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Jakarta Post

Vientiane: Asia’s most laid-back capital city

  • Peter Milne


Vientiane   /   Sun, November 11 2012   /  02:19 pm

Twenty-three years ago, as a young 20-something backpacker, I remember traveling through Thailand, reaching the Thai border town of Nong Khai on the banks of the Mekong, and gazing across to Laos on the opposite side of the wide, fast-flowing river.

I wondered what it would be like to visit the Lao capital just a few kilometers up the river.

In those days, Laos — or more correctly the Lao People’s Democratic Republic — had an exotic and forbidden air to it, only 14 years before the communist Pathet Lao had taken power, shortly after the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese and Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge.

And of course, there was still no “Friendship Bridge” across the Mekong linking the two countries at the time, but instead only small motorized boats flying tiny Pathet Lao flags, fluttering in the wind, were plying the river crossing.

In th...