By no means would I call Vientiane a ‘pretty’ place but, from where I see it, I find this place fascinating precisely due to its candid appearance. What you see is what you get – there is no pretence and the locals really are a happy bunch of people. Walking through the streets it would seem that the rule book was thrown out a long time ago. Certainly for me as an observer, life here is eye opening experience to say the least. The streets are basic with many sidestreets unsealed. Building rubble and everyday rubbish is not uncommon to see but step around the corner (along what I call the ‘Riverside Drive’ along the Mekong) and you will see one of the most oppulent hotels which, when you step inside, transports you from the steamy misty everyday life of Vientiane and into a first-world, five star, marble encrusted palace of peace.
The hotel I speak of is the Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel (and only because I was walking past and became nosy so I thought I’d pop in for a look around). This hotel was specifically built for the 9th ASEM Summit (Asia-Europe Meeting) and although the hotel was for the most part incomplete at the time, the conference still went ahead. The hotel has since been completed and opened for full trading around six months ago. This place is huge!! And beautiful. I could easily while away an afternoon sitting on the deck of one of the pool-side suites but, that’s not why I’m here. (And I didn’t even dip my feet into the pool either).
Life is pretty much as per usual here. People go to work, take their kids to school and get on with their everyday responsibilities, albeit in a slightly different manner to that which I am accustomed to. Oh, and did I mention having a crocodile as a pet in your front yard!!!