Mar 12, 2020
Goodbye Vientiane: in Search of Greener Pasture
Location : , Vientiane, Laos
Less Than Ideal
With my 30-day visa, I was prepared to stay in Vientiane the whole month and make a life. But after 7 days of doing my due-diligence, conditions remained less than ideal. Even though there were positives, they were outweighed heavily by the negatives.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
- movie deal - I made a pitch to the Major Cineplex to review their movies. The reply wasn't a yes, but it was a positive reception for a sit-down talk with the movie manager. Ultimately, because of my abrupt departure, nothing came out of it.
- Kip 30,000/day lodging - this is a very good price (Baht 100 or US$3/day) but conditions there were less than ideal. A few of us would cram into a small working space, dead energy and it was generally not comfortable. Sometimes, I would just go to a cafe to get my job done. But since I was overstaying at the cafe, I offered to give them advert too, to make them appreciate my stay. In fairness, I became somewhat friends with the Vietnamese hostel owner, Chang. Like most Vietnamese, she was tough-as-nails on the outside, but warm and friendly on the inside.
- no hotel deal - I've talked to a few hotels but none came through. I thought I would get a deal with 1M Hotel, but nothing came out of it. Still, I gave them a free advert as my thank you for listening to my presentation.
- expensive - Vientiane, like all of Laos, is expensive. I would pay almost 50% to double more compared to Thailand. Since I wasn't making money, I was already hemorrhaging cash.
- screwing-up my Thai tourist visa - I thought I got my bases covered when I prepared my documents for a proper Thai tourist visa which would give me 2 months stay. When I arrived at the consulate, I was told I needed to make an appointment first. Yikes! So I went there for nothing. I went to a cafe to set an appointment online, but I messed up. The webpage asked what visa I wanted. I wrote, "tourist". Then an available date showed up. I clicked it. And my appointment was confirmed. Then I realized I clicked the wrong visa because they still showed all dates for all types of visa applications - not just tourist visa! Why would they ask me what visa, and then show me a date for other visas? It turns out I have to wait a few weeks to get an appointment for a tourist visa. No way. I cannot stay that long in Vientiane. It was frustrating. This was the last straw that broke the camel's back.
- software review - the fulltime job I was training-in was too much pressure on the time deadline while winging through 5 different but integrated software (that was just downloaded) for tasks, messaging, time tracking, web posting and video conferencing.
My benevolent universe talks to me in a language I now understand. From all that was transpiring, the message to me was to pack-up and go. Anyplace but here. There shouldn't be a struggle in anything. Not in a relationship, and not in a place. Struggle is a strong statement saying there is a greener pasture out there.
YOGA by Gigit | Learn English | Travel like a Nomad | Donation Bank
(Mar 16, 2020) Struggle is a sign that there are greener pastures 🙂
(Mar 16, 2020) Keep safe dr covid19 ❤❤
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Life in Nong Khai(Mar 13 - June 18, 2020) With my continued stay in Nong Khai, many things unfolded. The world has been ravaged by Covid 19, but Nong Khai has remained resilient with prudent measures in place - no night market, big gatherings are cancelled, and the closure of the Laos border. I comfortably entrenched myself within the garden compound of Mut Mee Garden Guest House.....more »»
Vientiane City Bus Route Map
Vientiane FYI / Tips
- Vientiane is slightly less expensive than Pakse, but still more expensive than Saigon, Bangkok or Phnom Penh
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators, etc., are located along the river beteen the Khun Bu Lom Road and Rue Chanthakhoumane - if you book a hotel within this area, no need to take a tuk-tuk ride to get to the main drag
- in Vientiane, internet speed is generally slow - some guesthouses only have lobby wifi. It was only very recently that fiber-optic connection has been made available, and at $200/month for the cheapest package, very few business owners are availing of it.
Udon Thani (Thailand) to Vientiane by bus
Take the International Bus at Udon Thani Bus Terminal 1 - no pre-purchase, on sale tickets only for the next departing bus, Baht 80 (Kip 23,500), departing times 8:00, 9:00, 10:30, 11:30, 14:00, 15:00, 16:30, 18:00, no visa-no ticket (except ASEAN), unloading at Khua Din Bus Station, 2hrs 15mins
Pakse to Vientiane by bus
This is an 11 hour bus ride along paved roads. You are advised to take the sleeping bus on the night trip - that way, you sleep while traveling and wake up in Vientiane, effectively saving you an additional day and sparing you the cost of one night's lodging. Bus price ranges from 150-170,000 Kip. Pakse's bus terminal is right in the city so you can just walk it.
