Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Vientiane, Laos

On the last morning in Luang Phrang we toured the Royal Palace which was built from 1904-1909 and served as the king's home.  Today it is a museum where you can see the royal throne and other artifacts, especially gifts from various countries.  The grounds were beautiful and contained some colorful stupas.  Below is a picture of beloved Laos tour guide.  We stopped to order lunch and then went to the airport for our flight to Vientiane which took about an hour.  Vientiane is the capitol of Laos and home to about 700,000 people.  And they seem to be all in the streets because, again, the traffic is terrible!  We checked in to the Sabaidee hotel and took an orientation walk around the neighbor.  Dean stayed in the room because he was not feeling well.  Todd and Chimeau bought us fried grasshoppers and silkworms.  We bought the beer.  I liked them and ate quite a few.  I brought some back to Dean but he was not impressed.  Dean stayed in this evening while the rest of us bussed to a local restaurant for more Thai-Laos food.  The rooms at the hotel are not quite as good as previous, king bed, no bathtub and shower that sprayed into the room, but it was good for two nights.  The breakfast was typical - eggs, bacon, rice soup, fried veggies and meat dishes, toast and jam.

On our second day in Vientiane we set out to explore the highlights of this city.  We started our explorations with a visit to the golden-domed Phra That Luang (Great Scared Buddha), a national symbol of Laos built in the 16th century.  This was the start of the full moon celebration and there were lots of people, monks, food stalls, etc.  The women had to put on sarongs to go into the Stupa area.  

Next we walked up to the top of Patuxay Victory Gate Monument which was built by the French.   It resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  Their are about 6-8 floors and over 200 steps but the views were very good.  

We visited the Haw Phra Kaew (house of the emerald Buddha) which contains some of the best Buddha sculptures in Laos.  It also had some incredible carvings on old tree trunks.  Nearby was Wat Sisket, the oldest monastery in Vientiane, dating back to 1818.  There were a lot of monks also visiting these temples.  It is so surprising to see monks with cell phones and cameras.  Young men are expected to become a monk for at least a month or longer starting as early as 10 years of age.  Some stay but most go in for the education.

We had a free afternoon and we went to a shopping mall and it got a massage.  Last night in Vientiane Todd, our guide, bought us a beer since he won $40 in the lottery and then we went for PIZZA.  it tasted pretty good after all this rice.

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