Sabaidee! I'm in Laos now, at this moment sitting on a bus from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang.
Laos is definitely different than Thailand and I have had some ups and downs the last few days.
The night I arrived in Vientiane was stressful, the driver not being able to find my hostel and then having to find a working ATM, while also having no internet and checking in at Dream Home hostel that did not have the nicest atmosphere or staff. But everything worked out alright and after getting a SIM card with data the next morning I felt much more human. Vientiane is a very sleepy capital with no skyscrapers, traffic jams or big malls. Instead, it's build up of low buildings, the french and international influence mixing seamlessly together with the traditional Laotian culture, cute cafés scattered across town. And even though I must admit that I didn't absolutely fall in love with the city - that for me lacked a bit of atmosphere - I really did enjoy the calmness and cosiness of it. To be fair though, I think my lack of enjoyment was also partly because I missed Axel and Will and had a bit of a hard time getting accustomed to being alone again. On my first day there I explored the old town on foot, after a delicious breakfast at Bacan café setting out towards the Sisaket temple.
On my way there I stopped by That Dam (black stupa)
and then took a stroll down Avenue Lane Xang, past the Sisaket temple and towards the Presidential Palace at one end.
I passed the palace and continued through the serene Chao Anouvong Park
and then up to the Talat Sao morning market and two malls (one modern and one old).
I continued on to the COPE visitors centre, where I stayed for a good while, learning about the secret bombing of Laos, prosthetics and the victims of UXO today.
The exhibition had a huge impact and it was definitely the highlight of Vientiane for me.
In my way back I bought a baguette filled with vegetables and chilli sauce from one of the many stalls on the street.
I walked along the park home and stopped to rent a bike for two days, before cycling back.
In the evening I took my bike to the night market by the Mekong river and walked in between the shops selling clothes, souvenirs, jewellery and the like for a while, before continuing all the way up the road on my bike, exploring the area by the river.
I ended up not finding any vegan street food there and cycled back, on the way stopping for dinner at a local vegan restaurant located down a tiny alleyway.
The food was delicious and I fell asleep on a full stomach.
On my second full day in Vientiane, I cycled to the bus station, stopping in for breakfast at vegetarian café Coco&co that was expensive but good.
I explored the Sao Talat morning market and then the Khua Din market before taking bus number 14 to Buddha Park.
The park was a peculiar place filled with hundreds of weird cement statues depicting gods and legends from Buddhism and Hinduism.
Picture: very hot me on top of the pumpkin
I spent some time walking around (and inside of) the statues in the burning sun, before jumping on the bus back to Vientiane.
I rode my bike to Buddhist vegetarian restaurant 'vegetarian in the golden age', where I ate an amazing lunch
before cycling to the Patuxai victory monument, that from afar looks a lot like Arc de Triomphe, but up close is intricately embellished with Buddhist murals.
I then took my bike to amazing local and natural shop T'Shop Lai Gallery (of course getting my daily dose of coconut ice cream on the way), before heading back for a rest.
In the evening I got delicious street food for dinner at a small Ban Anou night market.
I ended up talking to a really nice German guy for over an hour, whilst we were both sat eating our food on the sidewalk.
I was up and out early on my third and last day in Vientiane, cycling to the bus station to buy a ticket for Vang Vieng. When I got there though they told me that the bus left from the northern station, a good 20 min car ride from there. So instead I cycled to Bacan café for breakfast - getting lost several times and ending up on quite the trip - before returning my bike to the shop and packing up my stuff.
At checkout, the employee informed me that I could buy a bus ticket at the hostel for the same price as the bus station, so I did that and sat down to wait. While waiting for the bus I met a group of British guys - brothers Josh, Luke and Adam from Wales and their friend Chris from Bristol - that were all staying at the same hostel as me in Vang Vieng. We hit it off and after sitting through a 4-hour bus drive - where I sat beside a Russian lady, who told me everything worth knowing about Indian movies and Russian conspiracy theories - we checked in to Nana Backpackers Hostel together.
I pretty quickly regretted going to Vang Vieng and that particular hostel, that was run down and apparently the biggest party hostel in town. Within 2 minutes of checking in, I saw an unconscious girl being carried out of the toilet because she overdosed.
I talked to an American girl from my dorm for a while, before going to dinner with the guys at an Irish bar. We partied to awful music in some pretty bad bars, dancing with a group of old Asian woman, as well as a mixed group of other young people we'd met the same night. We had quite a lot of fun despite the disappointing setting and went to bed before 2 am.
The next morning, where I had originally booked to go on a full-day adventure trip (the whole reason why I came to Vang Vieng) that got cancelled, I went to wake up the guys in their dorm at 10.30 am. None of them were ready to go to breakfast though and so I started chatting to a Canadian girl, Sammy, in their dorm, who was taking the bus to Luang Prabang at 11.30 am. And within 5 minutes I had booked my bus ticket as well. I packed my stuff, got a baguette for breakfast and jumped on the bus to Luang Prabang with Sammy and some other people we befriended. I hadn't seen anything in Vang Vieng and I still had another night booked at Nana hostel, but getting a bus ticket for Luang Prabang a day early was definitely the right decision. And I would see the four guys in Luang Prabang soon enough. So that's why I'm now on a beautifully scenic bus ride through lush mountains and by fields of rice with heavy fog making the landscape seem otherworldly. I can't wait to explore Luang Prabang and I'm excited to start my travels in Vietnam soon as well.