Vientiane, 4 Years Later

A lot can happen in four years. Laos certainly left an impression on us, long after we returned to the U.S. it continued to be our favorite place we traveled through during that time period. Lots of job applications and networking and here we are. Lori was first to get a serious offer, but it worked out well as it ended up being with the organization she’s been wanting to work with for a long time.

We heard a lot about how Vientiane has changed since 2012, but are still looking for the major changes. Sure, there’s more Chinese investment (like everywhere) and shiny glass buildings popping up here and there. But the essence still remains (and certainly downtown has changed very, very little). And if you’re wondering about that hugely ambitious development plan for the Mekong water front, well, it still appears to be a long way off. In 2016, there are still more fishermen and wooden boats along the banks than condos, hotels, and convention centers. It’s only a matter of time, I’m sure, but in Laos, everything takes longer, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.

The biggest change for us returning four years later is, of course, this dude. The lethal combination of a hot bath, warm weather and a 14 hour time change seems to have done him in on our first Sunday morning back in town.

We made the long walk from our apartment to old downtown to grab brunch and have a walk around. We were excited to return to this part of town as we had been in Laos for nearly four days and not yet retraced any familiar ground. Given that Vientiane has been at the top of our list for cities to relocate to for so long, it was comforting to finally be back on familiar ground.

Noe’s been enjoying all the attention he’s been getting by the wait staff. It’s common for staff to offer to hold a baby while you eat, and we couldn’t resist, yet again, while Lori kept a watchful eye on our little charmer. By the way, the Croque Monsieur at Le Banneton is absolutely fantastic, and really good for you, I’m sure!

Wat you say?

Making the rounds to a few places we ate at on our first visit, we drop in to Scandinavian Bakery for some cold coffee, wifi and much-appreciated aircon. The place itself hasn’t changed, but there seem to be a lot more Chinese than before. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence…

Three days getting settled with no internet and our family was starting to demand proof of life of Noe. With internet and local newspaper at Scandinavian Bakery Lori was able to nip that in the bud.

Photo of the same crazy four-story Lao-style apartment in central Vientiane that I took four years prior:

Four years prior:

The riverfront, looking a bit shabbier than our last visit, but with a string of low-density commercial buildings — a far cry from the future of Vientiane billboard. The river bank has been covered in concrete slabs with utility connections installed. Perhaps plans in the works to move the night market down here?

Four years ago:

Back to the future:

Laotian monk talking on cell phone…that’s a new one.

Say hello to my little friend:

Four years prior:

These are a new addition (new to us, at least)!

Will definitely have to return to this place.

We’ve been really surprised at the availability of Belgian beer here, and it’s not just because we made a stop in Belgium en route. I can’t remember ever being able to get Leffe, Chimay, Orval, etc. throughout most of our travels, and certainly not in Southeast Asia. But in Vientiane, in 2016, it seems to be on offer at every mini-mart and corner supermarket.

‘DQ. Something Different.’


Bun Cha for dinner at HaNoi Vietnamese restaurant. Not like any Bun Cha I’ve had in Vietnam, though. It was alright, but I probably wouldn’t get it there again. Noe had similar feelings but felt that the outdoor seat with nice street view and cold beer was worth the price of admission. I tend to agree.

We don’t get many pics with the three of us and this is our first in Laos, at a Vietnamese restaurant, nonetheless.

Catching a ride home. Baby’s first tuk tuk!

Undoubtedly, first of many.

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