Vientiane

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Two weeks in Vietnam and Laos wore me out. They wore me out so much that I nearly forgot my blog password.

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But a reminder from my sister, then a haiku (no less!) from my dad in Central Asia has prompted me to get off my duff and show you some pictures.

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Check out Vientiane’s version of the Arc de Triomphe.

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For something like 50 cents, you can hike the stairs to the top for a sweeping view of the city.

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Unfortunately, it was a gray day the morning we were there, but we were grateful that the heat wasn’t terribly intense yet.

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There’s the presidential palace on that end of the boulevard.

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I expected Laos to be a lot more like Vietnam, but it’s really Thailand’s less-developed cousin. Geographically it makes sense, but for some reason I’d always lumped them together in my head. Vietnam is communism, commercialism and hard work, whereas I felt like Laos was a more slow-moving pace of life. There were plenty of people up at 6 a.m. exercising along the Mekong river. But as they passed the huge religious statues, many would pause, bow and say a short prayer.

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There were temples on nearly every street block, and because Laos recently celebrated their New Year (April 13-15), most of them had been topped up with a new coat of glistening gold paint.

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I suppose when I pictured the temples, I thought of them more like operating houses of worship. In reality they are more of large structures built to show the benefactor’s religious devotion. Some sit empty, while a few have monks that live on the premises. Few are given much maintenance, with the exception of their New Year’s paint job. And not all the temples even got that.

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