Declining Hotel Hell’s offer to mind our bike, for double the price of the lock up facility, we head towards Friendship Bridge. A quick passport check and stamp later, we purchase a 15 Baht bus ticket for the ride across. For some reason we are ushered away from the bus and into a private minivan?
The Laos visa took only 20 minutes: complete the form, attach two photos and pay about 1300 baht. We were approached by a taxi driver who offered us a trip into Vientiane for 150 Baht each, very reasonable for such a long distance, so we take it. The young driver shows us the Thai Consulate and then takes us to a hotel. It’s old, big and comfortable, but could do with a good scrub and renovating in parts. The rooms on the road side share a balcony that runs the whole length of the building, which makes for great people watching over the next few days.
Having barely put my bag down, I pull open the curtain to see an old farang walking the streets, with a cup in one hand and a plastic bag in the other. He empties a small mound of white powder at the bases of, what I can only describe as something a dog might like to pee on...sign posts, plant pots, lumps of concrete. And I wonder what it’s like to be foreign and *special*, in Laos.
There are many multi lingual signs, hanging on store and business fronts. Lao, Vietnamese, English, Japanese, Korean and others. Russian flags often wave along side Lao flags. A reminder of the 1970's when Russia helped overthrow the monarchy and the Lao People's Democratic Republic was formed.
The city seems multi cultural to some degree. Even the mini mart cash register displays the total price in kip, baht, US$ and Euro. You can pay in any, but you’ll be handed your change in kip.
From the balcony at night - the ‘Atop’ food stall sets up for a busy night of cooking outside the hotel. Advertised as ‘clean, food and good taste’, and it is. This is a professional outfit of four hair netted staff who churn out meal after meal, for hours, to customers on their way home or sitting at the bright yellow shiny tables. They even bring their own kitchen sink.
A shirtless local paces endlessly up and down the pavement, clocking up many miles as he goes. Ducking into a doorways or lanes from time to time. On drugs? Selling drugs? Not quite the full packet of biscuits? Who knows!
Three young boys play tennis on the sidewalk all evening.
Even though we're told this is the Thai part of Laos, it doesn't feel like Thailand.
Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai