“Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.” – Ray Bradbury
Vientiane, with its dusty streets, lazy Mekong river and relaxed vibe feels more like a provincial town than the capital of Laos. This chilled out atmosphere combined with the food, architecture and the very good-natured, fun-loving Lao people make it a perfect place for good, slow travel.
The streets, often devoid of traffic and lined with decaying French colonial architecture, feel at times eerily quiet and surreal, but make the perfect setting for wandering on foot or hopping on a motor bike for a look around. I spent many hours and several days meandering through them, taking in all the little local intricacies.
After a nice, long walk, there are ample opportunities to get one’s belly full. The food ranges from mouth-watering, simple Laos staples to the finest French cuisine-all at basement bargain prices. There are a multitude of street-side stalls and the always present riverfront beer garden restaurants, which also happen to be the perfect setting to meet some locals and share a meal and Beer Lao with ice.
I had the good fortune to be invited to sit with a group of these locals and partake in the local specialty of sticky rice, minced pork with lemongrass and the ubiquitous Beer Lao. After several large bottles, good friends and local guides can be made easily, which sets the stage for personal motor bike tours, drinking binges and good old-fashioned memories.
I ended up spending about a week in the rain-soaked city before catching a bus and moving onto Luang Prabang. While the later is definitely more tourist-oriented, Vientiane shouldn’t be missed either, for a totally different experience.
The unique mix of crumbling buildings, relaxed local populace and constant drizzle while I was there (during the rainy season) made for a very interesting experience for me. This, my first introduction to Laos left me intrigued and with very fond memories of my lazy time in this capital city.