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Pen-fifteen

Vientiane - a Walk in the Park

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Pen-fifteen

I travelled to Vientiane on Tuesday 1st November on a quest for a visa.  I didn't get the visa that I wanted, I got a substitute.  I also got the opportunity to stroll along what used to be the riverfront road behind the presidential mansion a few times.

 

Applying for and collecting a visa does not take long if you get in the queue early; in my case, about 30 minutes each day.  That left my hands with a lot of spare time on them.  What follows is not a comprehensive guide to anything, it's just a sort of summary of what I saw, experienced, and discovered.

 

I stayed at the Chanthasom Guest House, and I have already uploaded some comments and pics concerning it.  It's just down-river from the presidential mansion, almost opposite the Don Chan Palace.  The guy on the front desk of the hotel told me that if I wanted to change money, I should go to the "bank" which is on the same road as the Guest House, but up-river from the back of the presidential palace.

 

Note that I have left the location data on all of the photos that I upload.  Assuming that when I upload the photos this metadata is not stripped from the pics, you should be able to find the location where I took the photo easily enough.

 

Also note, no mongering involved in this report.

 

....................

 

Arriving on the Tuesday just after lunch, I chanced my luck with a tuk-tuk.  This conveyance regularly emitted a number of unhealthy noises as the pilot set off in the wrong direction.  I pointed out to the man the direction of the river and set him right.  When we got to the guest house, he was all apologies for being unable to understand my [probably very poor] pronunciation of the name of the place.  I wasn't worried, I had got to where I wanted to be without a grand tour of the other end of the city, so I paid him off, abandoned the conveyance, and entered the guest house.  I spent the rest of the day taking photos and writing up a review of the room, and battling the Lao internet, trying to get it onto PA.  My picture uploads kept failing.

 

I awakened Wednesday morning bright and early, and hungry too.  I asked the guy on the front desk if there was anywhere close by where I could get breakfast, but he didn't have any suggestions; he went out the front door and sttod there, turning his head in the up-river direction and trying to look thoughtful.  To hell with this, I thought...  I called out to a passing westerner and asked him if he knew of anywhere that was close-by and provided breakfast.  He did, and he guided me to a suitable, but not-easy-to-find place.

 

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As the picture indicates, It's called KUNG'SCAFÉLAO.  It's only open for breakfast and lunch.

 

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In the eating area...

 

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I had been led to believe that applying for a visa at the Thai visa office in Vientiane could be a bit of a battle with a whole lot of other people all wanting to do the same thing, and everybody trying to get in first.  With that in mind, I arrived just after opening time and headed in, ignoring the touts outside the gates who offer their services.

 

The Thai visa office from the outside:

 

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I discovered that the first place to go is up the stairs to the left of the seats in the waiting area.  This is where you can get your free application-for-Visa form [it's free], and if you are polite, the staff will help you fill in the form, offer scissors to cut photos to size, and even glue the photos onto the application form for you.  I was offered the option of "no waiting" for 50 Baht, and I took it [i took the option, the staff took the 50 Baht].  My application form got a stamp placed on it and I was walked out to the desk where the form was looked over, and I was sent over to the window where I was told that there was something missing for my application for a non-O visa.  I was sent back to the desk where the woman changed the application to a visitor visa application.  Back to the window and I got a ticket [number 31] to come back and get my passport the following afternoon.  Payment for the visa application was to be made when collecting passport, presumably with the new visa in it.

 

That left me with the rest of Wednesday and a large part of Thursday to find something to interest me, so I returned to the guest house.

 

..........................

 

More to follow as soon as I key it in/upload - after I get get something to eat and drink.

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Pen-fifteen

A few photos to start with...

 

It was of little interest to me to try to get anything done on the internet, here's the result of many attempts to upload photos to PA:

 

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I needed some Lao Gip to pay for food and tuk-tuk travel.  You can pay for anything in Thai Baht, but you will get a poor exchange rate, especially from the tuk-tuk jockeys.  Its better to get a bit of the local currency and use that.  This is where the man on the front desk of the hotel pointed me in the up-river direction for a "bank".  I asked him how far, and he told me "2 kilometres".  "I can walk that", I thought to myself, but I wondered if, in the heat of the day that was still to come, I had made a wise decision.

 

The first thing that I thought as I walked past this "soi" was:

 

If the country has enough money to build a place like this

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Why is there a road like this

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right next to the presidential mansion

 

In one of my previous lives, I used to keep bees, and had to know when and where the honey was likely to become available.  The good apiculture practitioner also should know a bit about plants, including trees.  I got a bit of a surprise when I saw a row of what looks remarkably like ghost gum trees [Corymbia aparrerinja] on the other side of the road.  I took this photo when I was on my way back to the guest house.

