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Vientiane

Written on: Sunday January 13th, 2008

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

In just the short amunt of time we've been in Laos we've really come to love it. Dave has annonced that Don Det is probably his favourite place of the travels so far, I've got to play a bunch of sport here, including a much needed game of Basketball, and the people here are so so friendly and unpushy. This isn't to say that the people in the other countries we've visited have all been gits, but unlike the other countries the people here aren't attempting to sell you stuff all the time. Despite the obvious poverty in certain places here the people just get on with life, everybody smiles at you as you wander past them, and most even offer a welcoming and warm greeting of 'Sabai di'.

Vientiane, although the most commercial and in your face city we've been to Laos, isn't really all that commercial and in your face after all. It was quite unassuming as we were drove in to the centre by our tuc-tuc driver, but after staying there a couple of days, despite there not being a whole lot to do or see it wouldn't have been a hardship staying there longer.

We hired a motorbike on our first full day there and with Dave taking the reigns for the first drive we headed west out of the city, 30km away to the Buddha Park, complete with helmets this time might I add. We actually drove way past the park, without somehow spotting it, but were quite amazed and suitably impressed to see it when we did eventually make it there. The first building that strikes you as you arrive is a huge globe shaped hollow concrete building with tiny windows dotted on each of it's three floors all the way around. As we climbed through the entrance, a made in to the mouth of some sort of Buddhist carving we found another internal chamber in pitch darkness that had no entry to it. Looking through it's small windows in to the blackness, our eyes were just about adapting to make our a series of figures. We climbed a set of stairs and found another set leading down into this internal chamber. Thankfully I had my torch on me to allow us to navigate around this tomblike area that had dozens and dozens of Hindu and Buddhist deities carved in to it. A set of staircases then led us right to the top of the building on to it's roof, past more concrete carvings, to where a huge tree stood towering upwards in to the sky. This truly bizarre garden, complete with various other Hindu deities and a collosal leaning Buddha was the creation of a man named Luang Phu Boonlua who built it in the late 1950's, then because of the revolution occuring in the country fled to Thailand to apparently build an even more elaborate set of concrete figurines.

A spot of golf ensued after that, with Dave and I hoofing golfballs through trees in an attempt to get the ball at least close to the green by 10 shots. In tow, methodically selecting and carrrying our clubs for us were our caddies, who ducked and cowered, giggling behind the nearest tree every time we went to take a shot.The highlight of our 9 holes was the two of us both driving off from the tee straight in to the lake. We wisely, by advice of our expert caddies decided to walk around the lake for our next illustrous attempts at hitting the ball.

On the way back our day of sport continued, well mine did anyway, as Dave took the bike back and I spied a basketball court with loads of people playing. It wasn't until I actually entered the grounds where people were not only playing basketball, but volleyball and football also, that I realised it was a school, and I now looked like some sort of child sex tourist! Luckily a bunch of older guys turned up to play football very soon so I joined them my first football match for quite some time, where I think I've found my niche as a central defender. The dreams of my England debut can still continue. I returned here the next day at the same sort of time and played a couple of hours of Basketball with a bunch of the Lao locals, which left my sporting reputation in fine stead.

Earlier in the day Dave and had wandered around the capital city, enjoying the cuisine at the Scandinavian Bakery, the sights of Vientiane's oldest, finest temple, Wat Sissoket, where we enjoyed an in-depth conversation on theology, and Laos' answer to the Arc D'Triumph, the Patousay. All in all a fine city, with nothing particular of note to really keep you here for a long time, but an unexplainable quality that means it wouldn't be a chore should you stay here considerably longer.