vientiane, the capital of a little known country called laos.

{a later-post that slipped through the cracks}

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vientiane, laos
vientiane, laos
vientiane, laos

let’s be real. a lot of people have no idea that laos is a country. in fact, until we started burying ourselves in asia guidebooks, we didn’t know much either (learn more here).

a landlocked country, laos (locally said “l-aowe”) is finally starting to hit it’s stride with tourism thanks to towns such as luang prabang, vang vieng and its capital vientiane, seen below. a communist country that’s dealt with its fair share of wars, laos only opened its doors to the outside world fairly recently by tourist standard. those who journey here will find stunning countrysides filled with easy-going people, beautiful temples and delicious food – all for cheap.

by far one of the poorest countries in southeast asia, laos is a budget/longterm traveller’s dream destination. each time you hit the ATM, you feel rich when you take out “1 million kip”. the kip ($1 = 8,000 kip) is so volatile and weak that no other country in the world will exchange or accept the denomination. in fact, it’s supposedly illegal to take kip from the country – so you better spend it while you’re here. on average, we spent around $45USD a day in Laos and weren’t skimping by any means. we had a modern hotel in the middle of the city, rented bicycles, did some shopping & spa activities and indulged in the Laotian people’s favorite pastime – eating and drinking.

everywhere we went in Laos we noticed that each night called for a celebration. after 6pm, you couldn’t turn down a street without finding groups of Laotian families and friends partying street side. being the capital city, it was appropriate that vientiane had more bars than anywhere else. the city is beautifully situated on the mekong river and has cashed in on the riverfront property and views with a 2-kilometer stretch that’s nothing but gigantic beer gardens.

due to our india visa issues we ended up spending five days in vientiane – more time than you need or most will stay, but we found plenty to do – and eat – while waiting out our visa fate.

vientiane, laos
stumbled upon some wats (temples) on an afternoon bike ride.
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ting cruising the mekong river waterfront at dusk.
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a glimpse at one of the biggest beer gardens we’ve ever seen!
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each country has “its” beer and in Laos in Namkhong. tasted just like Chang and Leo and Beer Lao :)
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our sunset view from a cozy riverside bar and beer garden.

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our first night in vientiane, we walked by this outdoor patio crammed with locals. the next night, we went back for dinner.
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and tried these funky colorful bucket drinks that everyone was enjoying. not a fan.

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we read on wiki travel that there was an awesome noodle shop for $1 lunch – but the address was vague. we had a general idea of where it was and the only notable landmark referenced – next to the green fuji film store. we went on a mission to find “delicious noodle” and made it! holy smokes, this place was a dive, but AMAZING.
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a place without a menu or option is good for me – they serve one thing and are damn good at it.
vientiane, laos
for $1USD you got a huge bowl of noodle soup. like thai people, it chef serves up the basics and then you can add your own flavors and level of spice to make it your own. and after you add a few too many chilis (as we did), there are chinese donuts on the table on the table to help cut the fire. like everything else, the donuts were on the honor system (just tell them how many you ate) and a few cents each.
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danny captured me digging into a few bites….. and then, my mouth was absolutely on fire!

vientiane, laos
after a month, my tootsies needed a little love. i got a manicure AND a pedicure for $3.50  TOTAL. unreal.
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my freshly manicured nails. one of my chiang mai pouches & my beloved gold travel wedding band that’ll join the others upon our return.

vientiane, laos
no great town in southeast asia would be complete without a night market – vientiane included. we loved the uniformity of the market’s red canopies lining the riverfront each night. unlike many of the other markets, this one had more than tourist crap and actually sold tons of cute clothes and accessories. this photo taken from…. yup, the rooftop of a riverside beer garden.
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a seafood lover, ting dove into the street “squid sticks” one night. i took photos.
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quinn & meg – this one is for you. the nestle lady could have used a little love.
vientiane, laos
vientiane, laos
with plenty of time in vientiane, danny came back from a run one day with the idea to rent a baja dirt bike and venture to a lake and dam he’d heard of. um, okay? my first time every on a proper dirt bike i quickly realized that a) they’re built for one, b) they’re horribly uncomfortable for any passenger and c) they’re loud and fast. to help me relax, i put my headphones on under my crazy intense helmet and listened to tunes as we FLEW through Laos for EIGHT HOURS. yeah, the roundtrip route ended up being a lot longer than my dear danny had estimated. we could barely walk when we got off the bike and the layer of dirt we’d collected was about an inch thick. after ditched (i mean gladly returned) the bike, we hobbled to a nearby pub.

after hours of riding through villages, we finally made it to the river. we took a lunch break at a local cafe, walked around villages, realized the bridge to return had been destroyed and after many failed attempts at communicating our options, we decided to ride up onto a ferry and keep our fingers  crossed that we were going to get where we needed to be. but i think one of our favorite parts was bumping into a village soccer game. we could hear the screaming as we approached – of teenage girls cheering on their favorite players – and then for us. as danny pulled up the motorbike and took off his helmet to watch the game, the girls all turned and SQUEALED like crazy and started waving and giggling out of control. it was so much fun.
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the dam. cool.

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we’re on a ferry in a town we’ve never heard of and hope we make it back alive!
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and lastly, “Ray’s Grille” deserves a shout out. Ray’s a former Seattle resident who moved to Bangkok 18 years ago and now calls Vientiane, Laos home. he opened up “Ray’s Grille” which is a small – but perfect – western menu with things like quesadillas (yum!), a Cobb salad (and he made me custom honey mustard dressing – heaven), Philly Cheesestake sandwiches, burgers and to top it all – he had Mirror Pond Pale Ale which almost put my craft-brew loving honey over the happiness edge. painted with a southwest flair mural, it’s one of the very few restaurants we’ve found actually delicious western food. so much so that we went twice during our stint in Vientiane. we chatted with the owner Daniel about his views of the US, Southeast Asia and what’s in store for little Laos. all very interesting conversation. and if you’re wondering why i’m holding a tennis racket in the restaurant it’s because that’s a mosquito zapper. i was holding it temporarily for mr. mosquito man.

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