Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 284: Into Laos

So, what do I know about Laos? Well, I should really give it the full name, the ‘Lao People’s Democratic Republic‘. The ’S’ was added by the French to distinguish ’Laos’ the Country from ’Lao’ the People, and the ’S’ is silent. The capital is Vientiane, it gained independence from France in 1949 and a civil war raged here until the communist party took full control in the mid 1970’s. Laos is probably famous for being the most bombed country in the world. Apparently between 1964 and 1973, Laos was hit by a B52 full of bombs on average once every eight minutes, day and night. That’s 260 million bombs, 80 million of which failed to explode and continued killing people long after the American’s had called it a day. The other thing that I know about Laos, is that it’s apparently the easiest location in which to renew a visa for Thailand.

The bus journey to the border should take four hours, but after seven hours I’m dropped off at Nong Kai and find a tuk-tuk to take me onto the Friendship Bridge, the crossing point between Thailand and Laos. On the way to the border, the friendly tuk-tuk rider invites me to buy a visa for Laos, but I’ve already read the script. At the border, a visa into Laos will cost me $30, but the tuk-tuk riders solution will cost me $40. He’s disappointed, but he’ll get over it.

At the Friendship Bridge, the atmosphere turns a little icy when I pull out my camera and try to take photographs. Not so ’Friendly’ then? Leaving Thailand is a breeze, but entering Laos at the other side of the Mekong River is not quite so easy. I don’t have any $ or Laos Kip, so I have to pay for my entry visa in Thai Baht, 1,500 of them and that’s roughly $50. Bugger, if only I hadn‘t tried to be so bloody clever I could have saved myself $10 and at the same time made the tuk-tuk riders day.

Inside Laos, it looks a little like Thailand but the cars are a little older and the people slightly less chatty. The taxi driver asks me ’where to?’, and I reply, ’the fountain’, thank goodness for Lonely Planet guides. Searching for a cheap hotel in Backpacker Central, the first is ’full’ but across the road is ’The Phoxy Hotel’. I can’t resist. Inside it’s not quite as Phoxy as the name suggests and the price is reasonable too, $10 per night. Tomorrow I’ll apply for my visa, collect it the following day and then travel back into Thailand the day after that. Three nights in Vientiane should be enough, and I’ll be heading back this way in a few weeks time anyway.

The other thing that I’ve noticed about Vientiane is the temperature, it’s bloody freezing here. I’ve travelled only three hundred miles North but the climate is totally different. I had to laugh though, the people are really quite ‘English’ in what they say … ‘if only you’d been here yesterday, it was lovely weather’. Being the well organised chap that I am, I haven’t brought any clothes with me so I‘ll either have to suffer the cold or go shopping. I find a money changer and decide that around £30 should see me through. Then I look at the ’Exchange Rate’ and hand over £80. In return I receive 1,024,000 Laos Kip. I’m an instant millionaire …. mai pen rai
I particularly enjoyed the items left and right #5 on the the Hotels disclaimer .... or should that be claimer? .....ไม่เป็นไร

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Man,the crap you get into...keep on truckin' (as they say)...Duke..