Arriving in Vientiane, Laos was a real eye opener, mainly due to Laos not being your typical South east Asian Country. The traffic is minimal, taxis are a rare and everyone seems to be laidback. Real laidback.
That is my first impression of a country I have never been visited before and while impressions can change and probably will (I have only been here a real short time), I get the feeling I am going to like this change of pace that Laos seems to offer but time will tell.
Anyways, onwards and forwards with the first edition of Laos Diaries, as I get into the highlights of day 1- 6, settling into Volunteering, Laos Style.
Highlight of Laos Diaries – Days 1-6 – Settling into Volunteering
Flying Thai Airways
The trip starts with a flight, naturally, and this time it was away from the typical budget flights I am accustomed to. Travelling from Perth, Australia, I flew straight to Bangkok using Thai Airways, a few hours layover in Bangkok and then it was onwards to Vientiane, Laos.
Flying Thai Airways was a refreshing change, as I had long forgotten that these major airlines gave out complimentary alcohol or soft drink, decent meal, free entertainment and plenty of leg space, the comforts were no doubt very refreshing. Maybe I should fork out the extra bucks more often, but not at the expense of travelling more often.
The Green Lion
The Green Lion is the reason I am in Laos. An organisation that gives you the chance to volunteer in a range of disciplines, such as teaching English, childcare or construction. The costs is lower than the other volunteering out there and therefore I figured I would give it a go, in the meantime choosing a destination where I had never been before.
I am here to teach English to kids and while my program runs for two weeks, I only do the teaching part in the second week. The week is taken up with culture week, as we roam the area discovering great spots in Vientiane, Laos. More on that soon.
The best bits of Culture week during week one
– Vat Pana Khoun Temple – A home for the monks in that area Vientiane, Laos. The temples are beautiful as they are anywhere throughout Southeast Asia. It was a real highlight to go through a few meditations and relaxations with the monks of Vat Pana Khoun. You get a whole new vibe towards the Buddhist monks.
– Exploring a local Village – Every local village comes with a temple and while the name of the village misplaces me, it was a real highlight to walk up the street of the village. The houses are made of wood or bamboo with no windows, dusty old gravel roads and walking through the village, with cows and bulls loose and free on the road, is quite a sight. To see the locals gaze at you as you walk past or the kids run to the edge of the road is a real treat and it is a pure delight to be in their presence and perhaps, brighten up their day.
– Hike through the hills – Not a huge hike but it was pleasant to walk through the scrubs, past an old broken-down village with a temple (still exist) and through a few laid out statues of Buddha’s, hidden throughout the bush, where the locals come and pray. At the end of the hike is a beautiful picnic spot, on top of a large rock that oversees a great view of Laos. Quite a beautiful reward after a hard slog in the heat.
Walking Vientiane City
On a couple of occasions during the week I had the chance to walk the unique town of Vientiane. I say unique because it is certainly unlike any capital city I have ever seen. Small, not too much traffic for a Southeast Asian country and a great laid-back nature where walking the markets doesn’t mean you are hounded with storeowners begging you to buy stuff. Complete opposite in fact.
A few early notables of what I did in Vientiane Laos, during my short time in the capital city so far. I will get more into Vientiane in a future blog post.
- Patuxai Monument – They say you haven’t visited Laos, if you haven’t seen Patuxai Monument. The climb to the top gives you an epic view of the city.
- Golden Palace – A major palace in Vientiane where the Monks come to pray. Popular for tourist with its beautiful buildings.The Night Markets – Situated right on the Mekong River, therefore a stone throw from Thailand, the Night Markets is a must visit from 4.30pm every day of the week.
- Morning Markets – Another bustling market place in a popular part of the Vientiane city.
- Cope Visitor Centre – Learn about the tragic history of Laos and the damage the cluster bombs had on the country.
The Laos Taxi
The Laos taxi is in fact a tuc tuc, you know when you get on the back of the tray squeezed against many locals, while perspiring with the heat. The experience is worthwhile and don’t be afraid. The only trouble may be getting to your destinations as English speaking is not too common in Vientiane.
Eating Lao Food
Eating Lao food is more or less the same as eating Thai food. Rice, noodles, Pad Thai, Papaya Salad, all at a very reasonable price and the options of cheap beer. Can’t complain really, because it Laos is an adventure and it is all about settling into volunteering and it is all a new experiences to me. Enjoy.
That is a wrap of the first edition of Laos Diaries, you can now check out the second edition – Laos Diaries – Days 7-9 – A weekend in Vang Vieng.