29th June - 1st July 2004.

Welcome to Laos, Vientiane is the capital city and is translated as Sandalwood City. Lots of French buildings curve around the Mekong River making this place a very tranquil relaxing city.  

There are no ATM's in Laos and its not surprising when you see the money.  The largest bill is about US$1.20 but this has only just been released. The largest bill in common circulation is 5,000 kip or US 30 cents, hence the huge wads of money we were carrying around.

We stopped to see this woman who was about to get on a moped with her three carrier bags of money. Jason reckons she must have been about to buy a motorbike or something as it probably costs about a US$1,000.

Here we are outside Pha That Luang (Great Sacred Stupa). Legend has it that this place was built by the Indians in the 3rd century and contains the breastbone of the Buddha.  Either way this place looks spectacular in the sunshine.

Refreshingly, Laos people are keen to just speak to us to practice their English. It took some getting used to as we are normally on our guard waiting for the next begging/scam.  This boy spoke to Jason for half an hour practising his English. 

Pepsi... keeping these monks out of the sun all afternoon.

Wat Si Saket was built in 1818 and is the oldest temple, we don't have a good photo of the temple so you can see some more Buddhas.

Haw Pha Kaew is the former temple and there are lots of bronze Buddhas... again no pictures are allowed inside as people might see that the national treasures are decaying and not particularly secure.

Then there is a Buddha park just outside Vientiane. We got there on a very bumpy motorbike ride where the road would often disintegrate. Claire would have to cling on for dear life as Jason would not see some huge tracks of missing road instead opting for motorbike jumping. The park was made by this SEA-hippy who taught locals how to carve many unusual religious statues.

Claire by the Patuxai - a large monument reminiscent of the French Arc de Triumphe in Paris. It was built in the 1960's by cement that was donated by the US that was meant to be used to build a new airport.

Wat Si Muang - Claire plays with the local kids.

This woman carries home the cities rubbish so that she can work her way through it that evening.

Tuk tuk drivers have it so hard. Normal practise is to charge three times the price of a trip and hope that some sucker will take them up on an option.  Thus leaving plenty of time for sleep.

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