The journey here in the minivan (50 000kip pp) was even more atrocious than the journey to Vang Vieng. When the minivan pulled up it looked quite posh and swanky. That was until we spent the journey claustraphobic as there was no room with bags wedged around us and dehydrated in suffocating heats as the air conditioning wasn’t really working and the driver instead it was so the windows weren’t allowed to be open! One lady got so hot that when the driver pulled over to let someone off she had to get off to be sick. He was also another maniac and the road was horrendous again seen as it is the main road to the capital of Laos. Luckily around halfway into the journey we stopped and when we got back on the bus the air-con was much better- maybe the driver had actually turned it on! From the bus station which was out of town we got a taxi to our hostel (20 000 each). The driver had actually agreed with the couple that shared the taxi with us a much higher price and then claimed he had no change at all when I tried to give him a bigger note. Luckily I was able to change some money in the hostel as he was clearly trying to scam us for the extra money.
We stayed in Backpackers Garden Hostel which was ok. We had a private room with a bathroom the first night and then moved to our originally booked bathroom with shared bathroom the following day. It was relatively cheap ($15 a night between two of us with breakfast included). It said it was a garden hostel but that consisted of benches outside with flys all around them that were situated around a square patch of dirt devoid of plant life or grass and filled with rubbish. However we had three nights there as it was fine and we needed to wait to catch our flight to Vietnam.
The rumours we had heard throughout Laos though about there not being much to do in Vientianne we found out were true. There is a bit along the river front (that is more sand with a bit of river a while away in dry season) that is quite nice to walk through and has an evening market. We were unable to get food here though and was more clothing and knick knacks. It runs through the park and on our first night we did witness a large group of locals doing their aerobics which was fun but made us feel unfit. We explored the main two streets a bit but there is not much lining them apart from restaurants, bars and coffee shops. We spent some time in a coffee shop which was really nice and cool during the day but quite expensive.
Vientianne does not have the feel of a capital. The buildings are quite low, there is literally two main streets that have things on them and there just isn’t any atmosphere here. If I hadn’t of known I would have assumed Vientianne was just a random town and Luang Prabang was the capital. There are a few temples dotted about but we did not really explore these, still woren out from the exquisite temples in Thailand. We did venture to the national museum and spent about an hour here. It is not huge but has some interesting artefacts with some dinosaur bones, explanations about the plain of jars as well as lots of information, photos and artefacts about the war. It was interesting for 10 000 kip admission fee.
There are not great options for cheap food in Vientianne so we decided we had the money to eat well for the few days we were there if we didn’t go to Buddha park so we chose food instead! We had some nice curries as well as a couple of great burgers at Sputnik restaurant. They do a lunch deal of a burger+chips+drink+brownie for 55 000 kip between 11am-2pm, Monday to Friday. The lack of things to do also allowed us to chill out for a while as Dave did not feel great for one of the days we were there. Sometimes you just need a few days to read, sort photographs out and write some blogs.
Our hostel transported us to the airport for a fee and then we waited at the small airport for our flight to Vietnam. We had a weird experience where they shut passport control for about 40 minutes just before we were about to go through and had already gotten rid of our drinks. We think it was while staff changed over but we have no idea. We then boarded a comfortable hour flight to Vietnam, much better than the 26 hour “hell” bus we could have taken!
Vientianne itself is completly underwhelming and I don’t think you even really need to visit it if you are short on time there is very little of interest there. Our experience of Laos on the whole was a mixed one there were points we really loved and parts that just weren’t for us. Majorly they were the places that are just too touristy now and cater just for westeners so it feels like those places have lost their soul. I would like to come back to Laos in the future and get off the beaten path a bit more visiting places north of Luang Prabang, Phosovan/ plain of jars and some towns between Vientianne and 3000 islands.