Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hello Vientiane

Our hotel here, the Saibaidee Lao, is quite comfortable and right in the middle of town, just a couple of blocks from the Mekong River. There is a beautiful park down there, with a par course for exercise, and lots of walking paths along the river with no traffic. The temperature today was perfection, a lot like Santa Cruz. The atmosphere of the city has a big whiff of French Colonial flavor. You feel it in the delicious crunchy bread, the French Colonial architecture everywhere, the Victory Arch reminiscent of the Arc de Triumph, the French bistros, and the very fancy Western cars (Jaguars, Bentleys, etc).

The Grand Stupa here is the biggest in Laos, built in the 1500s and then destroyed repeatedly by the French, the Chinese, and the "Siamese" (Thais). Thailand is just on the other side of the Mekong from here. The Lao people see it all day long, and there is even a Friendship Bridge across between the two countries. This morning we went on a little city tour, starting with the Grand Stupa, which include the National Museum of Laos. The exterior is stupendous, and garden lovely. The museum was unremarkable, but had a few dozen Buddha statues, including an Emerald one, that for whatever reason wasn't there.

In back of this palace is a giant reclining Buddha, all golden, with huge feet decorated in red seals. He is in the Nirvana position (we are learning all about Buddhism here) and very magnificent.

Next stop was the Victory Arch, where we climbed 165 stairs to the top - and on almost every level there was - yes you guessed it - SHOPPING! Tons of souvenir stands, and everything imaginable for sale. We made it all the way up, and the view all around the city was worth it.

Finally we went to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, also known as the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas. This was one of the few in Laos that was not destroyed by the US bombing during the Vietnam War, and it was so pristine and breathtakingly lovely - probably our favorite so far of all we've seen here.

I'll write about the afternoon in a new post. It had us all in tears.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Vientiane, Laos

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