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20060112_P_0126
Why Laos didn't make it to the World Cup
20060112_P_0129
Languid beers by the Mekong

Well, our first day in Vientiane was not much better than our last two in Luang Prabang. Stef spent most of the night in the bathroom and although I managed to sleep I still felt pretty foul in the morning. Stef made it to breakfast but had to go on his own because I could not face the thought of food. When he came back he promptly went back to bed and made up for last night’s lack of sleep.

By the time we made it out and about it was already almost five in the afternoon. Leaving the air conditioned cool of our room we were met by a wall of warm, thick air when we went outside, a real shock to our senses. Neither of us was feeling great but we both knew that we needed to be out and about for a while. We ambled along Th Fa Ngum heading for the local bank where we wanted to change the last of our Chinese Yuan into US Dollars. No luck there as they do not accept them.

Both wanting to show willing, but both quietly just wanting to go back to the coolness and near a loo-ness of our room, we turned left and ambled through town for a while with no real plan of where we were going. The centre of Vientiane seems very small and, for a capital city, pretty quiet. There is more traffic on the roads here than we have seen for a while, probably since Lijiang in China but it is still low key. We soon saw evidence of the local sewage system and understood the warnings in Lonely Planet about avoiding a thoroughly shitty end to the day. The sewers run along the side of the streets. For the most part they are covered over with concrete slabs but quite often the slabs are missing or have collapsed so if you do not watch where you are going you run the risk of falling in – nice!!

Like Luang Prabang, Vientiane seems to be full of Western tourists, guesthouses and agencies selling bus and plane tickets. In both places I think it would be interesting to get all the foreign visitors together and count the number of copies of Lonely Planet and, to a lesser degree, Rough Guide books that are in town. There must be hundreds if not thousands. Some of the guesthouses were fully booked and were turning people away. Where ever there was a guesthouse there was also a chap with a tuk tuk waiting to take you where ever you wanted to go.

After about half an hour of slow mooching we found ourselves back on the banks of the Mekong and heading in the direction of our hotel. A car park had been turned into a football pitch with balls bouncing off the curb back into play being an acceptable part of the rules. The goalie of one team obviously felt his team mates were doing a great job as he was lying down stretched out on the floor in the goal he was defending, watching the play taking place in front of him. Further along the river in what looked like an open air market building Vientiane's free evening aerobic session was well and truly underway. About five people were doing their stuff on a raised platform setting the example to the thirty or so people below who were following them. Most of the people there were locals but there were a couple of very hot looking Westerners also taking part.

We stopped off for a cooling drink at the Riverside Café and watched the sun go down in the distance. It seems strange that on the other side of the river is a different country, Thailand. Stef was tempted by food and warily munched his way through some pork and rice before we both admitted that we just wanted to head back to the hotel. It is unusual for both of us to feel so out of sorts at the same time. We were so bad that we actually sat through the last forty minutes or so of Honey I Grew the Kids and found it amusing. The hotel’s restaurant was a safe, and tasty, option for dinner and we were back in bed by about nine o’clock, both with tummies grumbling and rumbling away.