13 Weeks of Wandering – Vientiane

Bangkok | Cambodia | Vietnam | Laos
New York >> Miami | Portland >> Vancouver

Where To? Laos
How long? 5 Days
Thoughts: When a monk asks to add you on facebook, you don’t say no!

13 WoW – Laos: Vientiane

It was dark by the time I arrived, so spotting this fountain gave me a sense of  security.

It was all very different in Vientiane, I could tell it was the capital by how well developed it seemed to be.
I’d already decided on a hostel to go to; Sailomyen hostel, it seemed to be walking distance so I braved it with my front and back backpacks.

The Hostel

Although a little bit away from the centre and a dollar or two more expensive than other hostels in the area (around $8 a night), this hostel was far superior in decor, ambience, cleanliness and luxury to any other hostel I had stayed in.

Walking through the door was a very pleasant surprise and checking in was smooth, friendly and professional. I was lead to my four bed female-only dorm on the fourth floor, the bunks were so luxurious with curtains allowing for full privacy. It was like each bunk was your own little hotel pod. It was probably the most comfortable hostel in all of Laos, maybe even all of the countries I visited.

Breakfast at Sailomyen Hostel
Free Breakfast at the Hostel

After a very comfortable night’s rest, and a tasty breakfast in the morning, my only complaint was the same complaint I had for most hostels all over South East Asia; the Air Con! 

So I switched to a much cheaper hostel bang in the center where I shared a room with 7 men and had beds that felt so hard that I wondered if they were carved of rock. But thankfully, me and the boys agreed on no air con whilst we sleep!


“Wat” is there to see in Vientiane?


Vientiane is a city full of surprises. It is a combination of traditional Buddhist temples with french colonial buildings and architecture, this is because of it’s history with the French making this one of their trading posts. Also for this reason, you will find some very good french restaurants, cafes and bars in this area.

Bordering Thailand with nothing but the Mekong river between the two countries, you can enjoy some amazing sunsets by the river whilst you overlook Thailand.

Here are some of the things you can’t miss!


In case you didn’t get the pun in the heading, a temple is called a “wat” in Laos (and most parts of SE Asia). Probably because when you see the beautiful architecture you will be going “waaaat” in awe.

The most popular temples would be these three:

Wat Ho Phra Keo
One of the oldest Wats in the capital and former home to the emerald Buddha. This is now converted to a museum.

Wat Si Muang
The site of the lak meuang, or city pillar, which is home to the guardian spirit of Vientiane.

Wat Si Saket
Basically a temple with thousands of Buddha statues.

I have to admit that I didn’t visit any of those, but preferred to explore some of the other temples that I came across whilst I explored such as Wat That Phoun and Wat Mixai. This may or may not have lead to me befriending a monk on Facebook.

Make Friends with a Monk

Meet my friend ພູມລຳເນົາ ສາຍເຊໂດນ, don’t ask me how you pronounce it. Yes, he is a monk and yes, we are facebook friends! Let me tell you how this happened.

I was exploring Vientiane on Buddha day, not sure what I was looking for but as it was Buddha day, I thought there may be something going on about town. As I am walking, a stranger in his car approached me and started to talk to me, but in true British style, as I did not know this individual, I did like we do on the London underground and ignored him.

Ducking into Wat Mixai, I’m admiring the architecture when lo and behold, I am approached by the same man. “Hello!” He smiled widely at me, “Don’t just stand outside, come in! Come in!”
He said it with such confidence that I thought perhaps he worked at the temple, if that’s even a thing, and so I allowed myself to be ushered inside.

Monk Life

I realised too late that inside was a monk, sitting in front of a giant Buddha and my new Indian friend walked straight up to him, put some money on the gold tray and sat in front of him. He turned to beckon me as I contemplated my escape, “Ohh no, I’m good, this isn’t really my thing” I tried to tell him, but he would have none of it!

Before I knew it, we were both sat there listening to this monk telling us the history of the temple, about monk life, anything you wanted to know! It was all very interesting, but then out of the blue the monk asks me, do you have facebook? And I’m taken aback, I mean yes of course I have facebook but are monks even allowed facebook??? How do they log on? What do they post about?

Whatever the answer, I’m now friends with a monk on facebook.

Night Markets


Take a walk along the Mekong Delta past 6pm to see the night markets set up trade by the riverside.

You will be spoilt for choice as you browse through each stall selling various styles of clothing, souvenirs, jewelery, accessories and more.

If you follow the river, you will also come across food markets nearby selling not only Laotian cuisine but varied dishes from neighbouring countries and beyond.

If you are feeling more like a sit-down meal, why not explore some of Vientiane’s restaurants and bars. I was delighted to come across this French restaurant playing live music.




Also known as the “Victory Monument”, this monument is dedicated to those who fought for their independence from France.

Found on the same road that leads to the Presidential palace, this monument sits in the centre of Vientiane standing out in this commercial district.

The stunning water fountain is a centrepiece to the symmetrical gardens which you will be able to see the best view of from the top of the monument.

Victory Monument

On each floor as you go up, expect to find market stalls selling everything from clothes and handbags, to shoes and books. And take a look out of each of the unique windows for a new perspective of Vientiane.


Pha That Luang


This is a large and very ancient stupa in the middle of Vientiane which is covered in gold! It is the most important national monument in all of Laos, both as a religious symbol and as a symbol of independence.


It was amazing seeing monks flock to this monument, even taking selfies (yes I’m serious) with their monk buddies by the monument.

There is so much going on around here, with market stalls outside, monks inside and people selling small birds (poor things) to be released over the monument.

And if you keep exploring, you will find the giant sleeping Buddha, where you may be able to take a nap yourself (or was that just me?!).


So there you have it! Vientiane in a nutshell! Other than not really having anywhere to change money from Kip to Thai Baht (be prepared if you plan to go on to Thailand from here, I had to exchange with some random Australians I met in a bar – it was all very much a last minute panic), it was a very well built up city with plenty of things to do and places to explore. A definite must-visit when you go to Laos!

Follow me as I get the sleeping train back to Bangkok and then prepare to leave Asia altogether!






13 Weeks of Wandering – Vang Vieng

Bangkok | Cambodia | Vietnam | Laos
New York >> Miami | Portland >> Vancouver

Where To? Laos
How long? 5 Days
Thoughts: Accidentally climbing mountains again…

13 WoW – Laos: Vang Vieng


The journey was stunning, just looking out of the window gave you anomalous mountain sights in their peculiarly jagged silhouettes. There was something alien about the way the forested mountains seemed to have been placed randomly onto the otherwise flat terrain.

The Hostel

The bus dropped me off outside one of the largest and busiest party hostels in Vang Vieng.

Staying true to my “wing it” attitude, I walked the main street comparing the prices and atmospheres of each hostel, homestay and guest house. Finally, I settled in at the Rock Backpacker Hostel.

Sharing a bare, under-decorated girl’s room of 6 beds, I was surprised at the level of dirt that the last girl had accumulated beneath my new bed. I worried about ants, and even worse, cockroaches! It didn’t help also having a leak in my backpack due to a broken bottle of sweet-smelling rice wine bought from the Whiskey Village in Luang Prabang; everything needed to be hand-washed and hung up to dry.


I can’t say I came out of the showers feeling that much cleaner but it was certainly refreshing and by the time I was out, I could hear the party goers getting rowdy.

The good thing about this hostel was that you could book tours from the front desk and sign up to group activities such as tubing (more on that later), although I’m sure I was ripped off massively price-wise. The bad thing was, well, it was one of the more rowdy hostels I’d stayed in, and why wouldn’t it be? Vang Vieng is known for being a party destination!


The Adventures


How can I describe this? Imagine throwing yourself onto a choppy, brown river and hoping for the best. Now imagine doing that whilst drinking, a LOT! Okay, so you have tubing – a tradition that nearly had to be banned due to the number of deaths that were occurring. Did I do it? Of course!

Going Tubing  - Vang Vieng

Now tubing started as a method of transportation for the locals of this area, and other parts of Laos, but as with all sacred and non-sacred traditions in SE Asia, it’s been taken over by monetisation and has become a tourist attraction. And what do tourists like to do? Drink!

So as you are being pulled down the dirty river waters in this tube, bars along the river side will throw you ropes in the hopes that you will grab on, pull yourself in, have a drink and carry on. This will happen all the way down the river until you reach the large “TUBING STOPS HERE” sign where you then (hopefully) catch the last line thrown your way and pull yourself in. How smooth your journey is, is determined by how drunk you get and whether or not you are me and despite not drinking, still get stuck in a bush

Tubing - Would you do it?

