Monday, March 10, 2008

Laos, Vientiane

I caught a tuk tuk to the friendship bridge and cleared the Thai leaving process in a couple of minutes and then caught a bus to take me across the bridge to the Laos side. The Lao visa process was confusing on how or what I was to do but somehow I figured it out along with a big group of people.

I could not find any sort of public transport to Vientiane so ended up taking a taxi. I found out later you are suppose to catch the bus in Nong Khai Thailand about a kilometer before the bridge and most of the crowd that was also getting visas had done this. The bus driver would not let me on since I had not been on the bus to get across the bridge. Since I didn’t take the bus I should have at least been lucky enough to show up at a time before or well after the bus so I would not have had to fight my way though such a long visa line but luck was not with me at least as far as timing. The taxi was not bad and only cost me a few hundred Thai Bhat for the 20 kilometer ride to Vientiane.

I was not overly impressed with Vientiane. It has a number of temples but I did not really find any of them that impressive. I did enjoying the national museum but a lot of what I enjoyed there was an exhibit that they had on the Dutch East India Company and its interaction with Laos. I find it really interesting learning about the impact one company had on so many places. I hear a lot about the negative impact the current Multi National Companies have on the world and wonder if they studied history and are just modeling themselves after the Dutch East India Company.

I made it out to Pha That Luang which is sort of the national symbol of Laos. There is a picture of Pha That Luang on most of the Lao money. Here is my pictures.

I also climbed to the top of the Patuxai which the guide books talked bad about and I think because of that I was expecting something really bad so rather enjoyed it. It is just a big arch in the middle of the road. There was also a great breeze up on the top of the arch and a great view so I enjoyed cooling off after the stairs to get to the top.

Even though I was not really impressed with Vientiane I stayed for a number of days. My ear started hurting when I was in Nong Khai. The ear got painful in Vientiane so I spent one day in bed to see if the rest would make an improvement without any luck. The following day I decided to go find a doctor.

The guidebook said there was an international clinic attached to a hospital with English speaking doctors. Finding the clinic was no easy thing since no one in the hospital seemed to speak any English and then someone final pointed me in a direction and I found the clinic. Once in the clinic it seemed to be empty of anyone except patients and when someone did come out that was not a patient they did not speak any English but pointed me to a chair. Someone came out that spoke English in about 10 minutes to talk to me. He ask me what was wrong and said he would get a Ear, Nose and Throat doctor to have a look at me. I waited a few more minutes and then I was passed on to a nurse that led me to another building to a room where about 20 people were waiting. I seemed to jump the queue and was led into an exam room as soon as someone came out. In the exam room there was a doctor, a nurse and 3 patients. The doctor was examining one when I entered and two were waiting. When the doctor finished with the person he was looking at one of the other patients went to get in the exam chair but was stopped. Since I don’t understand any Lao so can only guess that he was told something like “I have to look at the cry baby foreigner that thinks he’s dying because his ear hurts a little”.

The doctor spoke great English and ask me a few questions looked in both of my ears and said “Don’t use cotton swabs on your ears and I will give you some pills.” This took less than 5 minutes and then we walked back out of the exam room past the 20 people waiting that were shooting daggers at me with their eyes and back to the clinic. In the clinic I was taken to a pharmacy and they gave me the pills and I paid for the doctor visit and pills. This was a travel experience that I would have rather skipped. My ear got better but not really 100% until a few days after I had finished all the pills and I am still not sure if the pills helped or if it was just time.

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