Day 114: Country #14
Vientiane is unusually located in that it is the capital of a country, but the city border is shared with another country, Thailand. I could easily see across the Mekong River when I hopped on bus line 14, which ran parallel to the river on the way to Buddha Park located on the far south east corner of the city.
Along the way, the bus stops at the Thai-Lao Friendship bridge where you can see the contrast in building codes and economic development between the much richer Thai minor city and developing Laos capital.
Buddha Park turned out to be a small theme park of sorts, filled with various Buddha sculptures in various poses. The centerpiece is a large dome shaped structure with small stairs leading to the top, allowing for a panoramic view of the whole park. None of the pieces are actually old, but they look aged due to the weather.
On the way back, I explored the market area near the friendship bridge then rode the buses all the way north to make a second attempt to visit the Kaysone Museum, but they closed even earlier than before, however the adjacent library was open so I was able to talk to a couple of people about the museum. I poorly timed my visit because I thought I could stop by a hotel along the way to find a quick wifi connection, but I ended up speaking with one of the staff for a while, learning about how he found his way to Vientiane from Vietnam.
When I got back to the city center, I noticed signs for a large theater production at the Lao National Cultural Hall, but the performances had stopped despite otherwise stated on the signs. However, I was able to visit the Lao National Museum to get a more tourist orientated story of the country.
I spent the rest of the evening exploring the surrounding neighborhood from the museum to Chao Fa Ngum Monument then back to the tourist street where I met a group of Australians and had dinner with them. Two were newly-wed, another one was married to a Thai woman from across the river so they were on a “visa run.”
Visa runs are a strategy employed by long term travelers whereby they cross the border to another country, stay a couple of days, or immediately turn around and cross back. This lets them stamp out within the 30-90 day visa period, and get a new 30-90 day visa.