We didn’t spend the whole time in Vientiane eating. Honestly, we didn’t.
After sorting out our Thai visa at the embassy in the morning, The Koala and I spent the rest of the day apart from our group, touristing around on our own.
Haw Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha have lovely grounds and is now a museum of buddha relics. A 45cm jade Buddha figurine was housed here for a time many, many years ago but now resides in a temple in Bangkok, Thailand.
Wat Si Saket is just across the road. Come here to see buddha figurines and a temple.
How cool is this leaning chair?
Then we hopped onto a jumbo. A jumbo is like the Thailand tuk tuk but with 2 benches so that the passengers face each other. They can comfortably fit 6 although you could cram 8 or 9. Tuk tuk seats face forward and comfortably seat 2 adults, although you could cram in 4.
Our driver didn’t speak a word of English, but he had a printed and laminated menu of Vientiane attractions. We just pointed to all the ones we wanted see and he came up with the price of 260,000 / $41NZ / $33US. While that does sound quite steep for Laos, it ended up being 3 hours of his time. He waited for us while we visited each sight and he took us 25km out to Buddha Park. It would have been cheaper had we shared the costs with some of our friends, but it really wasn’t too bad.
This monument is called Patuxai, and was built in the 1960’s to celebrate the 1954 Laotian Independence from the French. It kind of looks like the Parisian Arc de Triomphe. I guess the French still had a bit of influence after the independence. You climb up the stairs and there are markets inside selling trinkets and what not. At the top is a nice view of Vientiane. It’s not the biggest city so there’s no skyscrapers or anything like that.
The view from the top.
I thought this was a good opportunity to play around with Photoshop. By blurring sections of the top and bottom, I got this:
At the top, we found some piled up Laotion signage. If I could figure a way to bring it all back, this stuff would be hanging from the trees in my backyard right now.
We visited Pha That Luang, a gold monument devoted to Buddha.
Buddha Park was probably the favourite attraction of the day. The Koala and I love Buddha things. The story is that a priest-shaman built the statues in 1958 to try and marry Buddhism and Hinduism through art. Built on the banks of the Mekong River on 10 acres of land, it’s worth visiting as pictures don’t really do it justice. These bizarre and sometimes macabre statues have such a presence and I’m sure I’m not the first to wonder if this cement community comes to life after dark. Even in the sunny afternoon, goosebumps crept across my skin.
This isn’t supposed to be a peaceful place. People, animals, demons, monsters and angels represent Hell, Earth and Heaven. “The more you need, the more you want, the more you will suffer.”
This statue of a businessman is life size and I couldn’t help but think it was just a guy that had come here for an after-work drink after dark and was turned to stone before the sun rose again.
The view from the top of a 3 level sculpture.
And another bit of a play on Photoshop just blurring the top and the bottom and a bit of a crop on the people.
25km is quite far away from the town, but I really think Buddha Park was worth the trip.
- Buddha Park.
- Rich history – Buddhas and temples.
- Riverside atmosphere.
- Many places are closed for a few hours at lunch so get in before or after or take a break for lunch yourselves.
- Jumbo drivers often have “menus” of the sights for you to plan your tour.
And I want to mention the next bit because it will be handy for anyone that is traveling from Laos to Thailand over land.
Getting a Thai visa extension
Entering Thailand by land means you only get a 14 day visa. If you travel by air, you automatically get 30 days. If you are traveling on to Thailand and need to extend your 14 day Thai visa, you can organise it in Vientiane at the Thai Visa office. It’s absolutely free. It just takes a little of your time.
There are no signs in English at the Thai Consulate about how the process goes. We were just lucky our Intrepid Travel guide gave us tips before we went.
The Thai Consulate opens at 8.30am but you must go early as they are always busy and they close at 12 noon. There was already a line when we arrived 15 minutes before opening. Bring 2 copies of passport photos with you and your passport. You need 2 for the visa. Do not buy application forms from the street sellers. Application forms at the consulate. When you get in, take a ticket. After you collect and fill out your form, you must go upstairs and photocopy everything before continuing to the window. You get given another ticket and then you have to go to into the other building and wait for your receipt. This can take a long time. The receipt is so that you can pick up your passport and visa the following day. Anyone that holding the receipt can collect your passport so look after the receipt as if it were your passport.
We were without our passports for a few days as we left Vientiane the next morning and had to have our passports sent to us in the next town. Not having a passport in a foreign country makes me really nervous, but it all worked out fine in the end. Instead of just getting a 30 day visa like we needed, we were given 2 months.
It baffles me that they make land travelers go through this whole process to extend a 14 day visa. They don’t take any money for it so surely it would surely be more economical if they gave out 30 day visas instead of 14 day visas, or charged people for extension.