VIENTIANE, Laos // We have been traveling by bus everywhere for the past few weeks. The trip from Thakhek to Vientiane was only about 7 hours, short compared with our previous rides. Since we had no internet in Thakhek, it was our first time landing in a city without anywhere to go. We took a tuk tuk with a group of other backpackers that dropped us off in the city center and wandered around for a few minutes before going down one of the side streets and getting a room. It was easy and fun without having a plan and just spontaneously picking a random place to stay. It turned out to be perfect, and we have come to realize that location is what matters most to us in a city.
We didn't know much about Vientiane because we never really planned on coming here in the first place. This is the same thing that happened to us with Phnom Penh, which we were really glad we visited as well. When you take busses everywhere in a country, you naturally have to pass through the capital. We found a great cluster of coffee shops and cafes where we ended up hanging out in for two days while we planned our trip north to Luang Prabang.
This city has a substantial French influence, and was ruled by France in the late 1800s. The area where we stayed around the city center was full of expats, and we spent the mornings at Le Trio Coffee shop as they roasted beans freshly picked from the region of southern Laos where we had come from. In the evening we stopped at a Bavarian beer hall and tried their special Blanche De Namur on draft which was incredible. It's been a while since we've had luxury "pour over" coffee and European draft beer, so this was a pleasant unexpected surprise to find this here.
As we were discussing travel logistics we realized that over the last few weeks we have done a total of 50 hours of bus trips.
- Siem Reap to Phnom Penh // 8 hours
- Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville // 5 hours
- Sihanoukville back to Phnom Penh // 5 hours
- Phnom Penh to Don Det // 12 hours
- Don Det to Thakhek // 13 hours
- Thakhek to Vientiane // 7 hours
These trips allowed us to visit parts of Cambodia and Laos that we would normally never see, and well worth it. The trip to northern Laos is up and down mountains and twisting roads. We decided to save ourselves the car sickness and just fly. Instead of another 12 hour bus trip, door to door it took 3 hours by flying. The flight itself took only 50 minutes and was super easy. So far we've heard lots of good things about Luang Prabang from other travelers we've met, and are excited to leisurely explore on our own. We have to get our Vietnam Visa here, and not sure how long that will take, but this will end up dictating our future travel plans for the time being.