Leaving Vientiane wasn’t a great loss. The other parts of Laos were much more interesting than the sleepy capital. We got the bus to Paksan where we met with members of the Government’s Education Center and spent that day and the next seeing the ActionAid projects in the Lak Sao area of Laos (see separate post).
On Tuesday night we arrived back in Vientiane, had dinner and hit the sack. Given that we had friends coming over to Thailand for Christmas and New Year and that we had to see Vietnam before then and get the Landy fixed properly, we decided to head into Thailand rather than go to the South part of Laos. We could always go back in later from Cambodia. After a morning spent chatting to the novice monks (surprisingly they get taught alot of subjects, including mathematics, history and English) in the Wat that we had parked in we made for the border which was only 20Km away. This border crossing proved remarkably easy although the Laos side realised that the goons on the China
crossing hadn’t filled in the carnet. A hasty bit of backdating was done and everything was hunky-dorey. driving into Thailand was a return to modern civilization, at least on
the surface. The roads were good, straight and we drove on the left (hurray). Petrol was plentiful and pretty cheap (25p/L). We headed to a Land Rover garage in the town of Udon Thani but given that we would be flying in and out of Bangkok, they advised us to get it sorted there. A long drive ensued. We drove long into the night and arrived in Bangkok
at 2.30am on Thursday morning. Another 2 hours later we had found the garage (Bangkok is big) and parked up nearby for a few hours kip.
Unfortunately, it turned out that we had to go to another garage as this one only did modern Landys. By 11am we had found that one, booked it in and ran straight to a hotel to sleep.
After a couple of hours shut eye we wandered around the area to get our bearings. We were stating near the infamous backpacker den of Khao San road which proved to be every bit as tacky as we expected. Luckily, by walking a few roads away you can avoid the other tourist goons and actually come across some Thai people who are a friendly bunch.
On Friday we pootered about the old part of town to see what was where and determine which sights were worth seeing. We booked flights for Monday to Vietnam and generally got leg ache and sweated buckets in the 30+ degree heat.
The next day we headed straight to the Temple of the Emerald Bhudda and the Royal Palace. The Temple is a truly magnificent set of buildings all of different architectural types. The Emerald Bhudda itself however is a very small bhudda statue carved from Jasper and looks disturbingly like Yoda. Amusing though and doesn’t detract from the superb sights in the Temple area. The Palace was closed however, due to it being a Saturday, but we’ll go back there after Vietnam. Also in the area was Wat Pho. Having seen quite a few wats in Laos we weren’t expecting much from this but it seems Thailand does a far superior wat to Laos. The architecture is quality and the intricacy of the design is superb. Also within the wat is the world’s largest horizontal Bhudda statue which is bloody big if a bit bizarre.
Later we took a boat up to the Zoo area but the King was having a celebration for something and all the bigwigs were out in force along with quite a few flagwaving locals. The king is hugely popular in Thailand and anything said against him can earn you a great deal of trouble not only from the police but from any Thai. I stayed for a bit to watch the ceremony but decided to sling hook after not too long. Not that I’m saying it was boring you understand.
Back at the hotel area I bumped into some people I had met while travelling in China and we decided to head to the Silom Road area which was supposed to have good nightlife. Luckily, we happened to get the worlds fastest taxi driver who had us there in no time even if we were carrying extra loads in our trousers. Silom road did indeed have alot
of bars and a huge number of street vendors selling all sorts of tat. The tat here was better than the tat in Khoa San though. After wandering around a few bars we came across the Patpong area which contains the more “specialised” bars. Hundreds of young Thai girls hang around these bars some wearing numbers while an even larger number of
grey-haired westerns enter by themselves and leave with a girl on their arm. It’s not subtle. There are clear reasons why Bangkok is the sex tourism capital of the world but I’ll go into these in a different post.
Sunday was a lazy day, spent bumming around and getting ready for leaving for Vietnam which we were really looking forward to. We had heard mixed reports with some liking it and others hating it. After the slow pace of Laos I was looking forward to getting in among the hustle and bustle.
Vietnam rocks and the post for Week 20 is up.
We visited the ActionAid projects in central Laos close to the Vietnam border and have now visited some projects in Vietnam near the Laos border. Amusingly, the China projects we visited were also near the Vietnam border so although we’ve travelled hundreds of miles to see these projects, they are in fact with an 80 mile radius of each other. On the 12th and 13th we are visiting some projects in the south of Vietnam so I’ll do a post on the Vietnam projects after that. My notes on the Laos project are in Thailand though so you’ll have to wait for that post.
The garage in Thailand has unsurprisingly done nothing so far. When we get back from ‘Nam we’ll have to kick some Thai butt but until then we are content with finding crazy things to eat. Dog, snake and battered frogs are all on the menu here.