Another 24 Hours in Vientiane
Still got time to spare after your first 24 hours in Vientiane? Well there is plenty to keep you busy!
Breakfast and Human Sacrifices….
Try starting your day at Kung’s Café. Set at the end of a tiny cul-de–sac with higgledy-piggledy houses, Kung’s Café has a uniquely Lao charm about it. Originally started 40 years ago, Kung and her daughter serve various dishes, but their speciality is their mango sticky rice pancakes. This should be accompanied by sweet, strong Lao coffee. It will set you up perfectly for the day ahead.
At the end of the same road is one of Vientiane’s most important temples. There has been a temple on the site where Wat Si Muang stands for hundreds of years and the ruins of an ancient Khmer Temple can still be seen in the grounds. Known as the Mother Temple, Si Muang represented the good luck that the new capital would have when it moved from Luang Prabang to Vientiane over 450 years ago. In those days it was believed that a human sacrifice was necessary to ensure that Vientiane and her people would thrive. Mrs. Si was chosen and the central pillar of the temple lifted on top of her. Check out the statues to her memory around the grounds!
History and Art
Around Si Muang are many art galleries, i-Cat Gallery is particularly worth checking out, and then stroll over to The Little House where, as well as delicious coffee in a calm environment, you can also check out the natural Indigo dyed Lao cotton and various handicrafts, before heading over to the COPE Visitor Centre.
In the 1960’s and 70’s the American bombing of Laos left it as the most bombed country, per capita, in the world. A horrendous statistic which is still true today. For 9 years an average of one planeload of explosives was dropped on Laos every 8 minutes. That’s every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day for 9 years. The implications of this are still being felt today, particularly in rural areas when the rains wash away the top soil exposing some of the bombies that have lain there ever since.
Much work is being done to remove the UXO that still remains, but it is a huge task. COPE’s mission is to help those injured by these explosives.. Their Visitor Centre gives a fascinating insight into what happened and the ways in which people are able to help now. It’s a definite must-see on any visit to Vientiane. And, if you are keen to learn more before you come, try watching This Little Land of Mines.
You’ll be ready for a light lunch after COPE and PVO, just around the corner, is the perfect place. It has fabulous noodles and sandwiches, such as pate khao jee, based on the Vietnamese Bánh mì, and their passion fruit juice is excellent. If you are still hungry then over the road you’ll find Bakery by Boris with some delicious pastries and coffee.
Time to Relax
In Laos, saunas are a way of life and the one next to Wat Sokpaluang is particularly popular. They have sarongs to wear and tea to drink as you steam in the natural sauna, which uses herbs from the woods around the temple. After this, try heading for a hairdressers. Lie back as they wash your hair, and massage your neck and shoulders unlike any hairdressers in the west! Of course you can have a cut while you are there, but many people head there for a hair wash and the ultimate in a head and shoulder massage instead.
Sunset and Dinner
Vientiane is starting to have a few decent roof-top bar options, ideal for catching the sunset. 7th Heaven is right alongside the Mekong River on the 7th floor of Le Seine Hotel, which also offers some great food if you are looking for a higher end eating option. Another good choice in the centre of Vientiane is The Tipsy Elephant, which sits atop Surestay Hotel. There are plenty of street stalls and local restaurants around the area for dinner options. Your best bet is to have a wander and follow the aromas to find something you like. Downtown Vientiane is easily walkable and the best way to find the local hangouts.