We really enjoy traveling in Lao. And we’ve had the pleasure of visiting quite a few different parts of the country.
While Luang Prabang is the cultural center of the city, Vientiane is the center of politics, transportation and commerce. In addition to Lao Air and a multitude of international carriers flying there; Lao Central Airlines is a new carrier featuring a fleet of all regional jets based in the city.
As you’ll see in the following pages, there is a lot to do and see in Vientiane and we’ve enjoyed our visits there. We’ve met some very nice people and stayed in some comfortable and reasonably priced hotels there. But to be perfectly honest, despite being the home of Makphet, one of our favorite restaurants in all the World, there is something about the vibe of Vientiane that is a little bit of a turnoff for us. It’s just a little too frantic for Lao.
Now for a rant: As insignificant as it seems, a part of that feeling comes from interactions with tuk-tuk drivers there. For the average tourist, encounters with tuk-tuk drivers are about as frequent as with any other occupation and dealings with them can set the tone for an entire visit.
As an completely unfair and gross generalization, we find the tuk-tuk drivers of Veintiane to be rather surly and condescending towards tourists. While we expect to play the negotiating game with tuk-tuk drivers wherever we go in SE Asia, in Vientiane, the game there is more like “how much can we get out of this one; this time”.
Vientiane is the first place we encountered the “2 people / double price” tactic. Tacked on top of an already inflated charge for even the shortest distances, tuk-tuk fares in Vientiane are the highest we have seen anywhere in SE Asia. We were asked to pay fares of 30,000 kip (or close to $4) for rides of less than 1 km. And when we tried to bargain, we were sometimes literally laughed at and on a couple occasions the driver turned his back and walked away.
This type of behavior is more likely to be encountered at corners where several drivers have congregated. We have found we can sometimes get some slight deductions in prices when we hail a moving tuk-tuk as apposed to one waiting at a corner but even those charged prices higher than in other Lao and SE Asia cities.
OK. Rant over. Now back to your regular programing.