Vientiane does have a reputation of being a bit boring, due to a lack of sights. We didn’t have time to see much of it but we liked what we saw.
However as we had a total of 2 full days there, due to us woefully underestimating how much time we would want to spend in Laos, we saw little outside of the Thai consulate.
What I really wanted to see was the Buddha park, a park full of erm…Buddhas, but after learning it was 35km outside of the city I soon abandoned that plan as we had no time.
We did go to the night market, which was a really nice experience. Instead of just being for the tourists, 90% of people and stalls there were for locals, and there was genuinely good (fake of course) clothes there. Back from the market, at the banks of the Mekong, friends and families hung out as the sun set.
Afterwards we headed up to a rooftop bar where we had a beer and watched the night market wind down.
As mentioned most of our time was spent getting visas. On our first full day we were up early to get to the consulate in time for opening at 8.30am, and still we ended up something like 290th in the queue. So after filling our forms in we had a 3 hour wait until we could actually hand it all in. Then another half hour wait to pay for it. The process is all very simple, but bring a book. or something to do. If you need photos or passport photocopies it can all be done on site don’t worry. Just remember some Thai baht as they do not accept anything else!
The next day we were back at 1pm to collect the Visa, thankfully this time it was only a 1 hour wait. Still, it meant we couldn’t do much sightseeing before and after.
I feel frustrated writing this, as usually when you’re in a city for 3 nights you have a lot more to say about the place. Sadly we saw very little because of the Visas and the onset of some serious travel fatigue – it was 2 full weeks until we’d get to Chiang Mai to stop for a month and already we were secretly starting to look forward to it, despite loving Laos.
My top tip for Vientiane? Seek out Ray’s Grille. We found it by accident but discovered it is actually the number one restaurant in Vientiane on Tripadvisor. You won’t find any Laotian food here, just burgers, Philly cheese steaks and enormous burritos. And it all tastes incredible – easily the best western and Mexican food I’ve had in Southeast Asia. Don’t judge us…we eat local food 95% of the time, but like everyone else we like a greasy treat.
Anyway, I’m sorry Vientiane. We do feel guilty for only staying briefly and not seeing more. One day we will be back to explore you properly, I promise.
Where We Stayed
We decided upon Sihome Backpackers. It’s a short walk away from the centre and the river and as hostels go, seems ok, and I’m sure the dorms are fine. However our private room had Sellotape across the whole of the wood panel ceiling, either to keep something out or keep the ceiling up, and there was a constant leak in the bathroom. Add to that the scurrying of rats and mice in the ceiling at night (perhaps the reason for the Sellotape?) and the rock hard bed, and we weren’t hugely impressed.