Thursday, September 4, 2008

Days 8-10: Vientiane, Laos

After arriving at our guesthouse on September 8, I realized that, since I came a day earlier than expected to Vientiane, my room was not available (in any case, neither was it available the day after). Oh, well, so instead of a $6 single room with a fan I was offered a $9 triple bed room for me and Hiroki and Will (i.e. $3 per person). I guess this was the better choice in any case, for we could all share a room and not have to wait for each other in different places. The location? Smack-dab in the center of Vientiane, although we really couldn't tell from the looks of it.

The tuk-tuks were more expensive than I had imagined. It cost about 40,000 kip (about $5) for a trip from our guest house to Pha That Luang, the most popular tourist attraction (temple) in town. The trip only took 4 minutes or so, and amongst the three of us splitting the tab it wasn't that expensive. But if going alone, like how I went the next day to the Bourmala Restaurant for breakfast, 40,000 kip is a lot of money in Laos. Obtaining kip isn't difficult, for there are currency exchange points throughout the city, but every place I've been to here without exception accepts Thai baht and U.S. dollars, which is convenient.

UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and USAid signs are visible, owing to the fact that both organizations have a presence here.

Stuff here is much cheaper than in any other country I've been to. In Thailand an hour-long massage costs the equivalent of $5 or $6, but here it is only $3 (29,000 kip). Accommodation is much cheaper and the food isn't any worse (different, yes, but not worse). The Lao culture and language are very much intact; despite the poverty there aren't any beggars. However, with stuff being as cheap as it is, it is easy to overspend. I have actually already spent a total of roughly $200 in Laos, $70 of which was transport to get here and back and $36 for the visa.

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