Bakeries, Buddha and Banking–and Millionaire Status

9 Mar

Saturday

And so into Laos – another backpacker bus overnight from Bangkok that delivers a confused tribe of westerners to a little hotel on the Mekong to have our passports checked and to fill out immigration cards. They don’t TELL us that’s why we’re there, which results in a lot of us wandering round bewildered for a while.

And so to the border at Nong Khai… it’s odd crossing a land border – mostly we get used to emigrating from one country, getting on a plane, and a few hours later we hit immigration in the next country. When you go by land, there’s only a few minutes between the two… in this case, a trip across the Friendship Bridge that links Thailand and Laos.

I get special attention as I leave Thailand, largely because I have overstayed my visa by a day, and have to pay 500 baht fine.

And so into Vientiane… there’s a bit of a laid back continental feel to the place, and the Lao are a more relaxed people too. Lots of European style bakeries, demonstrating the French influence – plenty of croissants and cake, baguettes and bagels. And good coffee.

Not much to do here – there are some interesting temples, or there’s the chance for a walk along the Mekong, which, in dry season, is pretty unimpressive here.

View from Youth Hotel (1) The view from my bedroom

Riverfront Wat (2)Mekong River at Vientiane (1)

Sunday

I took a walk out of town, first of all visiting the Vientiane equivalent of the Arc de Triomphe, called the vertical runway by the Americans because it’s built with cement donated for a replacement runway.

Patuxai (2)

And then on to Pha That Luang, which is the most important Laos national monument. Very beautiful in its semi-rural setting.. but one heck of a walk.

Pha That Luang (17)Pha That Luang (15)Pha That Luang (12)Pha That Luang (4)

Now, dear reader, you will recall that I lost my bank card last month on the way to Bangkok. Which means I have to move money from that account to another one for which I do have a bank card.This is the first test of moving money around…and I thought it would be so easy….!

So, first things first. I need to wait until the money is actually in my account before I try and move it somewhere else. Having waited until sufficiently late in the day – but up against a ticking clock as I am being picked up at 4pm and taken to the middle of nowhere, I attempt to go on line to check. But the free internet is offline. No problem, just pay for some internet… or I would, if I hadn’t cleared myself out of cash at dinner last night (it’s the Beerlao, you know). No problem, just buy some on line. Apart from the fact that the accounts are empty. Finally I discover an account that has enough in – but now PayPal won’t work as the connection is too slow. Finally, with a combination of loving patience and hitting the refresh key I manage to buy an hour on the internet. From here, it’s dead easy. Move the money, wait a bit, then off to an ATM, where I am offered the opportunity to become a millionaire. Blinking on the screen is the option to withdraw one million Kip. Now, since the exchange rate is a little over 12000 Kip to the pound, that’s a little over £80… but it feels good to be a millionaire, albeit in a different currency, for a few minutes. It’s a feeling I could get used to!

image

 

And then, we’re off to the river, and the jungle.. more fun to be had, more blogging to be done. See you in the next chapter…

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