STOP 7 | Day 19 to 20 |
Given our mini-van “experience” getting to Kratie, J was focused on ensuring history didn’t repeat itself when commuting from Kratie back to Phnom Penh (where we would be catching our flight to Vientiane). However, between the limited English and reassurance of “VIP”, “very good” and “no worry – one seat per person” we decided to conduct our own due diligence online. We found the Cambodia Post VIP Van which had many reviews with generally positive feedback (this is a service provided by the national post office which sells seats on its package delivery routes). Given it was the weekend we decided to book this online and check it out on Monday morning. However on Monday after J went to the post office at 7am we were advised the van only did that route on Tuesday! We quickly had to go with plan B and had the hotel find us transport. Luckily they were able to organize for us a van within a few minutes. We jumped into the middle seat of the van with another local man, noticing the family of 3 adults and 2 kids occupying the back seat and thought “at least there is air conditioning”. The van then proceeded to pick up a mother and her teenaged daughter (who both sat in the front seat), we stopped to tie a few large bags on the roof and then we were on our way… to pick up another person! Finally with 12 passengers we left Kratie. Four hours later we happily untangled ourselves out of the van (probably not as happy as the teenaged girl who was car sick the entire ride) in Phnom Penh and took a tuk tuk to the airport.
We were nervous as well as curious to see what Laos had in store after our Cambodia experience. Going from Vietnam to Cambodia, we were slightly naive as to how under developed and poverty-stricken this country was, especially in areas with less tourism. The Khmer Rouge regime has had a negative lasting impact on the country’s development and has in many cases put the country back into peasantry. When we landed in Vientiane, we were pleasantly surprised as we managed to get our visas and into a taxi seamlessly and in less than one hour! As we drove through the city to our hotel we noticed that it definitely was more developed than in Phnom Penh, with organized traffic, less scooters and proper roadways.
The next day after waiting out the morning rainfall we jumped onto a local bus ($0.75USD/person) to head out to Buddha Park (about 45 minutes southeast of Vientiane). Buddha Park is a sculpture park that has over 200 Hindu and Buddhist statues. It is quite an odd yet intriguing sight – the statues are surrounded by lush greenery and palm trees with the Mekong River along one side. Back in the city we stopped by Phakhao Lao Restaurant for lunch, the restaurant can be hard to spot as it is tucked away in an alley, but definitely worth seeking out! J said it was some of the best noodles he’s ever had (fresh flat rice noodles) and A had a great green curry with sticky rice. Sticky rice is the base of a Laotian meal, it’s generally served in a bamboo basket and one makes small balls with it and can dip it in a sauce or use it as a scoop to pick up meats or other food. We actually had sticky rice for the first time in a Laotian restaurant in New York City – Khe-Yo (delicious for those who can handle spicy!).
The city was more laid back and quieter than Cambodia. Leaving the gym at 9pm we couldn’t find a tuk tuk insight, versus in Phnom Penh you’d be hearing the words “tuk tuk” continuously.