Ruth: Vientiane is a world away from rural Laos. On our approach to town we stopped at a shopping mall that was more like a western suburban mall than any other place in Laos. For a communist people’s republic, wealth distribution has slid decidedly towards Vientiane and away from the rural areas we’ve visited. Vientiane is also, however, the base for a number of NGOs and fair trade cooperatives that are trying to send at least some of the wealth back to where it is most needed. We visited COPE, the rehabilitation centre which provides rehab and prosthetics to victims of the unexploded ordinance (UXO). At the visitor’s centre they also screen documentaries about UXO. We watched the excellent Canadian made film, Bombies. It can be seen here on YouTube:
For a capital city, Vientiane, is a surprisingly relaxed and metropolitan place. Here is a group in silk pyjamas doing Tai Chi as the sunrises over the Mekong. The French bakeries open up with their baguettes and croissants on offer, a lovely legacy from the French colonial period. We were also pleased to see that a thriving Indian community has set up a number of restaurants, where we have been feasting on fresh nan and curries.
Only a stone’s throw from the Tai Chi group the world of Vientiane ends on the shores of the Mekong, where we once again find rural Laos.