A work trip to Vientiane
In 2010 I was asked to travel from Beijing to Vientiane for a conference. I had never been to Laos so was looking forward to the experience. My other colleagues all had travelled from around different areas of Asia to attend the conference and we all stayed at a lovely little hotel (resort really) near the centre of town. We did not have much spare time but did have the opportunity to taste some fabulous food in local restaurants and walk along the boardwalk looking over the wonderful Mekong river to nearby Thailand.
We also visited one of the famous sights in Vientiane; Patuxai which means ‘Victory Gate or Gate of Triumph’. This is a war monument which is dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. It actually resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
We also visited one of the national symbols in Laos; the ‘Pha That Luang Temple’ which is covered in gold and located in the centre of Vientiane.
And this is where I saw the baby sparrows. So…there was a lady carrying around several small bamboo cages and inside were these tiny baby sparrows, so many in one cage and she was offering people [foreigners really] the opportunity to set them free – for a fee of course. Well..I knew that as soon as we paid her and set the birds free she would re-capture them and take more money from another animal/bird lover…but I did it anyway. It was so incredibly warm and I thought the opportunity for these sparrows to fly in the shade for a few minutes would be good for them. And maybe some would not get caught again. I recall seeing this in China a few times (again did the same thing and paid to set them free only to see the men recapturing the sparrows!!).
I realised though that I had no Laos money on me, so my dear friend who had come over from Singapore bought the freedom of the birds for me – four cages full!! I can’t recall what it cost him but it was not cheap; (I think around $20 AUD)…he is a true friend who knew it was upsetting me to see the birds in cages. He still tells the story and the fact I have never re-paid him.
Vientiane was ok to visit; it’s hard to comment really having only seen a small part of the city, but it was good to get around either walking in the evening or by tuk tuk) and taste some of the local dishes, but it was dreadfully hot during our visit even in the evenings.