A Trip Around Laos: Vientiane
I am writing this in Vientiane, at the start of a month long research trip to Laos and Cambodia for my novel, Back, which requires me to research sites and sights of the Vietnam War in Laos, and the horrors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
I’m doing the trip with my wife, which means communication difficulties in Laos caused by my appalling Thai will be minimized, hopefully.
To get here we took a decent overnight bus from Bangkok airport to Nong Khai, Thailand.
I always enjoy being up in Nong Khai, where my wife’s family live, right next to Wat Pochai in the centre of town, and a couple of minutes’ walk from the morning market.
As well as walking along the Mekong river, one of my daily highlights is to accompany my missus and her mother at 8am, when they go to the market, where I buy strong, local iced coffee and they buy food for the day. I usually stop to photograph some of the weird and wonderful Mekong fish, or the ones that aren’t being de-scaled alive, thumped on the head, drying and dying on the fishmongers’ stall or fighting for breath in crowded buckets of warm, de-oxygenated water. As most people who live here know, Thai markets aren’t for the faint-hearted…
After a couple of days in Nong Khai, we crossed over the Thailand-Laos border at 9am this morning, hiring a tuk tuk which dropped us at the Mixay Guest House, in one of the small side streets leading down to the river, where I booked into its best room, costing a princely $15 a night.
This is the description of the place on the Laos Airlines website; “The Mixay is one of the few places in Vientiane firmly aimed at the budget conscious. The guesthouse now looks rather shabby and rooms are really basic and uninspired…”
You may wonder why I wanted to stay here, and the answer is, I want to put the characters of my book into real places wherever possible, as they backpack through Laos.
I have been surprised by two things since my last trip to Vientiane eighteen months ago. Firstly, pressure on space in downtown Vientiane means that the backpacker district is now disappearing fast. Boutique and expensive hotels and posher restaurants and shops are springing up everywhere on the same streets as hostels, internet cafes and cheap travel agents, which is a trend I suspect that will continue.
I have also noticed lots more independent backpacking older people, retirees and the like, and not just those in organized group tours. These older backpackers are staying and eating in the same budget locations as their much younger counterparts, but I suspect they have a lot more disposable, being at the end of their working life rather than at the beginning of it.
I always like to spend a couple of days in Vientiane, as it makes me desperate to leave, although I know when we head to Phonsavan we’re in for a nightmare 11-hour journey on a knackered old bus, as I have done it once before and swore I’d never to do it again.
Our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.
See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil.
For POWs left behind in Laos, see also:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
Reviews: Amazon.co.uk: Customer Reviews