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Saturday, April 20, 2013

April 14 – 17, 2013 Vientiane, Laos – An Unfortunate Side Trip

 A visit to Luang Prabang was really the reason we added Laos to our trip, however, there are select embassies outside Thailand that will grant us a 60-day Thai Visa with an option to extend an additional 30 days (you cannot get this inside Thailand). Vientiane, Laos, is one of those cities, hence it was added to our itinerary, and would serve as our "visa run".

During the cab ride from the airport to our hotel we noticed the streets were alive with an atmosphere of utter chaos. The cab was bombed with water balloons and people were running the streets like apocalyptic madmen tossing buckets of water at us. As he dodged the lunatics our cabbie informed us delightedly that we had arrived just in time for Songkran. Oh No! Never in a million years did we think about the timing of our trip to the capital city. Although this is something people travel far and wide to celebrate, it meant only one thing to us at the time: all government offices would be closed for the duration of our stay and there was nothing to be done about getting our Thai visas.

We decided to make the best of an unfortunate situation and suck it up, so we checked in to the hotel and dropped our bags off at the room and then hit the streets to see what was going on and to scope out a place for dinner. The minute we left the security of the hotel's entrance, we were doused by buckets of water from a passing pickup truck! People were literally driving around with children's inflatable swimming pools and large tubs in the beds of trucks from which they would full their "Super Soakers" and water buckets to douse unsuspecting passers by. The element of surprise was the theme of the day. We literally ran the next few blocks bobbing and weaving to avoid the attackers. Every place we came to had a Closed sign prominently displayed on the door. We eventually spotted a restaurant attached to a hotel and arrived completely soaked to the bone and smarting from the impact of some of the water balloons. A kind employee handed us towels and pointed us toward a table. We enjoyed a fantastic meal and then caught a taxi back to our hotel where we hid safely in our room for the night. During the night we were both struck with severe stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. We both spent the entire next day in utter misery so sick and weak we could hardly get out of bed to use the bathroom. We called the front office to have water and sodas delivered. It was absolutely horrible. There was no pharmacy open, no doctor and no relief.
On the morning of the 16th, we emerged from the room still weak and crampy but starving for breakfast. I seriously dreaded leaving the hotel. We had no festival spirit in us whatsoever at this point. We forced ourselves to get out touring, and tried to cover our cameras and Frank's iPad as much as possible in case we got an unmolested chance to snap some photos.

We walked away from the center of activity until we found some sites and monuments. Although everything was closed we were able to get some good photo ops. As interesting as the street food looked, we avoided it at all costs. We were ready to get out of Vientiane. Another time…an different mood and we probably would have loved this place.

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