Since I last posted, we gained two new stamps on our passports: Laos and Vietnam. (Both are full-page visas–score!) Laos in particular has become one of my favorite countries, and I’ll share some highlights below.

We flew into the capital city, Vientiane. Coming from Bangkok, we experienced some culture shock, as we’d traded one of the most densely populated cities in Southeast Asia for a town with roughly 700,000 residents. BKK is an incredibly vertical city with shiny skyscrapers and mega-malls, while Vientiane’s tallest building clocks in at 14 stories. And perhaps most jarring of all, Laos doesn’t have western chains. In Thailand, we’d gotten used to 7-11’s on every corner, and were quite disoriented when we first tried to track down water.

Vientiane has a few notable attractions, including Patuxai, a smaller replica of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Visitors can climb to the top of the structure, which gives a great view of the city and the surrounding park. Fun fact, courtesy of Wikipedia: The monument was built using American funds and cement intended to build a new airport. As a result, some expats call it the “vertical runway.”

Patuxai

Patuxai

View from the top -- there's NO traffic in this part of Vientiane!

View from the top — there’s NO traffic in this part of Vientiane!

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Pha That Luang

Vientiane was boiling hot, and we found some relief walking along the banks of the Mekong River. There, we stumbled upon two public Zumba-ish fitness classes, with hundreds of women in matching outfits following a flamboyant leader in calisthenics set to loud pop music. Pretty awesome sight for the evening!

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Please observe the Lao fitness classes!

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The red class breaks it down

All this working out inspired us to try a burger joint by our hostel called Ray’s Grille, where we feasted on the best burger and Philly cheesesteak that we’ve had in Asia.

Fantastic cheesesteak at Ray's Grille. Travis is quite pleased!

Fantastic cheesesteak at Ray’s Grille. Travis is quite pleased!

Finally, Vientiane gave us one more wonderful gift. It was here that we discovered our love for Beerlao. Easily the best beer in Southeast Asia (and definitely the cheapest), we enjoyed a few afternoons sipping Beerlao along the banks of the Mekong and even in the air as we flew out of Laos to Vietnam. Let’s figure out how to import this to SF!

The best

The best

We are serious about Beer Lao

We are serious about Beerlao

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#1 Fan!

On a separate note, we flew out of Thailand on the same day that the coup became official. We were lucky because we learned from other travelers that all land borders were closed, and a 10 pm curfew was implemented across the nation. We were in BKK when martial law was declared, but didn’t see too much of a change beyond soldiers being posted around key monuments. This is certainly an interesting time for the region, and we’ll continue to follow the news when we return home.

More Lao cities to follow!

Making inroads at the Lao News Agency. I WILL bring home a hit, Howard!

Making inroads at the Lao News Agency. I WILL bring home a hit, Howard!