On the evening before the first day of Khao Pansa _ Buddhist Lent _ last month, a full moon rising in the east magically complimented the sun setting behind a bend in the mighty Mekong, smearing dazzling golds, oranges and reds across the river that flows right alongside the heart of the utterly unpretentious Lao capital. The sense of space here is simply overwhelming, and enhanced by the fresh breezes giving shape to the Lao national flag and an equally large red communist banner with a yellow hammer-and-sickle motif, both of which stand on the bank atop soaring flagpoles.
Vientiane’s majestically spacious promenade along the Mekong looks more like a beachfront.
Who says Laos is landlocked? This vast promenade of Tiananmen proportions possesses a more profound sense of place than many beaches in countries that have actual seacoasts. For kilometre after kilometre, strollers, cyclists and skateboarders savour the sheer emptiness of waterside Vientiane, which nearby still sports the wide and also most walkable tree-lined avenues that testify that this was once a part (albeit a sleepy backwater) of French Indochina.
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