Week 16 – Languishing in Vientiane

9th of December – 15th of December

To be fair to the small city of Vientiane, We probably didn’t give her a fair go. This was a week plagued by sickness, consolidation, completing end of year school work and making plans for India. Our heads were turning towards India and our hearts were still with our friends in Luang Prabang. We were finding it hard to leave behind our three incredible months in Laos.

The Diarrhea Song

Nobody likes to talk about it or think about it but sickness is part of life and often part of travel. This time was a bad run of vomiting and diarrhea for the family. It started with our youngest Felix, then to Lucas and by the end of the week Graham and I spent most of the day in bed and on the toilet. So if you don’t want to go the easy road and cry about it, you have to try to laugh. That’s what brought me to singing the boys, “The Diarrhea Song” and a few google searches of it.

I don’t know if you have heard it’s many versions, but I first came across the Diarrhea Song in a 1989 Classic Steve Martin comedy movie called “Parenthood” where the young Buckman sings it. I watched the movie long before I was a parent but I still think it’s quite funny and in parts very wise. Now we have three young sons of our own. I always remember the classic baseball line “When your sliding into home and your pants are full of foam. That’s Diarrhea. Diarrhea”.

We also encountered such bueaties as:

“When your sitting there for hours
and it doesn’t smell like flowers.
Diarrhea. Diarrhea”.

“When your sitting on a mountain
and your butt is like a fountain.
Diarrhea. Diarrhea”.

That’s just nasty… he he. The boys think it is hilarious – well what young boy wouldn’t?

Perhaps you can comment on a few verses you know or can come up with your own??

Indian Visa

We were unsure if it was even possible to get an Indian visa in Vientiane. Internet research had us concluding that it probably was and it would take a minimum of five working days. So Graham did the groundwork of getting digital passport photos and filling in the complex digital applications. With these printed, on Monday morning, our family caught a tuk tuk to the newly relocated Indian embassy building.

We were then told by consulate staff we needed two hard copy photos each, photocopies of our passports and Laos visa extensions. So it was, with about an hour till the consulate closed, we found nearby shops to obtain what was necessary and almost ran back to meet the deadline. Luckily we were able to submit them with the payment of $US58ea. (We later found that this was far cheaper than obtaining a visa in Australia). We also had to promise to advise of flight details to India before processing could begin.

Graham had the initial idea that we would get the visas and then book flights but it seems that the flight details were needed for the application so with no firm time of when or whether we would be successful we went online and booked five one-way tickets to Mumbai.

No communication was received during the week despite prompting emails from us. Our final Laos visa extension would expire on Sunday and the consulate was not open on the weekend – picking them up Monday or later would mean paying fines for overstaying our visas. No call on Friday morning. So it was a determined Prunella with boys in tow sat outside the consulate for over an hour on Friday afternoon to get those visas. Luckily the plan was successful and with visas in-hand, our long held dreams of India would now become reality.

Who wouldn’t want to go to India? That bejewelled, colourful, spiritual, mysterious beauty. We had always wanted to go there, in fact we had a firm romantic plan to go and stand before the Taj Mahal in 2009 for our tenth wedding anniversary. That was before a surprise ultrasound scan revealed that I was three months pregnant with our third son, Felix.

Now in 2013, we were on the brink of finally visiting the daunting yet majestic country. All the richer and more daunting having our three small boys in tow. We had spoken to close friends Manju and Ranjeet in Perth who would be in India visiting their family at Christmas. It was our fond hope to see them at this time and be with some familiar friendly faces. After months on the road this would be a warm comfort to us all.  We all knew it wasn’t going to be easy but we also knew, it was going to be one of our biggest adventures yet. We were all very excited. India – here we come!

Day 107

A quiet day.  School work – we were finishing off final submissions for 2013 so India could be school holidays. More blogging and reading (Graham was enjoying The King’s Revenge about the English Restoration

).  “Yellow menus” for lunch, Tha Dam stupa, Black Canyon coffee and green tea bubble tea by the roadside.


Lucas’s Day in the Lao Capital

(The following is an entry written by Lucas, with pictures selected by him, as part of his term 4 submission for SIDES).

Day 109:  Thursday, the 12th of December, 2013. Sunny and hot.

Today I woke up feeling better, because I had felt sick yesterday. I had been having tummy troubles for a couple of days. That means I hadn’t been able to sleep or eat well. So it was such a relief to know that had gone. We went down to the courtyard for breakfast. We’re staying at a hotel named the Venetian Star and they have breakfast included. So being here for five days already, this had become our morning routine. We had milk tea, baguettes, tomato, cucumber, eggs and sausages. It was yummy.

