Back down in the lowlands the temperature is again sweltering. Laos’ biggest city is a mish-mash of quality international restaurants, small local haunts, more monasteries, and crumbling European architecture. Humidity hasn’t treated it well, and many of the buildings don’t look as if they’ve had a lick of paint since the French left town back in the 1950s.
My favourite site of all though has to be the Patuxai or Victory Monument, which closely resembles Paris’s Arch de Triumph. It’s not its appearance that attracts me as it is not overly beautiful, but its story. Nicknamed the ‘Vertical Runway’, it was built in the 1960s using U.S. funds. The funds were supplied expressly to extend the runway at the airport (no doubt convenient for the U.S. to keep an eye on some of Laos’ neighbours). Anyway, instead of extending the runway as planned, the Victory Monument was built. With the two columns of the arch reaching into the sky, it serves as a nice little “up yours” to the U.S.
A dinner and show tonight was goodbye for the group. I am jealous as most of them are continuing on for another couple of weeks into Cambodia and Vietnam. Argh…Japanese holidays are just too short.