Welcome to Vientiane, the capital city of beautiful Laos. Landlocked between China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, Laos has an important long history with these countries. A history with the creation of Kingdoms, Empires and legacies some of which have survived to this day.
An Itinerary for Vientiane, the Quiet Capital of Laos!
An interesting capital city, and unlike its neighbours expect a chilled out calm environment but it can feel a little empty at times when walking around or walking down the super-wide streets … that’s not to say it’s not worth exploring and seeing the main sights. You are reminded at times of the French influence such as building designs or the artwork observed randomly as we walk through the streets.
We chose to fly into Vientiane from Thailand avoiding the long road or train trip. Maybe if we had some time, the trip would have been great to try out, but with so many low-cost flight options between neighbouring countries now it was easy for us to fly on both our visits to Laos.
Nissan pickup trucks seem to be the car of choice in the capital, the roads generally aren’t bust but you are going to spot a number of these vehicles. Maybe there was a big promotion before we arrived.
We ignored everyone’s advice and thought we could stretch out 3 days in Vientiane, but really we finished the main touristy parts of the city in a day.
Spending time in Vientiane, things to do!
Be a little careful on the paths when you head out of the main town it’s not unusual to come across open holes or slabs that move when you walk on them. Other than that safety-wise you really don’t need to worry too much, just be your normal cautious selves.
Build between 1957-68 Patuxai Arch is a standing tribute to all the peoples of Lao that died to achieve independence from the French.
The views around the open area give you some good angles to enjoy and capture some moments together, but nothing will beat getting up those stairs and getting the view from the very top. Take your time walking up it’s not a race plus on two levels there are some market stalls to browse around.
Pha That Luang (Golden Temple)
Walking around this temple we really enjoyed, simply taking our time and enjoying a slow walk around.
The pictures we’d seen online from others made this place look huge, like something on the scale of the golden pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. But in comparison, it’s smaller but still very impressive in design and layout.
We walked from our hotel close to the Presidential Palace, stopping off for a Vietnamese coffee on the route and topping up the water bottles too. When you enter the car park gates there is a huge space for events, where there was nothing on only a few cars and coaches around.
After finishing up we didn’t have anything special planned for the afternoon, so we walked back. A
Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan)
Fancy a longer tuk-tuk, or bus ride, outside the town, passing the great Leo brewery … then head out to this destination and enjoy the trip with a buddha park waiting for you at the other end!
It’s a mixture of traditional and more modern Buddhism art sculptures and a place you can stroll around at your own pace. Across the river, you can see Thailand, and you will also pass the peace/friendship bridge as you pass through the roads to the park.
COPE Visitor Center
It’s a complete must when you visit the capital, this centre is a living memory to Laos recent past and a huge tribute to the amazing work that has been conducted by COPE.
We learnt so much about the history and struggles that people have had to deal with. Something that’s still very real today, as it’s estimated that over a third of all bombs dropped never even detonated. This continues to cause problems for the government to make these safe, but also has an impact on local life. The metal used for these bombs is also worth money for scrap so trades have formed with some people going to salvage without specialised training all of the potential payouts. So dangerous and scary to think that this is a normal everyday occurrence in this country.
Laos National Museum
Recently we’ve been reading that the museum is in the process of being moved. Not sure on the timings for this, but worth checking with your hostel/hotel before setting off on the walk to get to the building.
In terms of exhibitions, it was really nicely done with extensive information, available in English, from the early periods all the way through the damage from the close proximity of the Vietnam war.
Its a short walk from the main town but an awesome part of the local history. Legend has it that it is protected by a snake that watches over it.
It’s another tradition of Far East Asian countries that continues through Laos too, night markets. Whilst you will definitely still come across cheap Chinese made souvenirs there is more of a selection of homemade & craft pieces available in Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
Sunset over the Mekong River!
You are going to find this as a top thing across Asia so if you have the opportunity to witness a sunset with a beautiful background take it! The Mekong River is as grand as rivers come, this Monmouth of a river borders several countries and connects the capital to the town of Luang Prabang.
Chao Anouvong Park is where we watched the sun go down across the river. This park is barely used throughout the day but then comes to life at night with activities/dancing, which then restarts in the morning.
Where To Stay In Vientiane – Accommodation Tips
-Luxury – Lao Poet Hotel – Our top choice for you all is the Lao Poet hotel, if you are looking for something with a little more modern style then this one could be for you.
-Mid – Mali Namphu Hotel – Central hotel and good sized rooms, but the breakfast is very average, close to some good cafes though. We stayed here and were really happy with the hotel and the laundry service too.
– Budget – V Hotel Vientiane – A cute place close to the centre, the reviews looks really good for this place as well.