Following Vang Vieng, we had planned for Vientiane to be our final stop in Laos before heading to Cambodia. Having already stopped in 3 other smaller places Laos but also knowing that Vientiane was the capital, Kelsey and I both thought we had an idea of what to expect from the city. However, we were both surprised at just how big and developed Vientiane actually was. Despite being a bigger city, we had heard that there wasn’t a ton of stuff to do so we had only planned on staying 2 nights.
We got off the minivan from Vang Vieng and tried to find a place to stay. We didn’t have to walk too far before we found a nice hotel that didn’t cost too much money and *bonus* had a mini-fridge. (A fridge is something we’ve never considered a requirement but that we’ve found is a very nice extra to have…it’s so nice to be able to have a nice, cold drink rather than warm water all the time.) We unloaded our backpacks, turned on the a/c and set out to find a place to get some food and pass the evening in Vientiane. After walking around for a bit we decided to get a steak dinner at a restaurant that was actually very close to our hotel. It was a little more expensive than the meals we were used to getting in Laos but the local Lao steak was only 55 000 Kip (about 6 or 7 dollars) and it came with a baked potato, beans, a salad, and a stuffed roasted tomato type thing. It ended up being incredibly delicious and I say it even doubled as a cultural experience since we ate authentic Lao steak!
That night we walked to the night market, a staple in every place we’ve visited. This night market was different than any other one we had been to though. It was almost all locals shopping there where the other night markets had traditionally been more geared towards tourists and the vendors in Vientiane more more like individual clothing boutiques rather than the mass produced t-shirts, bags and jewelry over and over again. While wandering around the night market Kelsey and I finally decided to buy a coconut which we had been talking about trying for a while. It turned out to be a good thing that we only bought one because neither one of us really liked the coconut juice but it was something we definitely wanted to try before going home so that mission is now accomplished.
The next morning we woke up, had a horrible breakfast where I’m sure the “bacon” was actually some sort of canned ham, and then we had to find a travel agency to book our bus to Siem Reap. We had anticipated that it would be a long journey, but after learning that it was 38 hours and, knowing that we had a few extra days available to play with, we decided to make a pit stop in 4000 Islands to break up the trip. Throughout the morning we had also started to realize that there truly wasn’t much to do in Vientiane so we decided to go back to our hotel to see if we could check out early and take an overnight bus to 4000 Islands. We checked out with no problems, locked our bags up in a small room off the lobby and spent the rest of the day wandering from patio to patio, eating and drinking, and occasionally wandering into the odd cute-looking store.
Finally, it was 6:30pm and we were picked up in a minivan to be taken to the bus station where we boarded an overnight bus to Pakse, transferred to another minivan which took us to a tour agency where we had to wait for another minivan which eventually took us to the boat that we took to Don Det Island.
As a side note, although we’ve always ended up getting to where we wanted to go, throughout the process of getting there we’re somewhat oblivious as to what’s going on. They often stop in random places for extended periods of time, you’ll usually have to transfer buses multiple times and you never really know if you’re at where you want to be or if you still have to get on the bus. In the end it’s always worked out for us but you have to have a lot of faith in the little men leading you around.
As another side note, the sleeper bus had these little cubbies with mattresses smaller than a single bed which was meant to house 2 people for the night. It was ok for me and Kelsey but if you’re a solo traveler you end up snuggling up with a stranger for the night…awkward!
Anyway, we finally arrived in Don Det sometime the next morning, found some cute little bungalows with hammocks on the front porch to stay in and then decided to just rent some tubes and hang out in the water for the afternoon. We had read and been told not to float “too far down river” in our tubes because the water turns into rapids and then a waterfall but no one was able to tell us exactly how far “too far” was. Eventually we started to feel the current getting stronger and we couldn’t swim against it so we decided to suck up our dignity, climbed out of the river through some random property and walked back through town in our bathing suits. As it turns out we probably could have floated quite a bit further before getting even close to the waterfall but…better safe than sorry . The following morning we decided to rent bikes and bike to another one of the popular islands (Don Khon) which is attached to Don Det by a short cement bridge. We intended on finding a waterfall that was on the west coast of Don Kohn and then biking to the south where we’d heard that on the very odd occasion you might spot a rare breed of pink dolphin. We were successful in finding the waterfall but no pink dolphins were spotted. However, we did go for a nice swim before deciding to head back on our bikes.
We were about half way back when all of a sudden I heard a gush of air and Kelsey squeal behind me. I stopped, looked back and realized that the back tire of her bike was deflated. It turns out some little boy had shot something from a slingshot which had hit her back tire and popped it. I was concerned that we’d have to pay to fix the part but what really sucked was having to walk our bikes back the remaining for 4kms in the sweltering heat. Surprisingly, the lady didn’t seem to care that we brought the bike back with a flat tire so that was a relief. After that the only thing we had energy left to do was to shower, eat, and crash in our hammocks for a bit before going to bed.
Today we’re leaving Laos an doff to the third country of our trip, Cambodia!