Lost in transportation – Vientiane and riding south

After two days in Luang Prabang, we spend a morning trying to organise the rest of our travels in Laos and quickly realise that we won’t have the time to do everything we want. Well, we knew that from the start, but we severely underestimated the duration of transportations… Whereas Google maps will tell you that you can drive at an average of 80-100 km/h, your bus’ cruising speed will rarely go higher than 30-40km/h. There are over 1200 km between Luang Prabang and Laos’ southern border with Cambodia… You can do the math. We therefore decide to skip most of the North of Laos, so that we can see it correctly the next time we come (:-D). Instead, we will head south to Vientiane (Laos’ capital city) where we will spend a day to then continue further south to Thakhek which is the departing point of a famous motorbike loop.

The approximately 300km between Luang Prabang and Vientiane take again a surprisingly long 9 hours ride. The road offers stunning views though, passing through small villages and green rice paddies before reaching mountains that keep getting higher. As we reach a pass (somewhere around Phya?), the road down gets very steep and bumpy, and after 2 or 3 curves we meet a massive truck laying on its side in the middle of the road. We manage to pass it but a few hundred meters lower the traffic is stopped: a massive landfall blocks the road. Cliff on the right and unstable stonewall on the left, we wait patiently until the road is cleaned up by a shovel dozer.

 

Vientiane was presented to us as an “uninteresting city with its own charm”, whatever this might mean. Our feeling was however not too different as we thought the city wasn’t particularly beautiful, but still has several interesting remnants of French colonial architecture as well as a surprising density of temples in its center. There is also a big “Arc de Triomphe” standing in the middle of Vientiane’s main boulevard, which looks cool from afar but describes itself as rather ugly from up close (seriously, the explanation panel at its foot says it is a “monster of concrete”).

 

Anyway, we didn’t loose much time before endulging in what Vientiane – and Laos itself – is famous for in the region: food, and more precisely bread. Vientiane boasts a large amount of French restaurants and bakeries. We had the chance to taste the butter and the almond croissants from Annabelle bakery: absolutely divine! Never thought we would find something like that in Asia. Quentin was in heaven!

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