Saturday, 19 January 2013

Vientiane trip – 19 Jan 13

We took Tune Hotel shuttle bus at 6.15am and reached LCCT within 5min. I printed out the boarding pass from the self check in kiosk. Then I wanted to head to the counter for verifying the boarding pass. It turn out that this is not necessary as the officer at the security check point told us to go straight to the immigration counters.

We had breakfast at MacDonald as most of the cafes are not open so early in the morning. I ordered hot cakes meal for RM12.65 ~ S$5.32. The hot cakes meal in Malaysia only has 2 piece of hot cakes but Singapore Mac has 3 piece of hot cakes which is slightly more expensive at S$6.40.
Mac breakfast

The plane departed on time and Lao's immigration card was distributed shortly. The flight took 2.5hr and landed at Wattay International Airport.
Lao's immigration card

There is aerobridge at the airport and passenger sitting at the back of the plane can choose to walk down the plane stair, cross the tarmac and up the aerobridge.
Wattay International Airport

There are 6 immigration counters open and we took about 20min to clear the immigration. 
PWC entering Lao's market
Baggage carousel

Once we exit the arrival hall, there is a taxi counter and taxi coupon can be purchased here. It cost US$7 for 4 person or less and US$8 for more than 4 person. After I purchased the coupon, the assign taxi driver guided us to his taxi.

The journey to our hotel took about 15min. Our room is not ready yet hence we waited about 15min at the reception while the staff tidied the room.
 Auberge Sala Inpeng
This is so resort style
Reception corner
Complimentary plain water

I have booked a standard room but Auberge Sala Inpeng has mixed up my reservation. Hence we stayed at the economy room. It doesnt matter since we are only staying for a night. Initally I have booked 2 rooms but cancelled one room few days ago when my colleague cancelled her trip. I have requested for an additional bed which cost US$10. There is a mini-fridge in the room and the drinks are chargeable. Mineral water is complimentary. I have requested for a hair dryer and it's provided. We settled our belongings and head out to explore Vientiane.

I have printed a map from wikitravel which is very useful for navigating in Vientiane. The first attraction which we are heading to is Lao National Museum. Most of the attractions in Vientiane are within walking distance otherwise take a tuk tuk for Kip10,000.
 Vientiane street
An upscale hotel
I wonder what does Bangkok style means? 
Cultural hall

Lao National Museum is open from 8am -12pm and 1pm-4pm. Admission fee is Kip10,000. As we only have USD on hand, we gave USD and the person exchange Kip in return. The rate at the museum and Patuxai is not good as USD 1 = Kip7,000 whereas the rate at other place is USD1= Kip8,000. Personal belongings have to be deposited at the locker and taking photo is not allowed.

I have allocated an hour at the museum but it's not interesting and we only spent half an hour here. The most interesting museum I have visited so far is Korea National museum. I have spent half a day there viewing the exhibits and admission is free!

Lao's National museum
Plain of jar

Then we walked to Lao Kitchen for lunch. The cafe was just preparing for business when we reached. Add: Rue Hengboun (Opposite KP Hotel) 

We ordered Mango salad, Luang Prabang sausage, chicken laab and fried fish. The waitress mixed up the rice order and serve us glutinous rice. In the menu, it indicate rice in plate or rice in bowl. I only discovered that rice in plate refers to white rice and rice in bowl refers to glutinous rice after the rice is served. The glutinous rice is not warm enough hence it's quite hard. The mango salad is not as delicious as the one I ate in Bangkok. For the Luang Prabang sausage, it's mediocre. Laab is a national dish of Lao. There is a choice of chicken or duck. It looks like salad with meat and lots of vegetables including mint leaves. The best dish is the fried fish but the fish is too skinny with little meat. This meal cost Kip130,000 ~ S$20 for 3 pax.
Direction to Lao Kitchen
Lao Kitchen
KP Hotel
We are the first customer
Glutinours rice, Luang Prabang sausage, Chicken Laab, Mango salad, Fried fish

After our lunch, we took a tuk tuk to COPE. Add: Khou Vieng Road (Opposite Green Park Hotel) as walking takes about 20min. I enquired the rate before boarding the tuk-tuk. The driver quote me Kip50,000 and I bargain to Kip35,000 as I have research the rate for each person is Kip10,000 within Vientiane town. COPE is located in compound. I was puzzled when the driver stop at Centre for Medical Rehabilitation until I saw the COPE signboard. The opening hours is 9am-6pm and admission is free. I choose to visit COPE during lunch hour as most of the temples are closed. I asked the security for direction and he replied "Walk straight then turn right and walk straight."

