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  • Writer's pictureDonna Kitchen

Mishaps in Vientiane

With only one full day in Vientiane it was critical that we plan our time effectively to take in all the sites.

First things first, hire a couple of scooters.  The first place we tried gave off a bad vibe, they wanted to hold a passport as collateral and charge 150,000 Kip per day.  We tried another place who had the same terms but was 50,000 Kip cheaper and so much more friendlier.  In Laos, it seemed as though holding onto your passport was the norm.  They reassured us that it’s locked away in a safe and that they also live on site which made us more comfortable.

With two scooters organised and google maps set, we head to Buddha Park where there is over 200 Buddha statues of varying styles and sizes.   It was 25kms out of town.  On the way we found a ‘hardware store’ as we needed to buy a spanner to be able to remove the mirror and attach the phone holder to the bike. Much safer than holding a the phone to follow google maps or operate the GoPro app for the GoPro on my helmet.

Let's play 'Where's Kev?'

Kevin, using his charade skills indicated what he

was looking for.  With a pointed finger from the shop guy, Kevin was directed in the general direction of where to find a spanner.   Kevin picked he’s way through a box of mixed size spanners until he found the correct size.  Seeing a bike lock, we grabbed one as extra security for locking the scooters.  Scooter theft is a common occurrence here in Laos so an immobiliser is fitted to each scooter as a anti-theft device.

Kevin found his spanner

Next stop was to grab some cold water and supplies from the little shop next door. Suddenly, Kevin comes up to me asking if I have he’s scooter keys?  Shaking my head I say, ‘no, why would I have you keys!’  Kev, quite concerned, backtracks in hunt for his keys.  Nothing!   Holy shit!  I join the hunt for the keys, both of us getting more and more concerned.  The people in the hardware shop thought we looking for a something else to buy.  Obviously our first class charade skills weren't working this time.  Google translate wasn't helpful either.   This hardware shop wasn’t organized like Bunnings, it looked like a tornado had just been through which made looking for the keys like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Retracing our steps to the store next door, triple checking the actual scooter itself.  Nothing still.  Trying to stay calm and being methodical in our search. I’d be lying to say there wasn’t an undercurrent of panic in the air.

There was also a mechanic around the corner to where we had parked. Armed with Google translate and our powers of charades, we honed in on the younger ones as they were more likely to know some English. The other person we could have asked was an older man who was as crossed eyes as Clarence the Lion.  No chance of him reading our google translate.  Anyway, the young guys pointed us in the direction of Clarence.  Opting for charades, we playing out our well rehearsed game of ‘lost scooter keys’.   He pointed to a nail in the wall, hanging there all by themselves, were Kevin’s scooter keys.

We almost fell to the floor in relief.   With a thousand ‘thank you’s’, praying hands, bows and hands to our faces in unbelievable relief we left Clarence and he’s young lads with big smiles on their faces and the fact they have made two ‘not so grey travellers’ very happy.

Back on the road, it was getting hotter and hotter, dustier and dustier, we rode for about 5kms more and pulled over in the shade. We agreed to return to base as we were struggling with the heat and it was close to midday. We would not be seeing Buddha Park today.

All we could now was to think of the coolness of the hotel swimming pool and an icey cold Beer Lao that awaited us.

It was passed midday and we had yet to see any of the sites of Vientiane except the inside of a hardware store, a shop and a mechanic's shop.

Regrouping at about 3pm we chose a few easy things we could do while we still had the scooters.

Inside ceiling of Patuaxi

We rode to Patuxai, a massive war monument and arch in the center of Vientiane.  Patuxai, meaning Victory Gate in English was built between 1957 and 1968 in memory of the Laotian soldiers who died during World War II and the war of independence from France in 1949.

Putuxai Monument

The irony is the US donated a huge amount of money and concrete to expand the Vientiane airport runway but the cheeky Laotians decided to use the money to complete this structure instead.  Apparently the contract hadn’t been signed before the money and concrete arrived. We all can imagine why the US want an improved runway.

Sunset ride back to hotel

It's been a long day, so we say good night. See you tomorrow.


Donna & Kevin

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