Ok, we got our Thai Visa.
Although it was always assumed that we would be allowed back into Thailand, there was still this sliver of doubt that they'd deny us re-entry. We've heard that the Thai government are very picky about who they let in. We did so much research to increase the odds of getting our visa application approved.
We read online that they don't like foreigners who can't pay their way through the country and then take jobs away from Thai people when they're here. So for some visitors, there's a solvency test where they check your bank balance. Also, as of a few years ago, they started scrutinizing Russian nationals because they are starting illegal businesses in the tourist areas (Phuket, in particular) and taking money away from Thai businesses. They also don't like hippy backpacker tourists, because they bring drug problems into the country and don't spend a lot of money. I even got a haircut and wore a nice shirt with no BeerLaowDark stains on it specifically because we were afraid of that... :(
At the Thai Embassy in Vientiane, there were hordes of dread-locked, sandal-and-tie-dye-singlet wearing hippies in line and all of them got their Visas approved. I bet some of them were even Russian! Wat Dahek! I got a haircut for nothing! Bah, not listening to the Internet anymore. -555.
Patuxai War Monument
So with our freshly minted visas in our passports, we went back out into Vientiane to see more sights. Our plan is to relocate away from the Embassy which is in the outskirts of Vientiane and move to the downtown area. We had to negotiate with a tuk tuk driver to get us there. It seems like haggling is as much of a national sport here as it is in Thailand. One that we are no good at... I hate backpacking.
Patuxai War Monument is similar to the Arc de Triomphe in France, but this one celebrates Laos independence from... France.
The Patuxai is decorated with our old friend the Kinnari, which we last saw at the Royal Palace in Bangkok
Our tuk tuk brought us to the centre of Vientiane's busy downtown core where we checked into another hotel. The ladies at reception greet us with a "Sabaidee!" A bit different from the "Sawatdee Kah" greeting in Thailand, but almost the same.
More reminders of Laos' connection to the Soviet Union
Stupa right around the corner from our hotel
The days are too hot to go venturing out, so we wait until the temperatures cool in the early evening, whereupon our activities mainly consist of eating out. The prices here are surprisingly expensive, about one and a half times more than Thailand, despite Laos being not as well developed. Maybe it was because we were in the capital city? Would it be cheaper in the smaller towns?
Go home, Camera. You're drunk.
We did a lot of this while in Vientiane
Scooter hangouts at night
Vehicles drive on the the right side of the road in Laos. Our bus from Thailand had to briefly switch sides to drop us off at the border and I found that after only two months in left-hand-side-driving Thailand, I had already switched over mentally. Here in Vientiane, I had to constantly remind myself to look left when crossing the street and traffic looked odd to me. I kept thinking, "Everybody's driving on the wrong side of the road!"
Can't wait to get back to Thailand.
These spirit houses are everywhere in South-East Asia
Spirit houses are tiny ornate temples located on the premises of a residence or business. A priest needs to be consulted as to the location of the spirit house - never build one in the shadow of the building! After the spirit house is constructed, it provides a shelter for the spirits that live on that piece of land. Only then can you build your house or business, without fear that the spirit of the land will inhabit your building.
The spirit that lives in this spirit house really likes Pepsi.
Visiting more temples
Laotian Bell tower
Walking around Wat Ong Teu
Monks catching a tuk tuk. Their transportation is free all over South East Asia
I have a solution to our tuk tuk haggling and general transportation problems. All we need are a couple of orange robes. I may need another haircut though...
Time to get this gong show on the road
Studying at the feet of Buddha
I am fascinated by monks!
Pretending to take a picture of these dragons
Neda is laughing at me taking pictures of all these monks
Negative Space Buddha
A monk in every picture. Neda calls me Monk Stalker
We've been in Vientiane for five days now. Every morning we walk past the Sabaidee ladies in reception to grab breakfast. Then back to the air conditioning of our hotel room. Then in the evenings, more Sabaidees on the way to dinner. It seems like we're just dragging our feet in Laos, unable to pull ourselves forward.
Cross-section of life in Vientiane
Goofing around in Vientiane
We really tried our best to get out to backpack South-East Asia. Honestly. We spent a day or two looking over bus schedules, flight schedules, schedules schedules schedules. All of this traveling on schedules was causing us a lot of grief. When we started this trip almost four years ago, backpacking is not what we signed up for. We have brand new motorcycles waiting for us just across the border and wait... what do we have burning a hole in our passports? A permission slip to return back to those motorcycles?
Screw this backpacker nonsense.
We're going home!!!