I am a bit disoriented. Where am I? Oh yes, Vientiane, Laos. It is the capital and its largest city. Sabaidee@Laos hotel (I promise to have a Review Page on all soon.) I had left the curtains open before I went to sleep and am rewarded with a pretty cool sunrise. It is still dark. I grab my camera from my bedside table and snap away as it gets lighter.
I get up and notice that I have not unpacked yet. I wonder why and go about doing so. As I hum a song to myself and go into the shower I realize that I am feeling absolutely, completely well. Was I really sick yesterday? Was it a nightmare? Did I imagine it all? Definitely not! My imagination is pretty developed but for good. Never would have I imagined being so sick. The main thing is that I am well and ready to go. Later on I would consult with a doctor friend and he said it was most certainly a case of mild food poisoning, otherwise I would not have recovered in 24 hours. I wouldn’t call it mild but it is now forgotten. Down to kow sao (breakfast in Lao). I go with a smile on and a “goooooood morniiiiiing” to all. It is so nice to find some of the group in the restaurant, remarking that it was good to see the old me come back.
We are taking a tour of the city. Laos gained its independence from France in 1949. Vientiane certainly has a “Frenchness” to it. We pass by the Presidential Palace , which is not open to the public and only used for formal ceremonies, on our way to Ho Phra Keo “Hall of the Emerald Buddha”. It was there that the Emerald Buddha, taken from Chiang Mai, had its home until King Rama I, repossessed it and took it back to Thailand.
I can’t figure out whether to point my camera at the flowers…
Or at the Buddhas around the museum. One in my favorite pose of “stop the war, make peace”
Another in a pose –and attitude- I should adopt: walking meditation
In any position (or mudras as they are called) these Buddhas are beautiful. This one is in the Bhumisparsha mudra symbolizing the enlightenment of the Buddha under the Bodhi tree.
Or at the Nagas (mythical serpents, protectors and guardians of treasures) flanking the steps going in.
We continue to Wat Sri Saket, home of 6,840 Buddhas. Some in little niches. Fascinating to see so many in one place.
Really sad to see the storage room of the ones damaged in the war.
But the surroundings are also worth exploring. This is where I find a Smiling/Happy Buddha. The story –according to our guide- goes that Buddha was so handsome that many where those he attracted while meditating. To avoid interruptions he transformed himself into a plumper and less attractive version and therefore happily gained solitude for his meditation. Looking it up it seems it may have other versions but the constant is that the parasol is for protection.
Our trip leader finds a nest in a tree, of what is a delicacy in Thailand and Laos: ants. He points and pokes at it. And the ants get angry.
Then they are really, really mad. So we leave them alone!
Next is That Luang stupa, said to contain remains of Lord Buddha. It is impressive.
The day is brutally hot, there is no shade at all and I can barely stand it, so head back to the bus. Snapping photos on my way back.
It’s hot even for the monks!
This building is a Monk’s Center. The streetlights look very French to me.
Off we go to Patuxai or Victory Gate. It was built to commemorate those who fought in the independence from France. At first sight it is a copy of L’Arc du Triomphe in France and when I ask our guide if he doesn’t find that fact ironic he doesn’t seem to believe so. It is, however, decorated with mythological Buddhist half female, half bird figurines (kinnari) which makes it quite Laotian on inspection.
Other details also make uniquely Laotian. And as I climb steps up to the top on each level there is a mini shopping mall of Lao crafts and souvenirs as well as architectural details that continue reinforcing the Laotian side of this monument.
The view from above.
From there, the rest of the afternoon and night is on our own. I decide to have a mani/pedi since it’s on our way to our hotel. Will be my first in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, though the ambiance was unique the service was not the best. My feet are happy campers anyway for the little TLC I have provided them. Little do they know that in the afternoon I will join our guide and some of the group for a walk on Vientiane’s boardwalk and will make them work all over again.
The boardwalk is a surprise. I am finding that in laid back Vientiane there is much more to see and do than I expected. Again I wish that I knew how to ride a bike. Though even as it gets darker the heat is quite oppressive.
King Anouvong overlooks all this activity. Giving his back to the “new” aerobics craze and the free class that is held in open air behind him.
Which I decide to join… for less than a minute.
I have a feeling he wouldn’t approve of this girl’s attire, an American flag printed on her shirt.
Alongside freestanding exercise equipment stands this banyan tree, completely ignored by most. I just stand in front of it awed by its intricacy (and dutifully avoiding –due to highly allergic reaction to exercise- even looking at the exercise machines in front of it 🙂
At night I join part of the group to eat a pizza, of all things, at a French restaurant in Laos. Kinda weird, huh?
We leave Vientane, and Laos, tomorrow morning. I, once again, will be leaving part of my heart. The Lao people have an acceptance of all things ingrained in them by their religion. Acceptance… something I should add to my vocabulary and to my life. Kob chai lai lai (thank you much) Laos for giving me a life lesson.
What will Vietnam (our next destination) teach me?