Vientiane. The capital of Laos faces neighboring Thailand through shimmering heat waves across a wide flood plain and muddy waters of the Mekong river. Golden stupas, reclining buddhas and vibrant temples contrast against remnants of French rule: rambling colonial mansions and Arc de Triomphe style victory gate.
My first visit to Vientiane, while living in Nakhon Sawan in Central Thailand, saw my friend Sophie and I wading along flooded, potholed streets during rainy season. I have vague memories of wandering in a small town. Not a capital city!
Now, 14 years on in the swelter and dust of the dry season, traffic scurries along streets rimmed with a frosty air-con oasis of modern cafés, restaurants and hotels linking the plethora of Laotian Buddhist temples while condo developments sprout up along the riverside. A city in progress but it still feels relaxed and exotic.
For visitors tuk tuks or bicycles are the way to get around and see the sights. After a few days of exhausting footwork and motorized laziness I rented a bicycle and peddled around Vientiane visiting temples and museums.
Chilling out during the heat of the day in cafés, reviving on French baguette and iced coffee I’d venture out to photograph again during the late afternoon glow. Around sunset, relishing in the slightly less steamy air, I joined other cyclists, walkers, joggers and skate boarders along Vientiane’s riverside.