The Contrarian Traveller
Learn about the Next "Last Great Place" before it's gone... *
Sign Up for The Quarterly Contrarian
Special One-time, Introductory Offer!
Eight issues — that's Two Full Years — for FREE
Just send us your email address now

Home | Dispatches | Articles | News | Links | Contact | About the CT

Jordan Found Alive in… Vientiane, Laos

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Rob Jordan, the CT’s Southeast Asian editor, had been incommunicado for more than two months.

In December, several CTers grew worried. One speculated that Jordan, believed to be in Bangkok, had fallen under the spell of a radical form of Thervada Buddhism. Another CTer, Grinnell, The Urbanologist, suggested that Jordan was likely at the Full Moon party in Koh Phangan. (Jordan, like all of us at the CT, is constantly in pursuit of a cheap bohemian paradise).
Weeks passed. Hannukah turned into Christmas. Christmas faded in Kwanzaa. Then New Year. Each week, we waited with expectation. But none of Jordan’s meticulous missives about the charming gardens, the architectural stylings, the history, the culture, bistro food of Southeast Asian arrived.
Finally, just as the Alpha Contrarian was on the verge of making the maverick gesture of contacting Jordan’s next of kin, we heard word from Southeast Asia. Jordan was not in Bangkok (his usual base), nor Chiang Mai, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Luang Prabang, Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi or Angkor Wat.

Jordan explained tersely, but enthusiastically, that he had scoured Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, that he had celebrated Christmas cruising the Mekong, and that, at last, lat week, he had found peace.

“I have found the most laid-back capital in the world,” Jordan wrote.

That was all we heard. He wrote back again, with no further info. We grew intrigued. We started doing research. Days later, we found a link on the New York Times site; Jordan was not the only one who was smitten with the Laotian capital. The New York Times had recently ranked Vientiane, Laos as one of its Top Destinations for 2008.

Daniel Altman writing in the Times sounded eerily like Jordan.
“It’s easy to turn into a turbo-tourist in Southeast Asia…A vacation can start to feel like a mail route… When it’s time to take a break, there’s Vientiane. Laos’s relaxed capital is rich with pleasures.”

OK. So we read the Times – and it only intensified our intrigue. We were, of course, seduced by its description of this sleepy pleasure dome in the Times. We learned that there are several temples, a wonderful open-air market, that Laotian food is like a mix of Thai and Vietnamese, that the there’s a bar called Jazzy Brick that has wicker-backed armchairs and 100 plus cocktails. There are, the Times tells us, some fine boutique hotels in town.

But really, what is Vientiane like?

The Contrarian Assessment: Vientiane.

Once again, the New York Times has found an off-beat, unconventional place — touted its virtues to the world. Told us that it’s safe to visit (boutique hotels, temples, decent food, and colonial bars), yet we have little sense of place.

So… next week, Jordan is, at last, back. We’ll corner him. Pester him with questions. Then feature this, “Our Contrarian De-Brief” with Jordan on the this soon-to-be-popular capital — when to go, where to stay, how long to stay, how to approach Laos like a true contrarian. And Rob - as always — will answer the burning question: “What the New York Times Won’t Tell You about Vientiane, Laos?”

In advance of Jordan’s De-Brief, we urge you, though, to check out this slide show, by an NYT-paid photog.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.