Vientiane to Luang Prabang by bus
This trip is a 10 hour bus ride along paved roads. You are advised to take the sleeping bus on the night trip - that way, you sleep while traveling and wake up in Luang Prabang, effectively saving you an additional day and sparing you the cost of one night's lodging. Bus price ranges from 170-190,000 Kip. The bus takes off from the North Terminal. Even though you can get it cheaper to buy the tickets directly there, it would cost you more to ride the tuk-tuk to get there - best to have your hotel arrange the bus booking and you get picked-up right at your hotel.
- Buddha Park - an eclectic collection of concrete sculptures of Buddha and Hindu deities, 25 kms southeast. Package tour - Kip 70,000. You can also do a self-tour
- Pha That Luang - a third-century golden Buddhist stupa right in the heart of the city - biking distance
- Sisaket Temple - a Buddhist temple built between 1819 and 1824. It houses thousands of tiny Buddha images and rows with hundreds of seated Buddhas from its cloistered walls. This could be Vientiane's oldest surviving temple
- Patuxai (Victory Monument) - a war monument built between 1957 and 1968, it is dedicated to those who fought for independence from France
- Wat Si Muang - a Buddhist temple built in 1563, considered to be home of the guardian spirit of Vientiane
- That Dam - a black stupa believed to be inhabited by a 7-headed king cobra who protected the Laotians from an invasion by the Siamese army
- Night Market
- Mekong River Bank
- Ho Phra Keo
Vientiane Cost Index
As a general rule, Laos is a little more expensive than Thailand. What would be sold in Bangkok for Baht 40-50 would sell for Baht 50-60 in Vientiane. Some vendors would accept Thai Baht as payment, and may even exchange Baht for Kip. Vientiane is slightly less expensive than Pakse, but still more expensive than Saigon, Bangkok or Phnom Penh
- Kip 10,000 one big bottle, Beerlao (Kip 12,000 if by the river)
- Kip 5,000 1.5 liter drinking water, sugar cane juice, soy milk
- Kip 50,000 one hour massage
- Kip 20,000/pax tuk-tuk ride from bus terminal to city center
- Kip 12,000 coffee
- Kip 15,000 noodle soup with meat
- Kip 10,000/day bicycle rental
- Kip 10,000/kilo laundry
- Kip 175,000 sleeping bus to Luang Prabang (155,000 if seated bus)
- Kip 40,000 dorm bed incl. breakfast
- Kip 80,000 double bed in a fan room, shared toilet incl. breakfast
Laos Travel Tips
- Laotians hardly speak or understand English
- like Switzerland, Laos is land-locked by its neighbors - Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and China
- Laos is a communist country and has close ties with Vietnam, its communist neighbor. Best not to talk anything negative about the government
- some establishments will accept US$ for big purchases but it's best to exchange your dollars to Kip for the small day-to-day expenses
- Laotians are generally honest people with a calm demeanor, much like Cambodians
- like Cambodia, Laos is steeped in its devotion to Buddha - pagodas abound and monks are an integral part of the landscape
- best place to exchange currencies is at the border. City money exchange centers won't give you the best rates
- best to exchange US dollars to Kip for good rates. If you exchange Vietnamese Dong to Laotian Kip, the rate is horribly low
- Exploring Huay Xai, Laos May 9-11, 2016
- Exploring Luang Prabang, Laos Dec 30, 2014 - Jan 3, 2015
- Exploring the off-the-beaten-path of Pakse, Laos Dec 17, 2014
- Goodbye Vientiane: in Search of Greener Pasture Mar 12, 2020
- Software Review Writing for 'Finances Online' Mar 10, 2020
- Vientiane Revisited Mar 5, 2020
- Do-It-Yourself Tour of Buddha Park in Vientiane, Laos Dec 27, 2014
- Exploring Laos' Capital, Vientiane Dec 24-29, 2014
General Travel Tips
- arrive early - in case there is a snag (visa snag, documentation snag, transport ticket snag, etc.), you will have ample time to troubleshoot the problem if you arrive early (to the airport, to the bus terminal, etc.)
- put detailed itinerary on the Calendar apps of your smart-phone according to timelines - this is where you do all your thinking and planning. Once written down, you don't have to think anymore while you are on the journey...you just follow the steps. This frees your mind for something else that might happen while you are already en route
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
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