I have been in Laos less than 24 hours and already i am in love with this place.It truly is, as my guidebook said, "a breath of fresh air". Perhaps it is just escaping the madness and mayhem that is Bangkok but I think regardless of where I've come from I'd find this place magical.I'm in Vienteinne, the capitol of Laos. It lays in the central south of the country, about 20 minutes from the border of Thailand, in order to arrive here - you must cross "Friendship Bridge" which I find so appropriate, being that these people are so incredibly welcoming and friendly.did I mention this place is also cheap as chips?? well, it is.
That is a nice welcome as well (given that I have pretty much blown my budget out of the water).The city is lush and green because it is on the Mekong River, and as I write the sun is beginning to set, casting that dusky haze over everything, making it that much more beautiful. There are loads of vendors across the street, all busying about in their pointy straw hats selling fruit, fishes, and other asian delicacies whose names I cannot spell or pronounce.
This city was once colonized by the French and, like Siem Reap and Phnom Phenh in Cambodia, the influence is not hard to find. Tiny French bistros line the riverfront complete with outdoor "cafe style" seating.much of the architecture includes French style facades and those adorable balconies that are so, so.
jene ce pais.men ride around on bicycles with carts full of baguettes attached to them, and if that wasn't enough - there is even an Arch de Triumph here as well! I am already in love with the place. Bangkok can definately wear a person thin.I arrived on an overnight bus from Bangkok - yes, that is approximately 15 hours of travel by bus. Unfortunately for literary licenses sake, there were no goats, chickens, or even locals aboard - it was strait "farang" (tourists) complete with air-con and semi reclining seats. Nothing interesting there.
Upon arrival, I hired a "tuk tuk" driver which is a standard mode of transportation here. They are basically motorbikes that have been "souped up" with bigger engines and are attached to a 2 wheel cart with a little roof and open sides and back, which is where up to 4 passengers sit. They are fun as hell to drive around them - but frightening at the same time, as they seem able to go at mock speeds and weave through traffic (Bangkok is traffic HELL, thankfully there is none here).I was exhausted, to say the least, but I decided to give the town a whirl anyway. I started down the little streets, strolling up one and down another until I had to find respite from the heat - which, by the way, was just short of unbearable.
I sat down to have a drink and put my nose in my guidebook looking for things to do. What tickled my fancy?? An herbal steam bath.yes, that is right, ironic as it sounds that is what I opted for (it sounded so appealing and just so Laos). So I started on my way.This place was so adorable. It was a wooden stilted building that was open on all sides.
Various sizes of hanging plants lined the edges and the slight derelict condition of the place made it all the more charming. Upon ascending the stairs, there is a room where there are wooden cabinets to put your things as well as cushioned benches and a table where detoxifying tea is being served to the mileu of dripping individuals fresh out of the room. To the left is the modest steam room (the only walled-in room) and the entire front area contains 6 beds where you can get a traditional massage.
I thew on my sarong and went in.The room was not as aromatic as I expected, but fragrant still and very small (fit 4-5). Hot coals at our feet generate the steam and a slight smell of lemongrass is in the air.
It is lovely and somehow refreshing, even on a record hot day. I went back downstairs and doused myself with the bucket shower provided (sarong and all), had a cup of tea, and went in again. Sigh. Then I got a lovely full body - massage (one hour - 3 dollars.
I am not kidding) by a girl who could not have been more than 13.After my detoxifying stint at the sauna, I ran into 3 monks who were very curious about me; where I was from, where I had been.etc. and I chatted with them for about 1/2 hour. I was slightly caught off-gaurd by their openness, as they are usually pretty discreet, and I was careful to try to remember all the things NOT to do, namely: touch them.
A woman touching a monk in any way shape or form is tantamount to dirtying his purity. They wanted to look at my necklace, and all of us were careful not to accidently make contact. Finally, I took some pictures of them, and tried to excuse myself.Then they hit on me.
Yep, 3 monks actually hit on me. It was hysterical. They told me it was "woman's day" - that I was beautiful, and could they be my husband? I chuckled and just waved goodbye, not sure what kind of karma I acquired for unknowingly seducing 3 monks.Anyway - that was my day and I feel like a million bucks. I am so, so, incredibly happy to be here, and I just cannot wait for what lies ahead.For now, I'll settle for the sunset over the Mekong..
By: Brittany Stephen