Vegan Travel in Vientiane
After our brief but miserable experience of Vang Vieng, we were up early to catch our VIP bus to Vientiane. In true Laos / Vang Vieng style, the minibus to take us to the bus station was over an hour late; never mind though, we were all just happy to be leaving.
Wait though, what’s that the minibus driver is saying?
The VIP bus is full because we’re late?
He’s cramming in 10 more people onto makeshift seats?
By this stage, not even the Fearsome Duo can save us and we sink defeated into our seats and hope that the next 6-8 hours stuffed into an airless mini-van won’t be as bad as we think they might be. On the plus side, at least we aren’t suffering from what seems to be the hangover from hell like the guy sat behind us, and at least we are getting out of Vang Vieng.
I console myself with Oreos and crisps and an hour long conversation with Pam, my newly adopted Vegan Food Quest roomate (because Paul is still in Siem Reap) about potential new flavours for crisps that haven’t been invented yet.
Yes, I clearly have too much time on my hands…
And so we eventually arrive in Vientiane, which by comparison to Vang Vieng is absolutely lovely but is probably not the most exciting or culturally rich of all the South East Asian capitals we’ve visited on our travels.
Getting ready to go out exploring
We did manage to kill a few days there though, pottering around the market at night, visiting a few temples as you do, sitting in cafes and seeking out vegan food (which is a much harder job in Laos than elsewhere).
We visited the COPE visitor centre, which has to be one of the most powerful things I’ve done in a long time and is definitely my number 1 tip for anyone visiting Vientiane. COPE is a museum and education centre where the illegal bombing of Laos in the American – Vietnamese War and the on going threat to Laotian people from ‘unexploded ordinance’ or UXOs is highlighted.
The COPE visitor centor
This touched my heart in many ways but it mainly made me feel very angry at the injustice of it all and at how the problems caused have never been righted by those responsible.
Facts from the exhibition: enlightening but made me really angry at the injustice
This is my number one travel tip for things to do in Vientiane; go and visit the COPE museum.
Frustratingly, human beings are still using cluster bombs against each other; sometimes it feels as though we never learn.
There wasn’t much else that was striking about Vientienne. A lot of the historical buldings were destroyed when the city was raised to the ground in 1827 and a lot of the colonial influence left by the French seems to have disappeared (although there were some hints in streets half lined with awesome trees which gave you a glimpse of what things might have been like).
There are of course temples to visit and we enjoyed an hour or so looking around. I also headed off to a vipassana walking meditation session with Eileen and some monks and was thrown right back into the turmoil of my 10 day silent meditation course.
What is it with me and un-peaceful meditation?
We passed by a few temples…
We pondered about the meaning of this man’s giant arm quite a lot; marching as part of an invasion or a hand reaching out in friendship across the water to Thailand?
We finally got to experience some more traditional Laotian food courtesy of Lao Kitchen and once we discovered this place I found it hard to want to go anywhere else. This was seriously the best vegan food we ate in Laos but you can read all about that in our Vegan Guide to Laos.
This tofu laab from Lao Kitchen was the best thing I ate in Laos.
Vientiane was enjoyable for a few days (and because it wasn’t Vang Vieng) but it didn’t blow me away. It just lacked something for me; it was nice but not amazing. The food was OK; the atmosphere was friendly enough but there wasn’t any thing in particular that would make me want to return.
So I said farewell to Laos having been glad to have visited (Luang Prabang was the highlight) but not really fallen in love with it and I said farewell to Pam, my temporary Vegan Food Quest roommate as I headed on to Cambodia.
I was looking forward to being reunited with Paul and continuing with our Vegan Food Quest adventure but soon found myself wondering if our nomadic travelling days have come to an end, asking “is Siem Reap our final destination?”.
Bye Pam – until next time…
Also, we would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve been to Vientiane, or even if you haven’t but you’ve just got something to say about it, leave us a comment below and you can be sure to get a reply because not replying goes against our British politeness 🙂