Friday, September 4, 2015

Scenes from My Running Path: Vientiane, Laos

I loved Vientiane for many reasons, but the one that stands out the most is the river walk, or in my case, the river run. 

Before I left for SE Asia, I had this fantasy that I would be up at dawn every morning to run down the sidewalks of every city. Perhaps I was naive or in denial, because I have never been able to wake up before 10:00 am naturally, and I often found myself sleep in during my time in Asia. If I can't even be a morning person, how can I be a morning runner?
Secondly, this fantasy shows my ignorance of most cities in SE Asia. Few cities have paved sidewalks suitable for pedestrians. Temperatures during the day can soar to 40 degree C, and the dust, dirt, smog, and exhaust from cars can be overwhelming. Moped traffic rules the roads, and even if there are sidewalks, mopeds are happy to drive on them when car traffic moves to slowly. 
Going for an afternoon jog is nearly impossible almost everywhere. 
Everywhere but Vientiane. 

Along the Mekong River, the city built a gorgeous riverwalk. As wide as a road for car traffic, this river walk is blocked off for cars and even mopeds, so pedestrians can walk freely without fear. In the evenings, it is packed with local people dancing, playing sport, looking at the sunset, or picnicking, but it is so huge that you almost never have to cross paths with anyone. I saw plenty of other evening runners, many of whom were foreign. Taking advantage of the cool evenings, the beautiful sunsets, and the well-paved car-free path, I ran almost every single day in Vientiane.

The road is about 5 kilometers from start to finish, 10 K for a round trip. The best part of the path is alongside Chao Anouvong Park. After that the road continues to be well-paved but the view is reduced to boarded of construction sites. It ends, anticlimactically, at foot of the Indian Embassy. I don't really recommend running all 5K unless you are really trying to get a work out. If you just want to check out the scene and experience the river walk, you don't need to go further than Don Chan Palace (not actually a palace). 

Despite a few shortcomings at the end, the river walk at Vientiane is my favorite place to run in all of SE Asia. 

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