Tuesday, 28th November

Well, here we are in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Breakfast was served on the top floor of our hotel, which gave us a birds eye view of the city. We have to have a local guide here and at 9.30 we set off with him to see some sites.

Our first impression was of a much less frenetic city than Pnom Penh. Many roads had the French boulevard feel and there was a lot less traffic. Having said this, the overhead wiring was more reminiscent of Delhi!

How does anything work!?!

We saw the presidential palace, which looked almost untouched by human hand

And then crossed the road to a Buddhist Monastery now used as a museum. The city of Vientiane was razed to the ground in the 1800’s and this was the only building left standing.

The complex is quite large and passing through a tall outer wall, we found ourselves in a well tended garden interspersed with gold coloured shrines.

An inner gate took us into the main ‘business’ area. The large temple was surrounded by covered niched cloisters.

We were lucky to arrive when we did and could take some photographs without too many people. Within about ten minutes of our arrival, the place was swarming with other tourists. 😑

We escaped by another gate and set off to get some local currency. Unlike Cambodia, Laos does not use US dollars as its main currency, so we had to go to a money changer to get some kips. Money changing is a too lowly occupation for banks it seems. Kips come with lots of ‘0’s so we were millionaires in minutes! We carried our loot off in the black plastic bag provided. Monied up, we wandered past the fast food stalls…..

Fast food starts early here. It was about 10.30!

We found ourselves walking up a broad avenue with an Arc de Triomphe like archway at the end. It transpires (we think, because our guide’s English is not very clear) that this was used as a runway during the Vietnam war. Laos was another country not involved but badly affected by it. More of this later.

On reaching the arch which had a lovely interior ceiling

We were able to scramble to the top, which gave us views over the city below.

Clever, eh!

Moving on, our Laos guide left us and we took a tuk tuk to a local rehabilitation centre run by an organisation called COPE. Here they make and fit artificial limbs, tragically much needed by the victims (many very young) of the cluster bombs dropped in that awful red ‘corridor’ of the US bombing raids…….

The red areas are where clusters bombs were dropped.

It is thought that 30% of the bombs did not explode on impact and remain in the ground to explode when touched by unwary farmers tilling their land or young children playing. People are still being wounded by these things although much clearing still continues. Once again a sobering reminder of the horrors of war, but it was good to see the success the centre was having. It not only fits the limbs, but some of the people helped stay on to work in making the prosthetics.

They are doing amazing work. It is a tragedy that it is still needed. They also supply limbs for those born with deformities which their pioneer work can also benefit.

Back into our tuk tuk……

an up market model of the Cambodian version, we set of for lunch. After a brief pause we were out again to wander the markets and eventually walk to the Mekong River.

The green in this last picture is algae ….😳. I can feel Keith’s heart sinking at the thought of me in a basket selling areaπŸ˜–πŸ˜„

The Mekong River jaunt was to take pictures of the sunset. As it happened, it was overcast, so although we could see Thailand on the far side of the river, it was through fairly heavy gloom, and the sunset was to say the least a bit eerie…….

However, we saw some interesting things on the way…….

A king with dangly bits……

Some monks…….

Some flags…….

Strawberries!

And more street food served on a motorbike sidecart!

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