Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vientiane, Laos

Here we are in Vientiane, Laos, the capital of the country. Certainly one of the sleepiest and smallest capitals in the world. The mighty Mekong River runs by the city which also forms the border with Thailand. So much history has passed through here including many wars and the secret bombing by the US of the country where one-third of the population was killed during the 1970's because they were communist.

The city is surviving now with much of it due to tourism, where they were permitted to come into the country in 1995.

Though the city was sacked by the Thais in the 1800's some of the temples were spared and many new ones built. Some of the buildings date back to the 1500's and there is a reference to 3000 BC! The temples are different then in Thailand in some ways but the basic timber frame structure is still the same. Using round post colomns of wood or cement, they meet the horizontal timber on top. Then laterals come from the top of the post to form the outer edge of the roof, which is steep with timber rafters coming from the peak, supporting on the main columns and finishing onto outside columns. There is a nice intricate set of small timbers making a truss system of support in between the main and outside columns.

Vientiane has the french influence, (france's colony at the begiining of the 20th century) and as a result has some great French colonial style buildings. Big impressive structures with columns supporting the entranceway and big breezy rooms inside with wide plank wooden floors. One is the Settha Palace Hotel, built in 1932, abandoned in the 1970's, and totally renovated in 1995 to 2000. Not our kind of place to stay, especially at $175 per night when guest houses we slept in cost us $15. But the all rosewood floors, furniture and bar is incredible.

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