Monthly Archives: December 2014

Vientiane, Laos


Laos and Soviet flags

I haven’t been posting much because I went to Laos on the 21st.  The internet in Laos barely works, kind of like in China.  I was there to apply for my Thailand education visa which will let me stay in the country for up to a year.  I’m happy to report I was able to get the visa without much trouble and made it back into Thailand.  I’m at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok writing this, killing some time…

My first impression of Laos was not very good.  First off, the border crossing is rather confusing.  To enter Laos at the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge crossing here’s the process:

  1. Fill out your Thailand departure card and exit Thailand.
  2. Buy a bus ticket for 40 Baht and wait for the bus to cross the bridge.  The buses run about every 10 minutes so the wait isn’t too bad.
  3. On the Laos side, fill out your visa on entry form.  Here’s where it is a little confusing.  Go to window number 2 to get the form.  Then when the form is filled out, go to window number 1 to hand it in and pay the visa fee.  Then go to window number 3 and wait for your passport and any change.
  4. Finally you can go through Laos immigration / customs.
Bus across the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge

Bus across the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge, going over the Mekong River.

Leaving is also a bit of a mess.  It’s not obvious that you have to purchase an exit card for 10,000 kip.  They don’t tell you this before going through immigration.

Second, as an obvious foreigner I always feel a little bit like people are just after my money in SE Asia.  Granted, some parts of Thailand are pretty bad in this regard but I felt like Laos was even worse.  This was especially apparent with the Tuk Tuk drivers.  They are dishonest and will take advantage of you.

Third, Vientiane has got to be a contender for least walkable city in the world.  Everybody parks their car on the sidewalk.  Forcing you to walk in the street most of the time.  I don’t even see this in Thailand.   This, combined with the same crazy driving as in Thailand made walking around the city not a lot of fun.

WTF?  A total shit show.

WTF? A total shit show.

But there are also some nice things about Vientiane.  This city / country has been through a lot and at one point was ruled by the French.  So a lot of French influence can be seen in the architecture.  There are also a lot of cafe’s, French restaurants, and wine bars in the city and there’s lots of good western food to be found when one tires of fried rice and phad thai.  This is also seen in a lot of the signs around the city, many are in Laos and French.


The Temples!  There are a lot of Buddhist temples in the city and some of them are very impressive. IMG_0285



Patuxai Monument.  This concrete behemoth looks very impressive from far away.  For a small fee (and I’m sure foreigners pay more) you can go to the very top which offers 360 degree views of the city.




L’adresse de Tinay.  A delicious French restaurant near Wat Ong Teu. I’ll spare you pictures of what I ate but I really liked this restaurant for two reasons.  The food is amazing and the bathrooms actually have toilet paper in them (and the floors aren’t soaking wet).  It was quite an adventure getting here.  Maybe I will write about it later.

So, if you find yourself in Vientiane, Laos, here are a few things I recommend.

  1. Visit Wat Ong Teu and Wat Si Saket temples.
  2. Eat at L’adresse de Tinay.
  3. Go to the night market at Chao Anouvong Park.
  4. Ride a Tuk Tuk!  But beware.  Before riding:
    1. Know where you are going and how to get there.
    2. Negotiate a price before you leave.
  5. See the Patuxai Monument.
  6. Walk along the Mekong River.

Wat Tham Sua


“Tiger Cave Temple”.  I didn’t see any tigers except for this guy and I didn’t see any caves either.  Wat Tham Sua is so far the favorite temple I have seen in Thailand.  To get to the temple requires a hike up 1200+ steps and is quite a workout especially in the hot humid weather.  The views at the top are spectacular.  Watch out for the monkeys on the way up.  They are rather aggressive and like crack heads are attracted to anything shiny.  But stay calm and they will mostly leave you alone.

IMG_0221 IMG_0245 IMG_0247 IMG_0257 IMG_0249 IMG_0244 IMG_0237 IMG_0234 IMG_0229 IMG_0223

First day at Chong Phli – Spirit Mountain

Went climbing yesterday.  Finding this was a little tricky because most guidebooks and online sources give directions to the crag that are no longer valid.  From my location near the Palm Paradise Resort in Ao Nang I headed North on road 4203.  Then at the intersection turn left on road 4034.  Then drive about 1 kilometer and turn right on Soi Chong Phli 6.  So far so good.  Here’s where it gets tricky.  Most sources say to drive less than 100 meters and turn right on the first narrow dirt road next to a low wall.  This is incorrect.  Drive 300 to 400 meters and turn right at the “T” onto the dirt road (there is a sign pointing to Spirit Mountain)  Then drive another 100 or so meters and look for a second sign indicating the direction to Spirit Mountain and turn right in to an area with a few bungalows.  Park.  Then when facing the cliff, walk to the right and soon the bolted routes become visible.  Super short approach.  View of where I parked from the belay spot:


Today’s objective, climb something easy to get some confidence back.  Zak Attack given a rating of 5 in the guidebook seemed perfect.  Here’s the climb:


The starting hand hold is the chalky bit just to the right of the tufa and there are a dozen or so slings leading up to an anchor.  The start of the climb is a bit wet and mossy which is no fun.  But a few meters up it looked dry so I decided to give it a try.  Well, things went well and I made it to the anchor.  Onsight even!  Here’s the view from the top:


Looking up from the ground, enjoying my send:


And looking down after climbing it a second time on top rope to clean the route:


Next when I was lowered I threaded the rope through the bolts / slings one route to the right to try a harder route on top rope that finishes at the same anchor.  Most of this route was wet but climbing on top rope didn’t sketch me out too much and near the top there were some super fun layback moves on a tufa that was nice and dry.

Well, it turns out I was a little confused.  What I actually climbed was EFZ (Ego Free Zone) rated 6a+ in my guidebook then ended up climbing the easier route Zak Attack + an extension to the anchor of EFZ.  Good times.  And a bit of a boost to my ego / confidence for climbing something harder than I thought I could.  If you remember, I was shut down on a 6a at Ton Sai a couple days ago.  I wonder if my bailbiner is still there?  Maybe I should go get it.

And now for the best part of the day.  Lunch!  Larb Gai and Som Tum.