Vientiane: "Visa Run"
January 12-16, 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
Here's a good one:
"The reason I didn't recognize you, Jan, is because when we met six years ago, you were fat. Now you are slim and younger looking."
So said my friend Kia, a lovely Laotian woman, who with her husband Wisai, runs a small restaurant in Vientiane.
So what am I doing in Vientiane?
I was negligent. I waited too long to apply for my Retirement Visa in Thailand. So, I needed to leave the country and get a fresh thirty-day tourist visa when I return. Then I can apply for the one-year visa and the multiple entry visa.
For the Visa Run, I chose to come to Vientiane. It's close. It's quiet. The people are sweet and friendly. And there are sights to see that I missed the first time I was here in the summer of 2002. *
First I hired a tuk-tuk driver and we visited several temples in downtown Vientiane. I dropped off for lunch at Kia's restaurant.
On my own I found other temples and a very old stupa.
At the Morning Market - a three story shopping mall - I bought several CD's with traditional local music. Next, a really strong cup of local coffee and an apple tart. (Laos was a French colony so there's beaucoup French bread and pastry as well as an array of French restaurants.)
Across the street, in the Handicrafts Market, I selected three silk wall hangings for my new apartment. Miss An Pathammavong, the young woman who owns the shop was very happy and helpful. But she was determined to hold her prices, despite my smiling negotiations.
Around the corner from my hotel I found two small precious gems shops. Precious gems are big business in this part of the world but, don't worry, I just look. At the first shop I met a Nepalese couple. John mentioned that he has businesses in Bangkok and gave me a couple of contacts. His wife made me a coffee and also served fresh baked cookies.
Next door, I met Christina Chai, a Chinese lady from Malaysia. Christina has three children. Her eldest daughter has a swimming scholarship at the University of Arkansas, in the USA! She has been a three-time Malaysian Olympian and plans to retire after the London games. She is ranked Number 19 in the world in one of the swimming events.
Christina paints flowers with water-colors on silk. I'm decorating. Needless to say.....
I hired Lucy Lao, a charming tour guide. She took me to the Buddha Park and later to a riverside cultural park. **
On my last evening, I strolled over to the Mekong River to watch the sun set over the plains of neighboring Thailand.
Almost forgot. Astride the ancient stupa in downtown Vientiane, I discoveed Kyp Tip, Salon de Votre Beauté. Great pedicure!
Maybe I will return to Vientiane in December for the SEA Games 2009. Christina's daughter will be competing. I'm sure I'll still need some decorator items. And Kia prepares a most satisfying vegetable noodle soup.
A votre santé !