Home > Society & Culture, Travel > Nostalgia Ain’t What it Once Was…

Nostalgia Ain’t What it Once Was…

VIENTIANE, LAOS – When I first visited this city in December of 2004, it was such a lovely quiet change of pace to Thailand that I fell in love with it almost instantly.

How things have changed.

The Lao capital had a slow pace and a distinct vibe that distinguished it from neighbouring countries. Now, there are more ritzy cafés and restaurants per block than you’re likely to see in Sydney.

Normally, I’d appreciate this. I love a good coffee and a quiet place to sit and read, or write. But if I wanted to go to a place full of relatively expensive cafés, I’d go to Newtown. I like being able to visit such places on my travels, but not when that’s all that’s on offer.

Rather than the sedate riverside French colonial town it was way back, when riverside ‘bars’ were just plastic tables under a dodgy tarpaulin along the dusty bank of the Mekong, it’s turned into a gentrified Yuppieville. And when this type of thing has happened in parts of Sydney, it’s resulted in a sharp increase in prices. Vientiane is no exception, sadly. It’s twice as expensive as Phnom Penh and three times pricier than other parts of Laos. It feels like it’s lost it’s soul. Some ‘tuktuk’/songthaew/saamlor drivers double as pimps and drug dealers, and there are ‘working girls’ stalking the streets after dark. Two developments that this town could’ve done without.

As I said in an email to a friend last night, “Why do Westerners swarm to an area and transform it into a replica of every other area they swarm to?”

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