02/24/2015 - 02/27/2015
Flying to Laos was a fun experience. While technically, it was no different than any of the flights I had taken so far, it was liberating knowing I was going to a brand new country all by myself. I made a "friend" on the plane on the way over who was also from Northern California but he seemed a little bit like a weirdo so I stayed in the airport bathroom for a little longer after we landed in the hopes of loosing him after the baggage claim (which worked btw).
I really didn't know what to make of Vientiane when I first got there. My hotel, Riverside Palace Hotel, was decent enough (palace is a huuuge stretch in the name) and centrally located so I began my usual walk around the area trying to get a feel for the town.
It was very quiet while walking around and the first thing I noticed was there really weren't a ton of young backpackers. While this doesn't truly matter a ton, it wasn't quite in line with the experience I was hoping for now being on my own. I rented a bike and did a bit of sightseeing of the temples (called Wats) in town but couldn't really understand what the appeal of the city was.
Highlights here began with a beautiful sunset followed by witnessing a group workout session (picture a flash mob practicing their dance) and exploring the Night Market on the river. I also had a very enjoyable dinner date (sorry Jon) with a 78 year old British Gent who was a classic grey, long haired hippie type with endless stories. We bonded over our love of music and talked for 2 hours until he started to repeat his stories and I took that as my cue to go.
In my experience in Asia thus far, you can get a feel for what the main attractions and sites to see are from tour company boards and posters all around the city. Vientiane seemed more like a commuter city with no real enticing sites itself, rather was more of a jumping off point to head north to the town of Vang Vieng for partying and river tubing. I struggled with the decision of whether or not to go to Vang Vieng for 2 reasons:
1st: Vang Vieng is known for being a backpacker highlight but mostly for an awesome party town. Being new to the solo female traveler scene, I wasn't looking to go get super drunk by myself.
2nd: Transportation in Laos is extremely behind the times so taking a bus to Vang Vieng was the only option
After reading endless articles about how the 1 way trip can take anywhere from 6-8 hours on an extremely windy, bumpy road in an over packed bus then having to take another 4-6 hour bus from Vang Vieng to the next destination of Luang Prabang. I ended up skipping and took an expensive 45 minute flight to Luang Prabang instead. I figured that with my ability to get car sick within 30 seconds of looking at my phone wouldn't pair well with the 10-14 hours spent in that bus.
Would I like to see Vang Vieng someday? Absolutely. I've heard amazing things about how fun and beautiful the area is. Hopefully by then, trains will be established or I will at least have a friend to commiserate my sickness with. If you have the time and the stomach to make the journey definitely do it.