Last week I flew to Vientiane, Lao PDR (or Laos) for work. My short working trip allowed me to discover this cool quaint place. It’s like a laid back Melbourne crossed with Tumpat, Kelantan with a dash of Ao Nang, Krabi. The city is clean and not dusty.
These are my short musings of VTE (Vientiane)….
1. Upon arrival, I found out that here in VTE, they drive on the “wrong side” of the road and for this I always had trouble crossing the roads.
2. There are several interesting attractions in VTE namely ‘The Great Stupa’ and ‘The Victory Gate’. There is also a famous market called ‘morning market’. Things that you can get there are jewelery, fabric, arts & crafts.
3.There is still evidence of the French occupation in building architecture and even names of streets.
4. The local currency is called Kip which we cannot change in Malaysia. However, Thai Baht and USD is acceptable here in Lao PDR. The current exchange rate is USD1 = 8750 Kip.
5. If you here the locals speak, you might think that you are in Thailand as the mother tongue is 70% similar to Thai. Lao’s can understand Thai but Thai’s may not necessarily understand Lao. It’s just like how Bahasa Malaysia is similar to Bahasa Indonesia.
6. I also learned that nearly everything is a few minutes away as here there is no such thing as traffic jams. The journey from the hotel to the Malaysian Embassy was only a 10-minute drive.
7. The Mekong River is one of the world’s major rivers. It is the 11th-longest river in the world, and 7th longest in Asia (discharging 475 km3/114 cu mi of water annually). Its estimated length is 4,350 km (2,703 mi), and it drains an area of 795,000 km2 (307,000 sq mi). Get this, I learned that Thailand is just across the Mekong River and by highway, it takes only 9 hours to reach Bangkok. There are also direct train services from Vientiane to Bangkok.
8. The riverfront of Mekong is similar to the seafront of Kota Kinabalu. There is a mix and match of food stalls, hip and modest restaurants along the Mekong River. One of the more famous ones is Mekong Deck.
9. The streets of VTE is relatively safe that there are numerous single standing ATM machines on the street. There is even one in front of the Malaysian Embassy.
10. Halal food can be found in VTE. There is Nazim’s along the Mekong River and Rishmi’s which is located in front of Lao Plaza Hotel just to name a few. Mostly the halal food are Indian food.
11. Malaysia has also made its mark in Vientiane. There’s a Malaysian owned hotel near the Mekong River. It’s called Don Chan Palace and according to the Malaysian Ambassador in Lao PDR, even our beloved King has stayed there. During my short sightseeing trip around VTE, I found that Don Chan Palace is sophisticated and is fit for a King.
12. VTE has a population of approximately 7 million and yet they have no beggars on the street.
13. Last but not least, Lao PDR will be hosting the next SEA Games. Venues of the games are located all across the country.
So that’s my trip…now that’s what I call a working holiday!