Cope visitor centre signboard

Look out for this sign too

COPE visitors centre explains Laos' legacy of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and the National Rehabilitation Centre's efforts to expand prosthetic, orthotic and rehabilitation services across the country. There is a video room and we watched a short documentary which lasted for 15min. It's extremely sad to learn that those Laotian lost their legs due to UXO. The American war has so much impact on the innocents.
Cope visitor centre
Sculpture made from 500kg of UXO
UXO (Unexploded ordnance)
Lao is heavily bombed during Vietnam war
Metal detector
Prosthetic legs
Cub foot

Souvenirs such as postcard, T-shirts, mugs are available for purchase. Donations in cash or purchase of prosthetic legs are accepted too.
Variety of souvenirs
Creative postcards
Prosthetic leg donation box

I chatted with a blind Laotian guy and he was so happy to have someone chatting with him. We had ice cream at Karma Cafe which is open by COPE. Each ice cream cost Kip10,000 ~ S$1.50. Proceeds goes towards funding COPE service.
Yummy ice cream

After spending about an hour in COPE centre, we took a tuk tuk to Haw Pha Kaew.
Tuk Tuk

Haw Pha Kaew Admission is a former temple and currently a museum (Add: Setthathirath Road, southeast of Wat Si Saket). Opening hours is 8am – 12pm, 1pm – 4pm and admission is Kip5,000 ~ S$0.80. Visitors are required to cover their legs and sarong rental is free.

Haw Pha Kaew housed the Emerald Buddha figurine, which King Setthathirath had brought from Chiang Mai, then the capital of Lanna, to Luang Prabang. When Vientiane was seized by Siam in 1778, the figurine was taken to Thonburi and the temple was destroyed. The revered Buddha now resides in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok. The temple was rebuilt for a third time by the French between 1936 and 1942, during colonization of French Indochina.

The building houses Buddha statues and antiques. However these are not of much interest to me and I spend less than 10min inside the building.
Ticket counter
Haw Pha Kaew
Buddha statues
High roof ceiling

We left Haw Pha Kaew and crossed the road to Wat Si Saket. Wat Si Saket is the oldest standing temple in Vientiane. (Add: Corner of Thanon Lane Xang and Thanon Setthathirat). Opening hours is 8am – 12pm, 1pm – 4pm and admission is Kip5,000 ~ S$0.80. It is famous for the row of Buddha images at the four walls which surround the temple.

We saw a lot of people who wanted to take photo with the 2 monks. I noticed that the men stand but women squat when taking photo with monks. I guess it's because monks are highly revered here and men are of higher status than women? There is a TV crew filming in Wat Si Saket and we were invited to appear on the TV. The host interviewed us about our impression of Laos and how we will recommend Lao to other visitors. Frankly speaking, I hope my interview part will be deleted cos I don't think I spoke well. I'm totally unprepared!
 Wat Si Saket
Locals taking photos with monk
Row of Buddha statues
Hang hod

The presidential palace is directly across the road. However it's not open to the public so we just took photos from the gate.
 Presidential Palace
Female guards

We walked for about 10min from the Presidential Palace to That Dam. Add: Thanon Bartholomie (off Thanon Samsenthai near the US embassy). It is a black stupa here at a roundabout and nothing else. Many Laotians believe it is inhabited by a seven-headed nāga who tried to protect them from an invasion by the Siamese army in 1827.
That Dam

We flagged down a tuk tuk on the road. It's cheaper to flag down a tuk tuk on the road than boarding one that is station at the roadside. The tuk tuk driver charge us Kip10,000 for each person whereas those tuk tuk stationed at the roadside will charge Kip50,000. The tuk tuk driver drop us at quite a distance from Pha That Luang as the surrounding area does not allowed vehicle entry.

