Places like Vientiane have nothing to offer to the traveler, except perspective. For tourism, the city has no real interest and most travelers only stay the night before heading to more exotic places. But we have to spend four days here and this is what I’ve learnt.
The only affordable food is the western one. Sandwiches, burgers, French, Indian restaurants, etc. Capital cities are always where the vibe of the country is felt stronger. If I was feeling rejected in Nong Khiaw, here the feeling is much stronger and more unpleasant. There is no good place to eat Lao food, because they don’t go to restaurants. That’s fine by me, I’ll eat mediocre Lao food but I’ll never, ever set foot on any of the French restaurants filling the city centre. I’ll spend more, but I won’t give in. If they talk to me in English, I’ll answer in my limited Lao, forcing my way into this secret community. ( okay I did that and the lady thaught we could actually have a conversation in Lao, which is impossible for us although I somehow managed to understand that she would like tourists to learn a bit of the language before coming here).
Anyway, back to Vientiane. As we, and all the other travelers were disappointed in the city’s architecture, sites, and food I started thinking about what I really disliked here. After having listed the elements I thought: ” what is it that I am looking for?” And I remembered how I felt in China, when we tried to run away from Xi’an and ended up in a small town of a million inhabitants, or how I felt when I wanted peace and quiet but all I could hear were the cars honking, the construction site functionning, people yelling, speaking loud, fighting. I remembered the first time I thought we would go into the wild and hike a random mountain, which was in fact nothing natural, expensive and, as always, crowded. I remembered sitting down in a street restaurant inthe middle of cigarette butts, empty beers, used tissues and people spitting on the ground around me. I remembered how unhappy I was without friends, how sad it made me to see sad people everyday, how empty I feltleading a life without smiles.
And I looked around me. Lao is the exact opposite of China. Yes, Vientiane has some flaws but at least the people are trying, are friendly, are smiling and it’s clean. At least there’s something happy in the atmosphere between travelers. Nature is all around us, life is peaceful. I’m spending time in a capital city where there are no buildings.
What more can I want?