Would you do it? Tell me in the comments below!


Pha Negun

How many times in a week do you recommend accidentally climbing mountains with nothing but flip flops on your feet? If it’s less than 3 times a week, stop reading. If it’s less than 2 times in 1 day, give up on my blog completely (not really, subscribe below, it’s about to get funny).

SO… I think you get the idea. How? You may ask, does a person accidentally climb a mountain, in flip flops, twice, in one day? Well, my dear readers, it is a lot easier than you think and I am here to warn you of the dangers of not researching your tours before you embark on them!

I booked a 3 stop tour with my hostel, was totally ripped off on price but being short on time I wanted to make the most of my trip. Soon, I was picked up by a private taxi and taken on a solo tour to these 3 spots; Pha Negun, Tham Phu Kham Cave & The Blue Lagoon. “I don’t really want to hike” I had told my hostel receptionist, “I only have flip flops on”. He’d waved off my concerns and assured me that flip flops were fineee!!

Well, they were not.

I was dropped at the bottom of this (yes fairly small) mountain and the taxi driver pointed up and ushered me forward. What was I to do? I started climbing.

There were many points I questioned my existence, I felt like giving up, lost the will to live etc. But for some reason, even after my flip flops threatened to fly off my feet, and after flies swarmed me, after ants bit my ankles and after nearly falling off one or two rocks I was climbing up, I still persisted.

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And. it. was. worth. it!


Tham Phu Kham cave

So I mentioned the mountain climbing thing happened not once, but twice in one day… And here’s the second time.

It took me a while to recover in the well-received air conditioned vehicle as we drove to the next destination, but I was ready for less hike and more cave-exploration. I didn’t expect to be presented with both at the same time!

Arriving at the second destination, also the location of the Blue Lagoon, I followed the signs that directed me to the cave. It began with a few steps. It carried on and the steps sort of just became a vague pathway. Then it got really steep. Then a snake showed up out of nowhere and I had no idea whether or not to be scared so I wasn’t.


To cut a long walk short, it was another mountain to climb part-way to reach the cave and I was not too pleased at the unexpected exercise.

After reaching the mouth of the cave, I read a crude sign that stated the cave would be best explored with a guide and not alone, and a powerful torch was required. Well I had my phone and google maps so I hopped in.


The cave was very dark with water running across some pathways. The darkness nearly echoed as an eerie feel submerged me, but it was exciting. Immediately inside the cave you could see a “resting Buddha” shrine set up in the only light part of the cave, but beyond that it was dark. Arrows had been painted on some rocks to give you a vague idea of what direction to head in but I was soon lost.

My phone torch wasn’t much use and the arrows weren’t around anymore, the cave was very vast and so much to explore. I heard voices echoed in the distance and I called out, shining my torch in their direction. Thankfully it was a guide, with a gentleman from New Zealand, who had retired at the age of 35 to come and live in Asia.

Needless to say, I followed them out, my lesson learned; do the same thing again, it was fun.


Blue Lagoon 

The Blue Lagoon

After all of that hiking and climbing and cave exploring, I was ready for the cool refreshing waters of the Blue Lagoon.

It didn’t take much convincing for me to join the queue of tourists climbing the overhanging tree and jumping down into the crystal waters. One girl was at the top trying to convince herself to jump but nearly crying with fear. It was actually a lot higher than I realised and I would have been more scared had I given myself enough time to think about it.

I recorded myself, my phone in a waterproof case, and just… jumped!

There was something to get my heart pumping and my body refreshed, I don’t know what shocked me more, the jump or the cold water!


Moving On

I booked my travel on to Vientiane through the first party hostel that I was dropped at to save some kip. And because it was leaving at the time I wanted to set off.


But before I left that day, I was up early to enjoy a delicious Matcha Latte and Almond Pastry whilst I watched the world go by at this delightful cafe.


Vang Vieng had so many places to enjoy a Laotian nibble, but the tastiest Pho I had come across was served to me in a humble outside “restaurant” next door to the Chillao party hostel where I would soon be catching my bus.

The best tasting Pho in all of Laos.

It was just gorgeous, perfectly balanced flavours with a zesty twist to it. I still remember those satisfying first mouthfuls as I placed my chopsticks in my bowl for more. Mmm…

But saying good-bye to that, I was soon on my way to Vientiane!