Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is changing but still quiet. It is trying to improve its image with more greenery and modern infrastructure. The vicinity of the famous That Luang has been completely revamped; the bamboo houses surrounding the famous temple have been replaced with nicer surroundings to flatter its beauty. Better roads are constructed with stylish road lamps and flanked by modern « guesthouses » to receive tourists.
The riverside of the Mekong has been transformed. There are no more typical street restaurants with dusty parking areas. Now a scenic green park with picnic areas and monuments welcome visitors. However, I had a little twinge of regret knowing that I could not enjoy a Beerlao while watching the sunset over the Mekong in the name of devilish progress. The streets adjacent to the famous river now offer many new hostels, shops and restaurants which seem more inviting than before. Government efforts to improve the standard of quality in the city are starting to bear fruit.
The capital is still not an exceptional attraction but it’s a good stop to visit before going to Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng or 4000 Islands. It’s a simple and typical city, but not a party animal jungle. I still advise you to stay a little more than a day, but do not stay in this tiny tourist area. Rent a bike and visit the tourist spots and small villages in the suburbs. The countryside is not far (10 minutes of motorbike) and you can enjoy many green rice fields that are abundant.
We went on a small city tour by motorbike. It was very nice to see the things that are changing. However it still very Lao; unpretentious, smiley people, sometimes a bit sketchy but loveable. The famous Talat Sao or morning market does not impress me that much. I haven’t seen lots of great handicrafts to buy or nice deals to catch. The night market of Luang Prabang is a bit more sanitized, but far more interesting than this one.
I offer two thumbs up to Kop Chai Deu, a restaurant located near the fountain Nampou in the centre city. They offer traditional food, BBQ, and pasta on a lovely terrace and indoor dining area with the « air conditioning ». The invoice made me smiling, four skewers of beef and a side dish with a jar of sangria for 20 USD. It’s hard to beat.
I visited the dentist 2 times for 7 hours of big work. Ouch, no anaesthesia, the good old fashion way. Nice work, but I will still go to a general inspection back in Singapore to validate the quality of care. 105 USD for a mouth in poor condition, due to my laxity in 10 years without a dentist, is a gift from god. To say that it was a pleasure is a lie. After five hours, my knees began to be soft and snapping together like a tiny bell. I had to stop the dentist and continue the next day. Hopefully it would not be for the same amount of time. I needed a Beerlao quick, a tasty local anaesthesia.
I must admit that it was not tempting to go to Laos to torture myself on a dentist chair. I was not too worried about the quality of care, because my brother went there with me and recommended this dentist. « She’s slow, but she works well,” he assured. In Canada, a visit to the dentist means a massive bill. Having spent time in Asia these last years I noticed that many young Asians have nice teeth and wear braces. I made a small investment before my teeth are starting to make me suffer. There is nothing more painful than a toothache. It connects directly to the brain. Ouch!
Before you engage in a colossal dental work in your respective countries, look beyond and you might be pleasantly surprised. My friend got a new tooth in Canada for $ 1300. With that sum, she could easily have one week all inclusive in Cuba frolicking in the sun with a new set of teeth. You can finance a good part of your trip by going to the dentist in a distant country. Asia offers much more than rice, exotic cultures and Buddhist temples. I will have a complete report on the explosion of medical tourism in Asia … stay tuned on Getlostinasia.com and smile because life is good.