Bill and Sue-On Hillman: A 50-Year Musical Odyssey


PAGE 13:
Monday April 13 continued: 
Amid goodbye waves from the school kids we boarded the bus and continued our trip to Vientiane with one "happy room" stop. We had a special treat at the stop: a dish of ice cream topped with coconut, mango, and peanuts with sticky rice cooked with pandan and sugar at the bottom. Along the way we ran into road construction and had an interesting look at local roadmaking.

Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong River. We were here mainly to catch a flight to Hanoi the next day so we had limited opportunity to take in many sights. We were hampered even further due to most of the buildings of interest were closed for New Year celebrations. We decided to pass on the temples as we were sort of "templed out." In fact, our days had been so crammed with activities that it felt good to relax a bit and not stray too far from the hotel.

Our room was at the Avalon Hotel -- a small boutique style hotel. The rooms had no numbers. Instead, they had flower names. We were in 4th floor Jasmin :-)  A very simple room: queen bed, a/c, Wi/Fi, ensuite bathroom, small fridge, and TV. There was no security deposit box, but they had lockers in the back of the office where we stored our computers when we were away from the room. This security arrangement was the same as that in Vang Vieng, the last guest house. 

We arrived around 1 pm and found it  much hotter here because we had come down off the cooler mountain. Mr. Thong, our Laos guide left us at this point. It's forbidden to have Thai guides in Laos, so we had both Mr. Thong and Beam. He wasn't as good as Beam, but he was interesting. He had spent six years as a monk at a temple in Vientiane to further his education after secondary school. That was the only way he could continue to study as his parents were farmers and couldn't afford to send him to school. He said he learned English grammar at school but the spoken language was picked up from tourists. We said Good Bye to Mr. Thong as we were to fly out of Laos the next morning.

Beam led our gang on a walk around the main streets. On our way back we stopped for lunch across from city hall where we dined with Roy and Ronnie. An attraction offered by the restaurant was a giant burger for which there would be no charge for anyone who could eat it all. Our photo of city hall included a passing government motorcade. A lady using a long pole to snip Golden Shower flowers from a tall tree caught our attention. She gathered them in a basket to sell to passerbys on the street. There seems to be no end of wares that street vendors sell from their carts.

We hadn't seen many music stores during our tour, so far. Bill was excited to finally find one but we were disapponted to find that it was closed for the holiday. His disappointment was assuaged, however when the adjacent Black Canyon Coffee shop tempted us with mango gelato. We were so impressed that we returned a few hours later with Beam and the group for our evening meal: grilled chicken, sticky rice, and Sue-On finally got a plate of gai lan.

Tuesday's breakfast was served in the hotel lobby. Orders were placed through a window with a man sitting in an alley space between the hotel and the kitchen housed behind him in a separate building. Sue-On was checking this out when Beam called everyone to board the bus which took us to catch our plane to Hanoi.
We passed many of the city's attractions but the movement of the bus resulted in numerous blurred unuseable photos. 

While planning this SE Asian adventure we were a tad apprehensive about the quality and safety of the airlines and airports. We needn't have worried. The airports were new, clean and efficient. The aircraft were modern jetliners. Vientiane's Wattay International Airport was large and comfortable with many services and displays to appeal to the traveller: Dairy Queen, wildlife preservation displays, Asian medicines, including huge bottles of Ginseng, restaurants, money exchange, etc. 

Vietnam, which was an hour away by air, promised to be quite different from Laos in terms of population, traffic, scenery, and purse safety. Beam had been warning us about keeping our valuables in the safety deposit boxes in our rooms and to be beware of pick pockets and purse snatchers. We were in good hands, however, as Beam plus four Vietnamese guides who appeared at various locations made sure that everything ran smoothly. 

Photo Credit: 

Mosaic of Vientiane Images ~ Collated from the Web

Construction and "Happy Room" stop


City Hall and Dignitary Motorcade

Elephants are an important cultural symbol in Laos



~ Selfie by Beam Narawadee




Copyright 2015
Bill and Sue-On Hillman