Wiangchan, My Kind Of Town

Not many Filipinos travel to Wiangchan, Laos for leisure; in fact many of my ‘kababayans’ travel there for visa purposes and the most common thing I hear them say about the place is ‘it’ being the sleepiest town that they have been to. In most instances, it irked me to hear such comments but then I quickly reproach myself for mirroring that kind of partiality; after all we have different interests which only meant that we were all entitled to voice out our own opinions.  To each his own they say and as for me – Wiangchan may not be everybody’s cup of tea but she (yes, I daresay refer to Wiangchan as a woman) is my kind of brew.

DSC_0575 Two young monks strolling at the eastern gate of Patouxay located in Thannon Lanxing

Sleepy might be other people’s favorite word to describe this town but I prefer to use laid-back, the kind of town that allows you to maximize the experience of ‘chilling out’ to its full capacity. If you don’t know how to slow down then Wiangchan is not the place for you. I agree with some foreigners I have met on the road who have said that it’s not a ‘doing city’ but more of a ‘do nothing city.’ Maybe not ‘nothing’ but fifty percent of your day might probably be well spent lounging about in a quiet artistic nook somewhere (which for me is just perfect), drinking the famous Lao beer while interacting with the locals.

The locals make the most of the whole experience. I have been to Wiangchan four times and I have nothing but praise for the kind of treatment that I have received. The sunny disposition of the locals are so infectious that I could hardly contain my amazement. I have always prided in saying that the resilience of the Filipino people despite centuries of colonization, rape, and pillage was rare but my visits to the capital of Laos have proven otherwise. The Laotians were warm and friendly; like the Philippines, several colonizers have drawn lines around this country as well and although it has been reported as one of the least-developed Southeast Asian countries, this fact has never disheartened the locals. Come to think of it, what exactly is a developed country anyway when the term “developed” is defined by self-entitled first world functionaries whose main basis is paper money.

laotians

Lao. Yes, people, like the rule for proper nouns you have to say it like how the locals say it; hence it is not La-os (or Laaaawwws) even though it really is spelled with an S. It’s a shame though that majority of those who have heard of the country refer to the capital as Vientiane, the romanticized version with French origin, as opposed to Wiangchan or Viangchan at the least.  Like the name, one can also see the foreign influence in the impressive villas that are quite visible in this small city as they have been turned into museums and embassies. Even the street signs, building names, and the lingering culinary scene in the crisscrossed rues depicted the refinement of French Indochina rule.  However, one cannot say that this is all there is to this city. Wiangchan is still as Asian as Asia is and the evidences of this notion are the temples, stupas, and statues found in different corners of the city, testaments of Hinduism and Buddhism.

wiangchan

A few of Wiangchan’s bold national treasures!

Cycling is the key to get to know this interesting town. Lucky for me, I had volunteer friends who were happy to let me borrow their bicycles while I was there. Those bicycle rides allowed me to enjoy the whole stretch of the Mekong River, pointed me to bohemian-inspired restaurants where wi-fi was frowned upon because the owner believed that people should have actual conversations, introduced me to locals huffing their asses off in the park because aerobics was not yet dead in this part of the world, and paired me with other restless free spirits who were also discovering the world.

fun times in laos

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