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After four nights in Bangkok we took the short flight to Vientiane in Laos. Filling in the forms for a visa on arrival took a little time but before long we were through immigration. After changing our Thai Bhat into Laos Kip, we took a taxi to the Phonepaseuth Guesthouse.
After checking in to our nice large family room we took a short walk out for dinner. First impressions of Vientiane were good. It is a very quiet capital city with a French feel that is left over from colonial days. On the way home the kids enjoyed themselves at a tiny park by the Vientiane fountain.
Vientiane is quite small which means a lot of the sights are accessible on foot. The next day we set off walking to visit That Dam, Haw Pha Kaeo and the many Buddha statues of Sisaket Temple before heading back for lunch and an afternoon of education.
Looking at the map we knew there was a large play park in the area close to the Mekong River so we took the kids down there in the evening. The park was close to one end of the night market and there were already stalls set up ready for sale. The kids played and then we crossed the road to watch the sun set over the river.
With the night market, so close we decided to walk through it. Most of the goods on offer were similar but our son spotted a Pokémon Go! T-Shirt that he wanted. After his first attempt to haggle failed we left and walked around some more before returning and he tried again successfully. We had one happy Son as we headed to an Indian meal for dinner.
After a morning of education, we hopped in a Tuk Tuk to Buddha Park. We had a feeling the kids would enjoy the many statues in the park, especially the giant pumpkin. The park is about a 40min ride from Vientiane and it was nice to see some of rural Laos on the way. Despite its name, Buddha Park is not a religious site. There are many statues with Buddhist and Hindu styles and the kids loved imagining what it would be like if they came to life. By far the biggest hit for the kids was the giant pumpkin. You can enter the slightly demonic mouth and climb stairs inside to reach the top of the statue. A good couple of hours were spent at the park before we returned to Vientiane.
On our last full day in Vientiane Mum and Dad sat outside while the kids played. We were planning our remaining time in Asia. There were some very hard decisions to make. We had already ruled out a visit to Nepal and Myanmar to get to Patagonia during summer season. Now we had added a month in New Zealand it meant that we would not be doing Vietnam or Cambodia much justice. We eventually decided to visit Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and a week in Hoi An for our time in Vietnam. This would be followed by a week in Siem Reap for Angkor Wat before a few nights back in Kuala Lumpur.
That afternoon we took another Tuk Tuk to see the iconic Pha That Luang. On the way back we stopped at the Patuxay Monument where we climbed the stairs to the top for a great view over the city.
We had organised a seat on a minibus to Vang Vieng which left the next morning. The minibus was supposed to be quicker and it was quickly apparent why. The driver put his foot down and swerved around traffic as we made our way there. After a short lunch stop we speeded off again but this time the roads were winding. The next hour and a half made us all feel a bit sick. Thankfully no-one threw up but Dad wasn’t feeling the best when we arrived.
In Vang Vieng we had booked in to the Central Park Hotel as it had a pool. Once renowned for its backpacker party vibe, the Laos government cracked down and while it remains a party town it is not too over the top. Over the next few days we chilled out and admired the scenery in and around Vang Vieng, making use of the pool.
Since we didn’t want another manic driver, and we didn’t like the sound of the eight-hour bus ride we chose to hire a car with driver for the trip to Luang Prabang. It turned out to be a wise choice. We took the quicker new route which had its scary moments (low visibility through cloud cover) but our driver was great and before long we were in Luang Prabang….