From Hanoi to Luang Prabang via Vientiane.

Amazing how a dull day can work out better than expected. 7.00am cab from the hotel out to the airport, alas no Skype this time as my SIM card had run out of minutes. Checking in, easy, security, easy, but then good old gate 6 stopped, and stopped. We took off 30 minutes late which is not usually a problem unless you have a connecting flight an hour after landing and need to get a visa, go through Customs and Immigration, get a boarding pass and find the gate.
Well, it was a non starter really. Landed, joined Visa queue, filled in form and waited, waited, waited. Gained position eight in the line with ten minutes to go when there appeared a charming Lao Airlines lady with my name on a card. Come sir, they are waiting. Oh ok fine, let’s just deal with all this. She grabs my forms, passport, photo and money emerging 90 seconds later with Visa, issued. Flew though Immigration in our own line, ignored Customs, dashed outside to the Domestic terminal, ran to check in. Shucks, says she, in Lao, they didn’t wait. Shucks, says I, in English, we gave it the good old college try. Not to worry sir, she bounced, you can just go into town, have lunch, wander about a bit, shop and come back for the 4.00pm flight. Ok great says I, see you later. This was around 11.30 I guess. Wait wait, I said, we must call my hotel, they are picking me up, well not picking me up, coz I won’t be there. Not a problem Mr Tim, by this time we had dropped the sir, I will call hotel and change pickup time. She did. I changed money, millions of Dong to thousands of Kip, then challenge, where am I going ? Not as if I am an old hand at finding my way around Vientiane, the Capital of Laos, is it? Out with the Guide Book, go here, go there, do this, do that, but whatever you do, eat French food. Hmm, that appeals. Guide book also said, go outside the airport where transportation is less expensive, I did. Grabbing bravado with both hands I took a tuk tuk, this is the front end of a two stroke motor cycle with a platform hanging off the back containing two very narrow seats, and a roof with a kind of two wheeled axle beneath. Quite exciting, no iced towels and frozen water in Vientiane.
Four dollars later I was dropped off on a street in downtown with a vague gesticulation towards the chosen restaurant, and he was off.
Glanced round nervously preparing to leap out of the way of marauding motor scooters, but wait, there are none. In fact people are walking about casually, in the middle of the street even, with nary a care in the world. There’s a smell, wood smoke, charcoal, fresh baked bread, food. The street is lined with restaurants, all busy, people to ing and fro ing, laughter, merriment, and no motor scooters, well, not many, and certainly not on the sidewalk. Awright. I walked about, people smiled, people did the hand clasping greeting thing. I relaxed. The Rough Guide was correct, fabulous French food. I had Coq au Vin avec le garlic bread aussie un seven up. Brilliant. Sat in the sun and revelled, I could really enjoy this. It’s like Vientiane rolled over and went to sleep when the French left 40/50 years ago and hasn’t woken up since. After the crazy craziness of HCMC, the bedlam that is Hanoi, the drive of HK I went a bit limp.
Open bracket. Joined by two Parisians who wanted to talk, we talked, my flow is interrupted. Sorry. Close bracket.
It’s warm, again, off with the jacket sleeves, roll up the shirt sleeves, hike duffel onto back and walked about. What a great city, it’s like no other capital I have ever visited, it’s so relaxed. I felt a bit exhausted after an hour of the wandering and straight away came across a temple with chanting monks, sat and absorbed for a little, then it was a tuk tuk back to the airport, feeling, well, rejuvenated , I guess.
So here I am, finally in Luang Prabang, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. I have not ventured out of the hotel yet as its kinda late but all indications are that it is exactly how I imagined it.
More tomorrow.

2 responses to “From Hanoi to Luang Prabang via Vientiane.

  1. Another fantastic day, then?! What an incredible time you are having. I love the scene at the airport! Did you feel quite special when you were rushed through? I’m not sure what I would have done if I had to wait. I like to think I would have done as you did. But more than likely I would have stayed within the confines of the airport. God I’m boring! Stay safe.

  2. My, how intrepid are we becoming!!?? Your niece will be very envious that you’ve treated yourself to the delights of a tuk tuk, some of her stories of journies would make your hair curl. Have a well deserved rest, look forward to hearing more, onwards and upwards!! xxx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s