Thursday evening, we flew from Hanoi to Laos. At the airport, we could choose between a 30-hour bus ride or a 1-hour flight. The price difference was remarkable, but we decided to travel by plane.

Vientiane is Laos’ capital city but also not. You absolutely can’t compare Vientiane with capitals like Bangkok, Phnom Penh or Hanoi. It’s a lot more quiet here, streets are wider and there’s a lot more green interwoven with the city structure. Apart from that, Vientiane isn’t that attractive. There’s not too much to see here, while it’s quite an expensive place to stay if you compare it the prices in more rural areas.

On Thursday, we went out for a pizza — the best one we had in Asia so far, baked in a real wood-fired oven!

After lunch on Friday, we rent bikes to explore the city. You can do most main attractions here in one day. We started at Pha That Luang, an enormous golden temple that was quite crowded. Then we drove on to Patuxai, a big monument that looks like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It’s fun to walk up the hill and admire Vientiane from a higher perspective.

From there, we drove on to the COPE centre. This is a centre where victims of war ammunition are being treated.

During the Vietnam war, Laos was one of the areas bombarded. Thirty percent of all bombs that were dropped here didn’t actually explode. Today, this is having severe consequences for local residents. Bombs explode while people are working their lands or building a home, or when there’s an earthquake. Many people leave the hospital disabled, often with amputated limbs. The COPE centre helps people rehabilitate and takes care of prostheses. Quite confronting to watch this happen, but the centre and visitor room breathe a positive atmosphere.

After our bike day, we went out for dinner and packed our bags to leave for Vang Vieng on Saturday.