a local and thus I don’t have any Thailand or Laos recipes. But you can contact me for Malaysian recipes instead! :)

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