Joining the Intreipid Classic Laos Tour Today
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Intrepid trip notes: Sabaai-dii! Welcome to Laos
Sightseeing Tour including Wat Si Saket, Wat Haw Phra Kaew, Pha That Luang
I woke up around 3:30 am and couldn't sleep any more so i tried the wi-fi again and lo and behold, I got on. I must have been particularly sharp
I was so tired last night that I barely uploaded my photos and forgot to blog.
I guess at the time I omitted to include my morning activities. First I went to the Museum. Even though the map is quite clear, somehow I missed it - I guess it didn't have a large enough sign, but I did eventually go in. The doorman was quite officious - he led me to the ticket counter - pointed out my camera so they could charge me the photography fee, and then showed me which direction I was to proceed through the museum. I love these wonderful, idiosyncratic museums with their different assemblages of artifacts. I am beginning to notice what a huge part wars play in national museums. Here there were several rooms of war photos and soldier photos with guns and photos of guns
Next I visited another temple, Vat Impeng, at least I think that is which one it was. It was supposed to have very special artwork which I almost missed as I concentrated on the statues of Buddha below the huge tree and the various stupas on the grounds. I happened to be there during lunch when the monks were brought offerings of food and they took a break from their religious activities. I walked around looking at the interior decorations but felt uncomfortable intruding on their lunch so I left and returned to the hotel.
So I waited in the lobby a bit and then our Itrepid guide Vien turned up and said there was only another couple joining the tour and they were having lunch after arriving by plane. They have turned out to be a very congenial Australians from Sydney. Pip just finished the New York City marathon under 4 hours. I will have to find out her exact time. We headed off in a minivan and went to the Sisikat Museum where I could now see the interiors of some of the buildings and the 1000 plus statues of Buddha. They lined the arcade of a large courtyard. Vien explained the different styles and materials of the statues
From there we went to Hor Keo which is not an active monastery because it does not have the 5 essentials: sanctuary, library, belltower ?? ....... Here Vien pointed out things that I hadn't learned previously. This temple had been rebuilt in 1976 I believe and it has one of the old pillars at one corner of the colonnade. Inside there are many old pieces including a replica of the Emerald Buddha that had been stolen by the Thai when they sacked Vientiane
We drove out past the triumphal arch for quite a ways. We passed the American Embassy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs I think and what looked like an upscale area. We reached a huge parking lot by the Parliament Building which I think I remember is no longer used - hence the parking lot is used for recreational purposes. We walked through a gate to the iconic Great Sacred Stupa (Pha That Luang). It is a very, very bright gold painted over concrete and bricks. We could walk around the stupa but could not climb to the higher levels since only monks were allowed to do that. I think I am getting any story we heard mixed up with the other ones. We were there quite awhile so I must have learned something. I might have been starting to fade at that point. Oh, maybe we learned about the nagas that are represented on all the temples
From the temple we went back to the Triumphal Arch modeled on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris but not totally finished. It is missing doors or gates and an elevator. Vien said there were 190 or so steps if we wanted to climb to the top and get a view. So far this is the highest building in Vientiane but there is a hotel being built by the Chinese that will be taller. The Chinese also built two fountains - one right below the Arch and another at the other end of the park. The Arch is enclosed in a roundabout like the one in Paris. As we climbed the arch, there were shop stalls set out on tables on several floors. The final level was reached by a spiral metal staircase
We were dropped back off at the hotel around 4:30 pm. The Australian couple invited me to go out with them to find someplace to eat and walk around. When they came to the lobby there was a bit of drama because their safe wasn't working
After returning, I managed to organize a little since all my Lumix battieries were dead or low and my phone needed charging too. My eyes were closing as I uploaded my photos. I was tucked away before 10 pm I do believe.