It's that time again. My Thai visa is expiring and I need a new one. I would really love to fly to Phnom Penh, Tokyo, or the Philippines and spend a week or two, but I need to make this a quick trip. That leaves one option: Vientiane, Laos.

In my opinion, the Thai consulate in Vientiane is the best in the world. At least the best of all the Thai consulates I've been to, and I've been to more than a dozen. They are quick, efficient, and most of all, hassle-free. I've gotten 4 consecutive back-to-back single entry tourist visa's from Vientiane without incident. Like all Thai consulates and embassies the process takes 2 days. Drop your passport off before 11am and pick it up the next day around 2pm.

There is only one downside to going to Vientiane - there is nothing to do. Laos is a beautiful country and is often overlooked by travelers. But the sights (Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, and 4,000 Island) are all a good distance from Vientiane. I find myself in a capital city with 36+ hours to kill and I am utterly bored.

I've been living and traveling around Southeast Asia for over 2 years and Laos is my least favorite country. It's nice enough, the people are nice enough, things are cheap. It's just boring. It doesn't have all the various attractions and benefits a single western male traveler in the region becomes accustomed to. If you can't read between my lines, this passage from the US embassy website should provide some clarity:

Relationships with Lao citizens: Lao law prohibits sexual contact between foreign citizens and Lao nationals except when the two parties have been married in accordance with Lao Family Law. Any foreigner who enters into a sexual relationship with a Lao national risks being interrogated, detained, arrested, or fined. Foreigners are not permitted to invite Lao nationals of the opposite sex to their hotel rooms, and police may raid hotel rooms without notice or consent.

So there is nothing to do. But this isn't my first trip to Vientiane. I've been here many times before. Long ago I figured out that I could use my time here to knock out those odd errands I don't normally like doing. One of those errands? STD testing.

I like to get myself STD (primarily for HIV) tested every six months. After dropping off my passport at the Thai consulate at 8:30am (and getting out of there at 9am), I walked over to Mahosot hospital. It's about 2 kilometers and I took my time (cutting through the air conditioned portion of the morning market). I arrived at 10am.

Public hospitals in southeast Asia can be a bit overwhelming for the first time farang, but I am no first time farang. I make my way past the hundreds of waiting Laotian patients and find a nurse at the registration desk. I enquire about STD testing and she directs me to the International Clinic around the corner.

International Clinics are typically in better condition than public hospitals (despite being an arm of the same institution) and this one is no exception. I enter the clinic and I am refreshed by a rush of cool air conditioning. There are very few people (all Laotian) here. I register, have my blood pressure taken, consult with a doctor, pay, and have my blood drawn all in the space of ten minutes. It's 10:15am and I am their 8th customer so far today. I am told to return at 3pm for my results. The total cost (for HIV and syphilis tests) is 190,000 kip (about $23).

That was too quick. It's 10:15am and I have nothing to do until 3pm. I wander around Vientiane for the next 4+ hours. I am bored. I return to the clinic for my results (go back to where you had your blood drawn) and pick up my results in under 2 minutes. I receive my clean bill of health and head back into the capital city of Laos with nothing to do. I'll go get a foot massage or something.

International Clinic
Sakarin Road, Vientiane, Laos
+856 20 55 251 189

Google Maps

The International Clinic at Mahosot hospital offers more than just STD testing. They have a small lab and can perform most standard blood tests. They offer limited vaccinations as they only have Hepatitis B vaccines on site. But if you walk 50 meters around the corner you can purchase a vaccine at one of the numerous pharmacies. Bring it back and they will inject it for you.

The clinic is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. I don't think they offer lab services after hours (I forgot to inquire), but for basic accident and trama care (stitches, a broken arm or leg) they are open. If I ever have a medical incident in Vientiane I would head there first if possible. It's cheap and the quality of care seems to be above standard for public hospitals.

For those concerned about privacy, the clinic didn't ask me for any personal identification. I had to fill out one form with my name and address, but I could have written down anything.

Happy travels.