The Patuxay (Pat-too-sigh) is a Lao monument, built as a local version of the Arc de Triumphe. I found a lot of history about it here: http://blog.gotlaos.com/2010/03/patuxay-monument-revisited-in-vientiane-laos.html - go read it and you can find the button to turn off the monk's chanting above the words "Melodious monks from Laos" (music autoplay is the devil - why do people do that).
You can see what it was designed to be there, but the reality is.... unfulfilled.
There is no hall of heroes on the second level, just souvenir shops selling t-shirts. There are no elevators, only unfinished concrete stairs. There is a lot of decay with some of the safety railings rusted away and other broken or missing pieces all around. It's an odd place which seems to hold a place of esteem for the Lao people with bus loads of locals visiting the monument and so the level of decay seems odd when compared to the work on the new Presidential Palace at the other end of the Avenue Lane Xang and other preparations for the ASEAN summit later this year. I guess priorities are whatever the locals want them to be. It's certainly worth a look.
A few blocks away is the Morning Market and Talat Sao, also on Avenue Lane Xang. There are lots of embassies and government buildings on this largest road in Vientiane (that I've seen).
I went searching for shoes and failed miserably. Perhaps my experience at the warehouse was a warning on how hard it would be to find things in my size here. I'm not that big a guy, but I haven't met a Lao that is even close to my height or width across the shoulders. I haven't met a Lao woman who was taller than my shoulder. I guess 3 generations of first world economy living makes a difference after all.
The Talat Sao also seems to be an unfulfilled promise. It is billed as the Vientiane version of Chadstone, but it probably only has about 1/3 occupancy, except on the second floor which is jam packed with gold jewellery stalls. Of the rest there is about 30 versions of the same 3 stalls. The bags stall, the shoes stall and the clothes stall. All seem to have the same stock with YSL copy bags and "Anger Birds" t-shirts. The adjacent morning market is more interesting with all kinds of stuff from the hall of phones to the fresh produce to Buddhist trinkets to pirate karaoke DVDs.
On my walk in to the landmarks I copped out and went for the Falang breakfast special at an American run coffee shop with an egg and bacon roll and a coffee. The coffee was americanly awful but the roll was pretty good. For lunch though I thought I needed to atone and get back to my goal of "living in Laos" and so I say myself down at a well populated kitchen, pointed at a bowl of something one of my fellow diners was eating and waited for the results. It came as a noodle soup kind of thing that I have since been informed was not Pho but something more local. It had a very peppery broth that was mostly chicken based with some good noodles some less good pieces of chicken and slices of blood something or other. I didn't eat much of the blood thing to be honest. The coffee and muffin was 30k and my lunch was 10k - I enjoyed lunch far more of the two meals.
Having walked a few kms and climbed a lot of steps I thought it might be time for another massage so I wandered back to the place I went last time and lay down to get stretched out and beaten up again. I think this type of massage agrees with me and I feel pretty good at the end of it again. I did get asked if I wanted a girlfriend for the night about half-way through though.
Then it was a tuk-tuk ride back to the hotel and again I was asked if I wanted a lady friend for the night. Do I look like one of the *those* guys? I guess I shouldn't be too naive about this, but to be asked twice in quick succession was a bit disconcerting.
The weekend also saw my bosses family have a medical emergency. I was changing hotels this weekend to something a bit brighter and more modern and my suitcase was in his office while I was away on site at the mine. I called when I got back to organise to get it and found that Dan and his wife were over the border in Thailand taking her to a hospital. The kids were a bit stressed but helped me get my bag and so I took them out for dinner each night. They are good kids and it was no hardship at all to spend time with. It's the least I could do after they had been so accommodating for me in my first week in Laos.
On the flight home on Friday, one of the guys told me he had a restaurant a block away from my hotel which had a band playing on Sunday afternoons. I wandered over for some lunch on Sunday and was treated to a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in their large and shady courtyard while some expat guys had a jam session. It was very Falang heavy, but I got to meet a lot of MMG and other locally based expats which will be good for my working network here. PMs get a lot done based on the quality of their network.
It was a good first weekend in Laos.