Well I got up early today to visit the Cambodian embassy... two photographs, $30 US and 6 hours later I have a pretty new 30 day visa for Cambodia - all the information I'd read on the internet was a little out of date, and it appears that the border I wish to cross at is officially open, and that Vientiane does offer an express visa service of 1 day when you spend $30 US instead of $20... which is a relief, as I can now travel southwards once more towards my eventual border crossing into the land of killing fields and Angkor Wat.
After the Visa malarchy in the morning Charlotte and Myself got a tuk tuk to That Luang, basically a very large golden stupa - very picturesque - while here we also had a look at the horrendously prolific Laos artist who had his work on display, I think I counted at least 100 works... mostly oils and acrylics,but there was also some water colours and mixed media to spice things up...
After that we headed back into the central city, killed a bit of a time, then had lunch at Joma (I think that's what it's called) - basically a Zarbo's equivalent - I got lasagne and a
tastey salad. Outside the restaurant was a lady with a cleft palate and a little baby girl of 7 months, who was very talkative, she even told me which direction I would have to
walk if I needed to get to Bangkok... though it's a little far ;o)
In the afternoon I explored the Laos National Museum.. this museum starts off with a small section on dinosaurs, then the plain of jars and similar ancient sites, very briefly covers
minority races in Laos and then jumps into the main attraction on the second floor (which dominates most of the building) - that being the french occupation, declaration of independence and rise / fall of communism (including the secret war obviously) in Laos
- the english labels are patchy but you get a good feel, and the "artifacts" they've collected are great... it's not often you get to see a revolutionary leaders 1950's style spring "chest
expander" - some of the pictures are fascinating, as you see Castro and Uncle Ho having a jolly old time with the Laos leaders.
The museum cements a view of the Laos as a progressive nation, with funny little displays of pharmaceuticals manufactured "right in Laos", as if the boxes of pills were required as proof that such a feat were possible.. and captions on pictures suggesting such wonderful things as "Disabled people are well cared for in Laos"... the "smell" of communist working class heroes and government saving face abounds, but I also could just be jaded - the people in Laos do generally seem to wish well of each other in general.
On the side.. at the guesthouse I'm staying (dragon lodge) a whole gaggle of IT students have arrived from Singapore, and are assisting the local hospital with improving their information systems and architecture over the next 2 weeks - which is interesting - I never really think that a skill set such as my own could be put to good work in an area like this... food for thought, and it does make me wonder why New Zealand IT institutions don't think of doing something like this... it would have to be great P.R, not to mention a lot of IT people would jump at the opportunity to combine study with a little travel.
Tomorrow I'll be jumping the bus to Savanaket - about 7 to 8 hours, so that will pretty much take me out for the whole day... I haven't done a lot of research on the southern destinations of my journey through Laos, guess I'll do that in transit, it's nice
to have a bit of a surprise anyway.