 

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Just past the ghost gums, I saw a house that was being painted, and noted that there was a woman painting the outside of the first-floor balcony over the railing, using a long-handled roller. I called out to her and asked if I could take her photo, she said OK...

 

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On the way back, she was down and across the road for whatever reasons she had.  I got 2 closer photos of her and bought her a snack from a nearby vendor.  She was happy.

 

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As I approached the presidential mansion I noted a row of well-spaced and mature teak trees, about a metre across at the base.  I imagined that they would be able to make a few houses from these specimens.  My eyesight is not all that good nowadays, and as I came closer to this row of standing timber, I noticed something that I feel is kinda sad...

 

The first teak tree in the row

 

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Along the row of trees, a few photos of the sad bit...

 

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For anyone who doesn't recognise what is happening in these last 2 photos, it is what I assume is a strangler fig in the relatively early stages of its life.  I don't know a lot about the strangler fig, but I know that its seeds send out tendrils searching for a prospective host.  If the tendrils don't find a suitable host, the seed dies, but if a suitable host is found, the tendril grows up the trunk and implants itself wherever it can find a suitable place - say a crack in the bark.  It then proceeds to surround the tree that it has parasitised with its own trunk, and eventually - true to its name - strangles its host.

 

Teak trees are useful.  Strangler figs produce nothing useful, only more strangler figs.

 

More to follow soon

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samaus

Thanks for the report. When I went to the Embassy there the touts outside with the set up table and chairs assured me that they needed to fill in some sort of application form for me. I felt it was probably BS but they only charged 100b and I had no idea of the process anyway. If I ever go back I'll by pass them but at the time I didn't mind the help.

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Pen-fifteen

I continued my ambulatory exploration of the street behind the presidential mansion and saw a few more teak trees in the grip of strangler figs.  What a crying shameful waste of good teak wood!

 

Walking further up-stream, a large sign telling all and sundry that there was an ATM there came into my focus.  While I was looking for a place to exchange currency, an ATM could be a portent with some promise.

 

For some unknown reason, I didn't get a photo of the ATM sign, but there was what I would call an "exchange counter" there as well.  Cashiers behind glass panels, not inside a building.  Aussie dollars were 6175 gip.

 

I planned to walk directly back to the guest house, but I saw that there was a park across the road and thought that it moght be worth a visit.  Before I crossed the road i caught this pic, looking back down-stream

 

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It might have been worth checking out, but at the time, I was not inclined to do so.

 

And then I crossed the road for a stroll through the park.

 

I got a few more photos of good trees being strangled, but they are probably not of much interest to anyone but me so they can stay on my hard drive, not shared.

 

But there were two things that are definitely worth sharing.  The first is that I saw a motor-cycle parked on the other side of a large, not-strangled tree.  On the other side of the tree from me, between the tree and the motor-cycle was a metal swinging bench seat, and there was someone sitting there, so I had to check this out [my security awareness coming to the front].  I walked past the tree so that I could check out whoever was there without seeming too obvious, and it was a young woman, maybe 20 years of age.  And she had probably never even been touched by the ugly stick.

 

I stopped, and I dithered in my mind.  I wanted to have some excuse to talk to this young lady, but I was in a country that was not only foreign, but strange.  A stranger in a strange land.

 

My confusion was interrupted by another woman who had approached me while my attention was on the young lady on the bench seat, or dithering, or something.

 

The long and short of it all is that the older woman wanted to give me a manicure and asked me if I would like that, and if I would also pay for her to give the same service to the young lady.  I sat in the swing-seat next to the young lady and was [again] surprised by another woman who approached me from behind and offered to massage me.

 

Shit!!  Approached twice within less than a minute and I didn't know that they were coming.

 

After telling these older women to bugger off, I could talk to the young lady next to me.  She spoke Lao, Thai, and a little English.  She informed me that the older ladies were there to con anyone that they could - they would perform a few minutes of whatever service they were offering and demand payment, not worth their services, and probably unhealthy too.

 

I was more interested in this young lady's details.  I couldn't get a lot out of her.  She was sitting in the park waiting for her girlfriend to finish at the [unknown] college so that she could take her back home.

 

I bought her a Pepsi and we talked a bit more

 

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The only other thing that I will say about this girl is that she is a stunner in my eyes, my photo does not do her justice, but that's the only photo that I got of her.

 

I walked back to the guest house, and that is all of the semi-interesting things that I saw and did on Wednesday.

 

A little more to come, but mostly about the visa.

 

Maybe tomorrow or the next day, depends on when I get to the home and hook up my computer.

 

 

 

 

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GBCOMAN

Nice report Pen.

All the very best to you Pal.

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