The initial plan for today had been for Ant and I to go on a cycling tour (Ant has a reputation for being a pretty terrible tour guide, so I’d been looking forward to seeing if he’s improved) but sadly he had to go into work, Christmas isn’t a holiday here.
Even so I got a ride with him to the institute he works in and had a look around – v fancy, he even has his own office.
There was a walking tour in the lonely planet I have so I set off with the intention of doing that along with buying some coffee from a French man and hopefully finding some Christmas presents on the way.
The city isn’t that big, so I was soon at the coffee selling shop, but was told it wasn’t open for another 30mins so popped next door to JoMa, a mini-chain of coffee shops in Laos. Treated myself to a cinnamon and raison bagel with cream cheese and a coffee (a large one, you got a free refill!)
The coffee selling shop is really cool. They buy their coffee beans from Laos producers and roast them in store. The coffee I bought had been roasted the day before and she ground it ready for the cafetière(?).
I’d also had the brainwave (even if I do say so myself) of printing of some of the many photos I’d taken of my friends and putting them in an album for their Christmas present. The lovely lady in the shop told me there was a printing place 4 doors down, and sure enough there was, you pick the photos from your memory card and they print them – magic!
Next up was a trip to Big Brother Mouse. http://www.bigbrothermouse.com
It took me a while to Google as I thought it was something to do with a blue dog…. Got there eventually though! I’d read about it previously, it’s an initiative to encourage Lao children to read and to distribute books to enable them to do this. Their main headquarters is in Luang Prebang but they have a small shop in Vientiane. Some of the books are purely in Lao and others are in Lao and English side by side. T loves reading and already speaks Thai which is v similar to Lao, so thought I’d get her a book and her little brother S will soon be ready for stories and I’d seen a cool book they do called Bangkok Bob (Kay is from Bangkok, so seemed ideal!). I also treated myself to one called ‘what’s in the market’ spookily enough it tells you about what you might see in the market!!
By now it was time to meet everyone for lunch, the place we were meeting was marked on my tour so super easy to find! It was a Vietnamese baguette shop, so yummy and really good iced coffee too. On the way I passed between the 2 American embassy buildings, the security guards were all in Santa hats and all said cheery hellos!
After lunch the Blacks went off to do some stuff and I headed to see the Vientiane equivalent of the Arc De Triomph(?), Patuxai. I was distracted on the way by Talat Sao a massive market but all on the name of finding a photo album and hopefully Elf on DVD!
I failed on both counts, no photo albums unless you wanted one with LAOS and a massive elephant on, so instead I found a notebook with a decidedly Christmassy scene and bought Up and Gravity on DVD for a mere 5000kip each!
I met the Blacks at Wat Si Saket and we had a very peaceful walk around.
While I’d been off shopping they’d kindly enquired into the availability of bus/train tickets to Bangkok – my next destination, apparently they were getting limited so we went to a travel agent to get me booked on one. We were just walking along the road when I heard my name called out and there was Andrew (4000 Island etc) on a fetching pink bike! After risking his life crossing the road we had a quick catch up and arranged to meet back at his hostel.
The bus ticket proved not to be a problem, all booked on my first sleeper bus of my trip for Sunday.
I said bye to the Blacks and headed to Andrew’s hostel, he was off picking up his Vietnamese visa. When he was back we went out to meet Nick (also 4000 islands buddy) for a quick drink before his night bus. Was great to catch up and was talked into being their 3rd hand at some card game the 2 of them were playing, bit like uno, great fun once I’d got the hang of it.
When Nick headed back to his hostel to get his bags, Andrew went and got his buddy from The Loop and we headed to dinner only for Nick to pass us again – he’d gone off in the wrong direction!!!
Dinner was fun, it was good to be talking about travelling again, all our onward plans, Christmases back home and Dutch beer – apparently, like the Australian wine, we get the rubbish beer!
After dinner Andrew’s friend (I need to get better at names) went back to pack and we went and had a walk around the night market.
Ant was kindly picking me up so after a quick text Andrew escorted me to where we were meeting – by the carlsberg fountain!
Was such a lovely and unexpected evening. I got home safely, Andrew though apparently had a nice chat with a ladyboy on his way home!!
I borrowed some newspaper and sat and wrapped the presents I’d bought. Ant’s mum is German and so they’d already had presents while I was out. Christmas away from home has such a different feeling.