The initial guesthouse that we found to stay in the early hours of the morning was a bit expensive so after breakfast five of us moved on to another guesthouse while two of the aussie guys decided to head straight for Vang Vieng.
The five of us hired bikes for the afternoon to explore the capital but the bikes weren’t without some minor problems. First my pedal fell off before we had even left and then after another 500m the Frenchman’s pedal fell off as well. After swapping bikes we were on our way heading down the main street to the huge statue that pointed out over the Mekong and towards Thailand. The statue was of King Anouvong who is remembered for uniting the country in the 1800’s, although at the time we had no idea who it was and why he was pointing out over the Mekong. The river was extremely wide here and although there was a massive sand beach between us and the water in the wet season it would all be under water and it must be a good few hundred meters wide. The river marked the border and on the other side was Thailand.
From here were decided to head for Pha That Luang although not before I had some further issues with my bike. Between sections of the paved area where we were riding were drains about a 50cm wide by 50cm deep running the length of the pathways, they had small crossings every now and again. At the last minute I realised I was about to go down one, I managed to bunny hop it but the back tyre hit the edge and popped – There ended up being 3 punctures! It took about 45mins to fix.
Pha That Luang is a national monument and appears on the national seal. The most recognisable part is a large golden stupa that begins its history in the 3rd Century BC and supposedly contains a breast bone of Shakymuni Buddha. It then saw further construction in the 1500’s but was destroyed by the Siamese in 1828. It was rebuilt in 1900 by the French and rebuilt again in 1930 as no one liked the first rebuild.
As we rode towards it we could see it in the distance with a waxing moon already rising above the stupa. When we first arrived we thought it was closed but when we saw some other tourist open the gate and head through we ran in after them. As it was about to close there were only half a dozen people in side the walls which allowed us to explore without a crowd. There were also a few surrounding Wat’s, one of them quite large and impressive.
From here we had a fun ride back to the river with two of the guys racing a local who was on a motto. We made it back for the sunset which although hazy wasn’t too bad.
That evening we checked out a bit of the nightlife with one of the drink staff being the guy that boys had been racing earlier. From here we all continued onto Vang Vieng.