08 September 2008

Tales from Laos!

By Shahrina

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!

  • Alwie

    Do we need VISA to enter Laos?

  • Embong

    I suppose the total Laos population is 7 million, not Vientiane population. No visa required, so we save USD30…and no such things as McD or KFC…only Nazim and Fathima along the mekong (Th Fa Ngum)…apart from VTE, please make a trip to Luang Prabang, UNESCO’s Heritage City…that’s the highlight of Laos trip honestly…

  • Alyeanne

    Alwie,

    If im not mistaken, need not visa for Malaysian visiting Laos less than 30days. Altho i never been there,from this blog, i can imagine how peacefull Laos is. A great choice to go for holiday~

  • Joon San

    Do we have troubles to have meals there?
    Is there any western restaurant like Pizza hut, Mc Donald?

  • Shahrina

    Hi there,

    1. Yes, total Lao PDR population is 7 million and not VTE (apologise for the mistake.

    2. Malaysians do not need to apply for visa. Visa on arrival is granted to us for a duration up to 30 days.

    3. Nope. I did not see any fast food outlets or 7 Eleven. However, there are a few Indian restaurants, seafood restaurants around town.

    4. Similar to Thailand and Indonesia, VTE also offers spa services at a reasonable prices.

    Embong,

    Thank you for the tips. Seems that my trip is not complete. Looks that I have to make another trip – a proper holiday.

    Cheers!

  • Boon Tee

    Just wanted to do some sharing on Vientiane when we were there earlier part of the year.
    Please try the local Laotian and French cuisine, the latter being good & reasonably priced.Don’t just stick to pizzas as the variety is pretty good – vietnamese, thai,chinese, french etc. One can get local food at the food court in the mall next to the Morning market.As for french food it is readily available especially along the riverside – pretty authentic.BTW, baguettes are easily available everywhere.
    Shopping for silks ( eg: sarongs, bedspreads etc..) & silver jewellery is on the “must buy” lists & as usual, one would need good bargaining skills.
    If time & energy permits, cross the ” Friendship Bridge” into Thailand – Nongkhai. There is a big mall Lotus Tesco there where even Laotians do their shopping.
    You can use US$ or Thai bahts in Vientiane. No need to change into kiplings if you do not wish. Even the pedicab drivers accept both currencies.
    Oh yes, don’t forget to try the local coffee- pretty good & strong stuff! Enjoy!

  • Ponlakorn

    As I’m Thai people, I have additional comments follow:

    1.If you visit Lao, do not miss the trip to Luang Prabang. You will discover the trust people there. I really impress them also. It different from VTE. You can take the bus for 8-10 hours(not recommend) or fly there from VTE for 45 min by Lao Airlines.

    2.Train direct from VTE to BKK still in processing, currently operate just from Nong Khai (Border city close to VTE, 20 min drive across the friendship international bridge), You have to take a bus to this city before shift to the train. There is only 1 train per day.

    3.For your convenient, if you can buy cheap ticket from UdonThani (UTH), 60 min ride fron Nong Khai. You can reach Bangkok within 60 min in the price starting from RM 100/ THB 1000/ USD 30. There are 3 airlines surve you.

    I hope my information shall let you more clear and plan to visit more cities in sungle trip such as KL-VTE-BKK-Phuket/Krabi/Chiang Mai-KL

  • Voyage

    Laos is a very nice and peacfull country in Vientiane, you also can spend the city tour within 1 or 2 days then the day later better catch a local bus head to Vangvieng (a moutainous city) it take around 4h by a local bus but it’s very nice journey there you also can enjoy the mountainous view some river and also find a local Lao tribe there………you will be very surprise of what you see seriously, in Vangvieng you can do plenties of adventure activities like tubing along Nam Song River, kayaking, treking, mountain cliambing……. also anf the most gorgeous is the in Vangvieng you will find alot of caves and each once have their own unique beauty and adventurous inside of them

    FYI, in case you plan to go to Luang Prabang, you also can stop by at Vangvieng as Vangvieng is also on the same way to Luang Prabang………if you like adventure I would like to recommend Vangvieng to be one of your destination when you plsn to come to Lao

    Moreover, in case you prefer the normal classic tour in Vangvieng, you also can do it too, Accommodation there also have alot type, Standard, Superior, or Budget, but the room that have a river view is very recommend

    In case you have any question regarding to Vientiane, Vangvieng and Luang Prabang or Pakse pls feel free to contact me, as I have been there already :)

    Ok Have nice day ya!
    Voyage Amoureur

  • Kamariah

    Shahrina,
    Saya akan ke Vientiane Disember ini,saya cuba Google Rishmi’s tetapi tiada maklumatnya. Rishmi’s tu restoran ke. Saya cadang menginap di Lao Plaza Hotel jika mudah mendapatkan makanan halal dari situ (walking distance to Halal food restaurants).

  • Yee Leng

    No worries on FAST food anymore…
    Now they have Pizza and Swensen open there…

  • Aznan

    I am backpacker with AA. so far I hv travelled to Indonesia( medan, bukit tinggi,padang,Riau, sumatra) to few cities on java island( Jkta,bandung,cerebon,Jogja,solo,surabaya),Bali and Menado in north sulawesi. Philippines( Clark, manila,Bagio) Vietnam ( HCMC or Saigon)and cambodia( Pnompenh, seam riep,Poi Pet and Kompong Cham) and most major cities in Thailand. my last trip was to hong kong and macau..so far so good and very adventurous..can some one plzz list out halal food outlet in Laos other than Nazim restaurant.Planning to Laos soon.Tq