Pha That Luang is 3km from the town centre hence it's not advisable to walk there under the hot sun. Location: Thanon That Luang. Opening hours: 8am – 12pm and 1pm – 4pm Admission: Kip5,000 

Pha That Luang is regarded as the most important national monument in Laos and a national symbol. It is constructed in 1566 by King Setthathirat when he relocated his capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. The bases had a length of 69 metres each and was 45 metres high, and was surrounded by 30 small stupas. The entire complex was covered with golden leafs hence the best time for photograph is during mid noon.
Pha That Luang
 Pha That Luang is printed on Kip1,000 note
No entry into the stupa

There are two temples beside That Luang, Wat That Luang Neua to the north and Wat That Luang Tai to the south. We visited Wat That Luang Tai. This temple looks grand from the facade.
 Wat That Luang Tai
Beautifully art work

Although I read in wikitravel that there are 3 types of tuk tuk in Vientiane, I only saw 2 types - sky labs and jumbo. The driver charge us Kip40,000 from Phat That Luang to Patuxai. I feel that sky lab is safer as it's 4 wheels whereas jumbo is 3 wheels.
Sky lab tuk tuk

Patuxai literally meaning Victory Gate or Gate of Triumph resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The Patuxai is dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. The monument was built using American funds and cement intended to build a new airport. The Royal Laotian Government instead built the monument, which earned it the nickname of the "vertical runway". 

Patuxai has five towers that represent the five principles of coexistence among nations of the world. They are also representative of the five Buddhist principles of “thoughtful amiability, flexibility, honesty, honour and prosperity”. There are 7 floors and souvenir stalls are located at the 3rd, 4th and 6th floor. 

Location: Avenue Lane Xang. Opening hours: Mon – Fri 8am – 4pm, Sat & Sun 8am – 5pm. Admission: Kip3,000 to climb up to 7th storey.
 Close up view
Interior decoration with depictions of the gods Vishnu, Brahma, and Indra from left to right
Souvenir stalls
It's folded using authentic Lao's kip
Spiral staircase to the highest view point
Buddha in mediation position
Lang Xang Avenue
Patuxai park

We spent almost an hour at Patuxai as Baoxian wanted to buy some souvenirs. In the end, she and Hui Ping bought T-shirt which is those typical landmark T-shirt. It's relatively cheap as it cost around S$5. We then took a tuk tuk to Nam Phou for massage.
Nam Phou Square
Post box

A forumer has recommended a massage shop at Nam Phou Square. We had 1.5hr massage for Kip60,000 ~ S$9. The massage is not good at all compared to the thai massage I had in Bangkok. Thai massage in Bangkok has set a high standard bar. =p

By the time our massage ended, it's already 7pm and we walked to L'adresse Cuisine de Tinay, a recommended french restaurant for dinner. I realised that Makphet Restaurant is just beside L'adresse Cuisine de Tinay. Location: Opposite Wat Ongteu. The opening hours is 11.30am - 2pm and 6.30pm - 10pm. The restaurant is closed for Saturday lunch time and whole day on Sunday.
Makphet Restaurant
Direction to L'adresse Cuisine de Tinay
L'adresse Cuisine de Tinay
Interior of L'adresse Cuisine de Tinay
Table set up

We ordered the set dinner which comprise of soup, main course and dessert. The set dinner cost US$20 which is simply not affordable for an ordinary Laotian.

There is complimentary bread served. We ordered a plate of goat cheese roll to share and each cheese roll is actually different flavour! The onion soup was served in a cup which is quite unique. I chose Mackerel Fillet and the skin is fried until very crispy. I forgot what is the name of the dessert which I have chosen as I forgot to snap the menu. ><"
French food for dinner

We walked back to the hotel which is just few streets apart. On the way back, we stopped by the night market at the Mekong river bank. Nothing special about the stalls but weather is quite cold at night.
Night market


Anonymous said...

hi jerlin! been reading your blog for some time now and i must say i enjoy reading your trip reports! you seem to have visited most of airasia's destinations!

looking forward to reading about your future trips!

Jerlin Tan said...

Hi wanderme,

I do visit ur blog too! U r one of those who inspired me to visit all the countries in S.E.A.

It's just coincidence that I managed to book cheap Air Asia tix hence those destination. Haha I will travel anywhere as long as there is cheap ticket.

Will have 3 more upcoming trips in 2013. =)