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

Post 391: Laos PDR .. Posted - 27th November 2013

I arrived safely in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos PDR. The bus journey to the North East of Thailand wasn’t great, but at just $15 it was difficult to justify the additional expense of flying. At Nong Khai bus station the Sam Lor, a three wheeled taxi-bike, whisked me to the Friendship Bridge and crossing the border into Laos had been easy. Given the early hour, I’d expected the Mekong crossing to be quiet, but it was far busier than I’d expected. Crossing the bridge with me were large groups of Thais, traders heading to the markets of Vientiane to buy stock for their respective stores back in Thailand. That didn’t surprise me at all, but what I found coming in the opposite direction, well, that was slightly unexpected. Small groups of sweet painted ladies, girls heading home after a night or weekend of commercial activity in Laos. Their shorter skirts and broader smiles set them apart from the locals, and a certain understanding of the laws in Laos, well, that kind of confirmed that the girls were Thai. I’m not here to pass judgement, but if there is an adult entertainment market in Vientiane, then it’s thankfully underground and discreet .... mai pen rai kap  
Over the years I’ve developed certain personal rules for travelling, and one of those rules involves a Country’s approach to the provision of electricity to its people. Basically, if a country can afford to bury its electricity cables, then it’s probably a little too expensive, and quite frankly a little too dull, for Poor Circulation. Thankfully, despite massive economic and structural development over recent years, Laos and Vientiane Capital have made absolutely no attempt to break that rule.
For a capital city that’s home to almost a million people, Vientiane still has a village feel about it. The atmosphere is gentle and relaxed, the people seem not to rush and although traffic volumes are rapidly increasing, walking or cycling is still the best way to explore.  
The influence of the French is obvious, and everywhere. The old colonial buildings nestle comfortably in the growing shadows of modern office buildings, the language of visitor’s seems to be French and the food is a cultural mix of East and West.
 Today, it’s almost impossible to visit any capital city without being overwhelmed by advertising for McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks et al. But, you won’t find any of that here. In Laos there are very few Super Markets selling convenience foods and Fast-Food outlets simply don’t exist. Along with the absence of McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut, there’s also a visual absence of obesity and a statistical absence of diabetes. I wonder if those things are in anyway related?

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