Vientiane is the capital of Laos a landlocked South East Asian country officially known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR). Vientiane is a relatively small capital city with a population of only around 800,000.
The picture above is the 45 meter Pha That Luang also known as the Great Sacred Stupa. This image is often used in publicity photos of Vientiane. It’s located outside of the main city and was nearly 4 km from our guesthouse. The visit only took around 20 minutes but unlike many of the temples we saw in Thailand, particularly the huge crowds in Bangkok, there was only a handful of tourists.
Above is Wat Si Saket which is famous for its thousands of tiny Buddha images on display in the walls and hundreds of larger Buddhas. These date from the 16th and 19th centuries. This was another quiet spot and even though we visited during late morning there was hardly any other people around.
There is a strong French influence throughout Vientiane following occupation by the French during 1893-1953. Lane Xang Avenue is the ‘Champs Elysee’ of Vientiane with the Hor Kham, the Presidential Palace at one end and Patuxay, Vientiane’s own Arc d’Triomphe at the other. Patuxay was constructed in 1962 and is also known as the Victory Gate of Vientiane.
There is a 3000 kip (£3) cost per person to climb the 7 floors to the top of Patuxay where you can see panoramic views of the city.
Laos gained independence in 1953 but civil war began in 1954. In the 1960’s Laos was subjected to extensive bombing campaigns which we learned more about during our visit to the COPE Visitor Centre.
One of the pleasures of travelling is sampling traditional food which is a enjoyable interaction with local culture. We had a lovely evening at Kualao Restaurant where authentic Lao food is served while you listen to a live Laos band playing traditional music. Above is Chicken larb, a traditional dish usually served on special occasions.
Vientiane has a range of shopping opportunities with several day and night markets, speciality shops and the newly built air conditioned shopping mall (above). We also noticed several wine shops selling a wide range of imported wines.
We headed towards the Chao Anouvong Park which was near to our guesthouse and we thought would be next to the Mekong River. However the park was dry and dusty and people were still clearing up after the Laos New Year celebrations. There was also marshland between the park and the river. People often go to this spot to watch the sunset over the Mekong although it was somewhat cloudy while we were there!
Most of the reviews we had read about Vientiane suggest that there isn’t too much to do for more than a couple of days which we would be inclined to agree with. As a capital city Vientiane is very small and quiet especially when compared with Asian metropolises such as Bangkok, Jakarta or Manila. A daytime view of a fairly main street (as above) would look very different in most other capital cities.
There are some excursions from Vientiane including the Buddha Park and the Beerlaos factory neither of which we visited.