The journey to Vientiane was a straightforward, 3 hour sprint, sat at the front of an air conditioned minibus. The roads were fast and flat and although they didn’t have views like the route to Vang Vieng, meant we avoided any travel sickness. We stopped off at a little roadside cafe for some free lunch, about an hour from Vientiane. Rather annoyingly, we later found out that this time was used by our driver, to lock himself in the van so he could go through our bags. Sadly, we only noticed the missing $20 as we were planning to leave Vientiane. We were pissed! But glad that it was all that was missing.
We arrived in Vientiane an hour later, bid farewell to our petty theft friend and walked to “Dream Hostel 2” our cosy abode for the next 3 days. Despite the raving reviews online, the hostel was quite basic. A large open area on the ground floor had a pool table and a beer fridge while the 3 picnic benches outside had to be shared by the 50 guests. The bathrooms were a little smaller than a toilet cubicle on a Ryanair flight, only not as clean and the AC in the rooms was nice up until the staff came in to turn it off during the day. It did however, offer a free breakfast every morning and the selection was great! Also, every night between 8pm and 10pm, you could have as much free vodka as you wanted. It was definitely a party hostel, something we usually try to avoid but wasn’t that bad and as the staff were really nice, we were happy to join the party. 🎉
We spent the first day getting to grips with the city, walking around the key sights, ticking off our checklist for various temples, landmarks and the fake arc de triomphe.
In true Laotian fashion, we had dinner at Pomadoro, an Indian owned, Italian restaurant that served amazing pizza and secret “not on the menu” garlic bread. That night, we chose sleep over party rocking, the vodka would have to wait.
The next day, the golden oldies woke around 9 and found our roommates were just getting to bed. After another free breakfast, we used the peace and quiet to plan our journey to Vietnam before exploring the different markets in and around the city. In the evening, the promenade by the river springs to life as a free aerobics session takes place in the open square. The urge to join the hundreds of people doing the cha cha slide didn’t quite take hold and so instead, we walked along the night markets selection of stalls selling replica brand clothing before making our way to the walking street.
The street is actually a collection of alleys between the shopping mall and cinema complex. In the evening, the area is filled with trendy pop up style street food vendors and bars. We sampled some of the better food offering and made sure to balance our experience with a ridiculous looking drink at the cocktail stand.
On the way back to the hostel, we picked up a bottle of soft drink from the mini mart, the vodka was calling. We joined the party head on, knocking back free drinks halfway around the world, reliving the youthful university days without a care in the world, for around 5 mins before we regretted everything. There just wasn’t enough mixer in the world to balance the overly generous, half cup of vodka that tasted exactly how free vodka should. Being the brave adventurers that we are, we soldiered on of course, convincing our German roommate to share in the free punishment.
Jeremia was on a 2 week holiday and had just landed in Laos. His plan was to cycle his recently bought, second hand bike through Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang in 6 days. I was somewhere between jealous and relieved, that it wasn’t me that was going to have to battle those mountains between here and Luang Prabang. An incredible effort for someone who hasn’t cycled in a while and so after 2 drinks, we wished him well and went to bed.
The next day, our hangover proved that two drinks was definitely enough. Watching the younger guests in the hostel bounce out of bed and down to breakfast was anything but helpful. The free banana pancakes, omelettes and coffee failed to ease suffering after our little war on brain cells. We walked into town rather sheepishly and had lunch at a Vietnamese sandwich bar. Supposedly this place serves the best sandwiches in Vientiane.
You’ll hear no argument from us as they did taste amazing! Perhaps it was hangover related or the fact that the sandwich was 8 weeks long, but we struggled to finish and needed a doggy bag. That evening, feeling a little more human, we had dinner at little nearby restaurant that others in the hostel had been raving about. It was another Italian and the owner was actually Italian this time. He cooked our pizza, which was fantastic and the cocktail and beer really helped wash it down. (We’ll never learn!)
Despite spending a relatively short time in Vientiane, we feel like we’ve covered all the bases. Laos has been an amazing experience and for the most part, much better than we anticipated. Next stop, Vietnam! 🇻🇳