People in love with small towns will fall in love with Vientiane. There are enough modern conveniences to make it cozy, and restrained enough to be quiet. Vientiane is not in your face about anything. Unfortunately, one tourist I met in Chiang Mai who had traveled to Vientiane told me it was "the most boring capital city in the world." Some things change. Some things stay the same.
I got on the street to get to the consulate to process my paperwork. The line wasn't as long as the day before, as it had been a day following a three day holiday, and had many people waiting to get their visa applications turned in. As I had been there the day before, they checked my cover letter and a few other things, and told me everything was good. I waved off the tuk-tuk drivers and walked on down Lane Xang Blvd. toward Wat Si Sa Khet temple. I'd visited it before, about two years ago, when they were making renovations to the building housing the sanctuary. I got to the temple a few minutes before noon, when they close the museum for lunch.
In my every visit to Vientiane, I have to go to my favorite sandwich shop in town. Fasai Fruit Shake, Drink and Food is located about 10 minutes from Wat Si Sa Khet. I got a sandwich and two banana shakes for around 32,000 kip.
After lunch I walked back to Wat Si Sa Khet and started clicking pictures. I took a number of self-portraits among the stupas and other older buildings, then went inside to see the main hall. I only took photos of the exterior, as taking pictures is not allowed inside the sanctuary.
Currently I am packing a Canon A-800 series point-and-shoot camera that has let me down a few times in the focusing department. It has been this way for a while, and it needs to be replaced either with a Canon PowerShot that I really like, or with a Canon DSLR. I need something that will focus, and will allow me to get good wide angle photos. The current camera has its moments, but I need something a bit more powerful, and in the 12-meg range. For self-portraits the camera is okay, but I am not satisfied with the other settings on it. But I also at times ask too much of the camera, pushing it to do more than it can. It's okay for now. We have seen a lot of things together. I would like to see it in the hands of someone who can work with it inside its limitations.
Thoughts like this come to mind every time I take it out and put it to work.
I spent about an hour-and-a-half inside the temple grounds, and weathered a brief rain shower that drove up the humidity.
From there I just went walking for a while. I didn't have any place in particular I wanted to go, but would have to get out of the rain again. My knee was hurting and wanted a break, so I went to a Mexican restaurant to rest up. While there, it rained for about 45 minutes, I guess. When it was over, I headed out to the Mae Kong River. I got there in time to enjoy the sunset, and met two girls who needed some photography advice. One was Filipina; the other was South Korean. They were both on visa runs. The sunset was nice. After dark, I started shooting pictures at the night market, which is set at the base of the levy lining the river.
The day was spent, and I went to a mini-mart for some food, then went back to the guest house to chill out and get some sleep.
In the morning I lounged around the guest house, wrote a couple of poems, tried to get the AndroPad to work with Xanga. I can only say I am not happy with the AndroPad. The Apple iPod Touch that I bought two years ago is faster in booting, and loads web pages so much more quickly than the AndroPad. Google screwed up a perfectly good relationship with Apple to produce the Android. More on that someday.
At noon I checked out of the guest house, ate lunch across the street, then went to the consulate for my visa. It was a routine of hurry up and wait, followed by lining up a tuk-tuk for a ride to the bus station. All too soon the 3:00 bus loaded and left for the border for a round of outprocessing from Laos and inprocessing to Thailand. Around 5pm we arrived in Udon Thani, and officially ended the visa run.
At the mall I got some dinner, did some currency exchange at the bank, and returned to the bus station for the 6:50 bus to Bangkok. I settled in for my seven hour trip back to Saraburi. I slept well enough until Khorat. There I got a Strawberry Fanta, and got back to sleep for another three hours. Friday morning was coming, and I had a morning class to teach.