Our window of time in Laos kept getting smaller and smaller as we spent more time in Vietnam than I expected. Laos began to feel like an afterthought, but the costs of the visas and flight from Hanoi and the fact we were leaving Vientiane to return to China, meant we would be visiting at least the capital city of Vientiane. For 36 hours.
Thanks to exhaustion of the first week in Vietnam-Hanoi twice, Hoi An near Da Nang, and an overnight at Ha Long Bay, Laos was the perfect way to end a ten day trip. Although Alex had become temple-averse and his eyes would glaze over slightly at the site of yet another Buddha statue, he loved Laos simply by the fact that it was not crowded, loud, and dirty like so many places we had visited in the past year.
In many parts of the world, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but just the way western eyes perceive them. In Qingdao, many Chinese talk of the natural beauty and blue skies, and breathtaking sites. They do exist here, but so does a lot of pollution and poverty, not to mention ten billion people. Everything is relative and subject to perspective, which must be respected, if not accepted entirely.
Vientiane has been around for over a thousand years but did not become the capital until 1563 for fear of an invasion by neighboring Burma. With a current metro population of only 750,000 people-about the same as my neighborhood in China, Vientiane is really just a big town by Asian standards and one of the smallest capitals in Asia. Although debate continues about the meaning of the city’s name, the general belief is it is a Buddhist reference to “city of sandalwood” that evolved into a the French-influenced and sounding Vientiane.