Later, we caught a tuk tuk to a big monument called The Patuxai (Victory Monument) in the centre of Vientiane. We have ridden in lots of different tuk tuk’s in Laos. This one was a regular one. I looked out of the tuk tuk and was surprised because the monument was so big and tall. Mum and Dad said that it was similar to the Arch de Triomphe on Paris.

According to Wikipedia, it is a war monument built between 1957 and 1968. In romanising the name from the Laotian language, it is variously transliterated as Patuxai, Patuxay, Patousai and Patusai. However, it is typically Laotian in design, decorated with mythological creatures such as the kinnari (half-female, half-bird). Patuxai is a compound word, ‘Patuu’ or ‘patu’ meaning a “door” or “gateway” and ‘Xai’, derivative of the Sanskrit ‘Jaya’, which means “victory”. Thus it means “Victory Gate”.

First we walked around it and took some photos. Then we started to climb it. We had to pay for a ticket at the start. The stairs were quite steep and there were lots of them. I found it very difficult. As we went higher I could see more but on two sides there were big buildings blocking most of the view. On level three and further up there were small markets of souvenir sellers. As we got higher the stairs got smaller and windier. Near the top, it was a small, metal spiral staircase – barely big enough for two people to pass. We saw a lady get surprised when she saw a gecko on her foot. She kicked and flicked it off. On the seventh floor we looked through the grating and could see all of Vientiane. We saw lots of cars and a huge fountain that we wanted to investigate. From above the fountain looked like an underwater city. (But later we found out it wasn’t). Altogether we climbed seven stories to the top and back down again.

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On the street we bought some small sweet mandarins. Then we found another street seller selling corn-on-the-cob. We ate these as we walked along. They were delicious.

Next we went to the Tat Sao or Morning market. This was our second visit here. It is made up of outside stalls with a big shopping mall in the middle. We went into the big shopping mall on the top floor to the foodhall. We had lunch there again. The first time we came we ordered crispy pork and this time we decided to get more. In two visits we ate five plates of crispy pork between us! (I wonder if that’s a world record?). We looked at some cool toys such as, remote control tanks, ultraman costume (a superhero they have here) and Lay Lay (a copy of Lego). We bought two new DVDs. They were “Lego Batman” and “Rise of the Guardians”. I can’t wait to watch them.

Toys at the markets.

We then visited Pha That Luang, a golden stupa in the centre of Vientiane. We had to cross a huge carpark to get there. We were all getting very tired and hot by now. The stupa was enormous and golden. While Dad took photo’s, mum and us sat under a tree. My brothers ran around there and then we went home.

Is it the biggest Stupa?

At home we had a long rest. Felix and Reuben went to sleep but I just rested (I hardly ever sleep during the day).  Then we all did our school work. Felix did handwriting, Reuben finished his maths for the year and I am nearly finished – because I have more work then them. That is when I wrote this story. I hope you like it. It was a good day.

The End.

Breakfast with Deb

I met Deb twice whilst volunteering for OPT. She is a friendly, kind warm lady – also from Australia. She has been working in Lao’s for many years as a fly in fly out worker for the mining industry and had now decided to live in Vientiane. We were pleased that she took to our story and we had stayed in touch. She had very kindly offered to meet us on Monday morning and treat us to a slap up breakfast at Joma. After a very rough week it was a welcomed treat for the Sabretoothed chickens.

We sat upstairs, exchanged some small gifts and enjoyed friendly banter. She revealed on the previous Wednesday she had been retrenched from her job. We were sad for her but impressed by the positive light she took on the situation. A chance to consolidate, to reflect, to make changes and maybe some more travel? We wish her every success and are sure to stay in touch. This was just one of countless times on our travels we had been blessed to share and be embraced by the kindness of a stranger. Thanks Deb.

The Night Train

After not being able to book our preferred choice of a 2nd class fan sleeper, we leaned to the wishes of our excited train enthusiast Lucas and booked the more expensive 2nd class AC in order to get onto the night train to Bangkok.

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A Tired start in Bangkok

On the night train we met another travelling family from Madrid who were travelling towards a future life in Melbourne, Australia. We chatted as we waited for border control and changed trains once across the friendship bridge.

After a long early morning taxi ride we arrived at our online booked accommodation. It was a large spacious two bedroom apartment named the XP Bangkok. The views from the 10th floor alone were worth the $US24/night we paid and on arrival we discovered it included breakfast. As check-in was not yet available, we explored our little area with it’s small local market and large Japanese Mall – Gateway. Then after lunch, a well earned rest after check-in  –  this time a bed that doesn’t move!

View from the XP Bangkok
View from the XP Bangkok

One comment

  1. Lucas you did an excellent job of blogging! We were very impressed and in admiration of your grasp of your travel guiding experience and techniques. Thank-you very much for the blog nephew/grandson. Love, hugs and kisses to you all…PJ and Grandma xoxoxoxoxo


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