Today’s forecast: 38°C, sunny 🥵🔥
Mosquito bite tally: 14
Temples, water fights, and monuments
Today was our last full day in Laos. We left Vang Vieng early in the morning for a 3 hour drive to the Laos capital, Vientiane. Skies are blue here but it is hot, hot, hot!
Our guides were keen to get started and took us out on an orientation walking tour after we checked into our hotel. We started at Wat Si Saket, the only surviving Buddhist temple in Vientiane after much of the city was destroyed during the Siamese occupation in 1828.
It features a cloister containing 2000 ceramic and silver Buddha images.
We arrived in Vientiane at the start of the Lao New Year, known as Pi Mai, which takes place between April 14th to 16th each year. A traditional practice during the new year celebrations is to splash water on and clean Buddha statues at the temple. Sometimes the water is perfumed with flowers, and the idea is that this cleansing practice allows for a fresh start to the year.
Water is a part of celebrations taking place outside the temple as well. We spotted trucks filled with kids and young adults equipped with water guns and buckets spraying passerby.
We were targeted for a couple splashes while on our tuk tuk, which then took us to the Patuxai Monument. Patuxai, translating to ‘Victory Gate’, is a large concrete arch located in the centre of the city, resembling the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It was constructed between 1957 to 1968, to commemorate Lao independence from French colonial rule.
For 5000 kip you can climb up about 5 flights of stairs to the observation deck for views overlooking the city.
This afternoon, we were originally scheduled to visit COPE, a rehabilitation centre for those affected by unexploded ordinance across the country. Laos has a grim war history, with devastating effects still felt today. Unfortunately the centre was closed today on account of the holiday, so it’ll have to be added on our itinerary if we’re ever in Vientiane again.
Speaking of such, some people say that Vientiane is generally unremarkable and not worth visiting. It does indeed appear to be a fairly small, quiet city. There are a couple notable sites but I would agree that it is probably best for just a one day visit before moving onto the next destination. Of the three places we visited in Laos, Luang Prabang would be my favourite by far.
Pi Mai celebrations and goodbye to Laos
Our travel mates and Intrepid guide spent the afternoon participating in the Pi Mai water fight festivities, while Mr. Chuckles and I opted to veg out in the air conditioned hotel room. We joined the group later in the evening for our farewell dinner, where I ate my last Lao spring roll and sausage in Laos.
After saying goodbye to our guide, I had some #fomo so decided that we might as well join our travel companions to check out the Pi Mai celebrations, since we may never be back here again at this time of year. We took a walk down the main street leading to the Mekong River and witnessed the ongoing water fight parties. Not the best conditions for quality photography but it was fun to be part of the action and enjoy our final night in Laos.
We will be departing tomorrow morning for a flight back to Bangkok, where we’ll spend one more day. We may be able to catch the tail end of Thai New Year, Songkran, over there and finish off our trip with another Bang(kok)!