Thursday, September 4, 2008
Days 8-10 Continued: Vientiane, Laos
Sorry, I forgot to put a caption... The picture below, as well as on this post, is of the Patuxai, or Arch of Triumph. I don't know wheather this is against the Americans in the Vietnam War or after obtaining independence from the French, but it is a very nice place. It is located on a round-about, with a lyceum and government buildings on its perimeter. On the ceiling from the inside, there are ornate paintings too. Very pretty.
I still can't imagine how small this place feels! Although I finally am beginning to get used to the fact that this is a city, it feels so small! Compared to Laos's 5-million or so people, Bangkok has nearly double the population of this whole country! I just saw the first taxi in Vientiane yesterday, which wasn't going anywhere: the tuk-tuks are a much more popular mode of transport here, as are the motorbikes or bicycles, which can be rented for just over $1 per bicycle per day.
Having passed the U.S. Embassy, I saw a sign by its front door: "Beware of a secret Lao law that says having sexual relations with unmarried Lao women can result in a fine of up to $5,000." So, okay, turns out that, unlike in Thailand, the law here is purportedly enforced, but the women has to be married to sleep with other men? What in the world?!?! How does this work? Isn't this encouraging deception and cheating on one's spouse? Oh, well, I'll never cease being surprised.
Laos is also nicknamed the "Land of 1000 Elephants." I'm sure there is some history to this, for I haven't seen any elephants anywhere in Laos. Cats and a few stray dogs, yes. Some nice fish and roosters, too. But I have never seen an elephant.
However, I did read that obtaining some marijuana was easier in this place than obtaining water, as an old aphorism goes. Well, true to its word, the first thing I was offered was a tuk-tuk ride, and, having politely refused, some "mar-ee-wa-na." I was offered water only 20 minutes later in a restaurant. And, no, to all of those wondering, I have heretofore refused such vices as marijuana and "special Lao and/or Thai friends."