Capital city of Laos, population approx. 500,000. This city is close to the Thai border (Nong Khai) via the Lao - Thai Friendship bridge. In 1994 the Australian government financed this bridge over the Mekong. This city is easy to get around, has amazing French colonial architecture and provides easy transportation to areas in and around Laos.

Some interesting sites:

Xieng Khuan "Buddha Park" - Built in 1958, this park is a good stop off point between the border and Vientiane. Built in 1958, this park merges Buddhist and Hindi icons together. Many concrete statues cover the park, most are gigantic renditions of deities. There is also a pumpkin shaped building near the entrance that is three levels high representing hell, earth and heaven. You can sit atop the structure to view the grounds.

The major street in Vientiane (Thanon Setthathirat), has many Wats, restaurants and bars along both sides of the street. Walking along this street and the river will give you a good feel for the city.

Another site is the Lao Revolutionary Museum. This mansion became a museum in 1985. Along with the cultural and historical documents in the museum, portraits of Marx, Stalin, Ho Chi Minh, there is a section devoted to the plight against the "American Imperialists". This is something we don't learn about in history.

Laos is still a communist country and a bit of anti-American propaganda is sure to exist in their national museum. I just didn't think it would be like this They show pictures from the early 60's of Lao people with signs that read, "US Go Home". Pictures labeled as, "US imperialist gas chambers used to kill the Lao people". A glass case with an M-16 and an un-exploded bomb - The caption reads "These are the weapons the US imperialists used to kill the Lao people". It goes on and on...

Swallowing hard, my mouth feeling like it was full of pennies. I walked through the museum, from picture to picture. I wondered about the domino effect, about rules of engagement in Vietnam, about this being the "other theatre" in the war.

My footsteps, under me, not leaving a trace, my hands linked behing my back. I thought about the unexploded bombs piled up along farm fences in Vang Vieng, about an amputee there telling me that the cave I was exploring was a bomb shelter. I wondered if all the rumors about covert operations by the CIA were true.

I was the only tourist in the museum. Walking down stairs, I entered a room with two Lao police guards dressed in olive drab talking with a woman who was sorting tons of pills out on the floor. It looked like a pharmacy in the middle of the museum. I stepped around, bylined toward the exit, to retrieve the bag I checked at the counter, and get the heck out of there. One of the policemen, wanting to practice his English asked me the standard "Where are you from"?
"Canada" I replied. not so proud to be an American
Vientiane also has a big ping pong following, and it is even possible to find a foos ball game in town. The food is great and accommodations are cheap. recommended place to stay, Khamvongsa Guest House E- Mail: Souriyo_a@hotmail.com

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