Vientiane is the village-like capital city of the beautiful country of Laos. There’s a peaceful and chilled out vibe to the place which makes it the ideal base from which to explore the rest of Laos. However, there are plenty of things to do in Vientiane itself. The elegant architecture from French colonial times shares space with ancient temples and exotic parks and gardens.
AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN VIENTIANE
Visit the Patuxai Victory Monument
The Patuxai Victory Monument is a famous landmark in the city and was built as an homage to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, a celebration of Hindu gods and a glorious showcase of traditional Laotian architecture. It is a wonderful example of east meets west, so sit on the side of the ornate fountain nearby and gaze up in awe.
Enter Patuxai Park at sunset and enjoy a quieter walk and a stunning sky. If you’re feeling energetic, clamber up the stairs to the top of the Victory Monument to take in the incredible views of the city.
Be in awe of That Luang
That Luang, Vientiane’s Great Stupa is the most sacred building in the entire country. It is also one of the most spectacular.
This jaw-dropping golden pavilion is typically Laotian, but to western eyes, it is unbelievably opulent. The glimmering towers soar into the blue sky and are decorated with delicately carved turrets.
That Luang is 4km outside of the city so take a day trip to soak up a story-book building and learn more about the Buddhist faith.
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Stroll around Buddha Park
Xieng Khuan is the Laotian name for Buddha Park, a special place that boasts lush gardens and over 200 statues of a religious nature.
Travellers tend to make the 20km journey here from Vientiane to see the enormous reclining Buddha. It’s a staggering piece of work that happily shares space with Hindu deities.
Buddha Park was created in 1958 by an open-minded monk who saw the importance of religions existing in harmony with each other. An impressive and important idea that we should all work towards.
My personal favourite in this inspirational place was the sculpture of Indra, the King of the Hindu Gods. In this incarnation, he sits solemnly upon an elephant with three heads.
Visit Wat Ho Phra Keo
Wat Ho Phra Keo is an ancient Buddhist temple part of which can be dated back to 1565. It is a magnificent structure that is a lovely place to explore but is also renowned for being the former home of the controversial Emerald Buddha statue.
This precious artefact is famous for being stolen from Thailand by a member of the Laotian royal family. In 1778 it was reclaimed and now resides in Bangkok.
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Learn at Lao National Museum
Learning about the country you are in is an important part of being a world traveller and we should all take every opportunity to expand our knowledge.
The Lao National Museum has a comprehensive collection of paintings, jewellery, photographs, and sculptures. Prehistoric Laos also has an exhibition filled with dinosaur bones and pottery fragments from early humans.
The National Museum is a very pretty building from French colonial times so, even if you don’t have time to go in, it is worth a visit.
Be amazed at Wat Si Saket
Wat Si Saket is a Buddhist Temple that has the sad boast of being the only surviving religious building from before the brutal 1828 invasion by the kingdom of Siam. Much of the city was burnt to the ground but somehow Wat Si Saket survived annihilation.
Buddhist devotees and curious tourists will come to visit this beacon of hope and resilience and the 5000 images of Buddha within.
I adored the bold colours of Wat Si Saket, the yellow columns and scarlet red roof seem to have been painted with such rich hues in defiance of the Siamese troops from all those years ago.
Discover COPE Visitor Centre
The Vietnam war is still having a massive impact on the people of Laos due to the astonishing and horrifying number of bombs that were dropped by the US during those terrible years. Unexploded cluster bombs and mines still lie hidden in the ground and continue to kill and maim people all over Laos.
COPE is an organisation that is dedicated to seeking out these deadly explosives and defusing them. They also provide prosthetics and rehabilitation to those who suffer life-changing injuries.
The visitor centre is a sobering place that explains bluntly the long-lasting effects modern warfare can have on a community. It has excellent displays, hard-hitting videos, and an exhibition of false limbs to illustrate the pain and heartache still being suffered.
It’s also inspirational, I came away moved and full of admiration for war-damaged people who are determined to heal themselves and their country.
Enjoy Vientiane Night Market
The Vientiane Night Market stretches along a wide promenade on the bank to one side of the Mekong River. There are lots of stalls to peruse and the goods are cheap and plentiful. It’s a little bit soulless though! There are no authentic crafts to buy and the usual food stalls are missing, but if you’re seeking sportswear, electrical items, and phone accessories this is the shopping location for you.
Many tourists find the craziness of typical Asian markets makes them feel anxious. They are noisy, filled with unusual aromas, and claustrophobic. Vientiane night market is very different. It is much quieter and the wider space leaves room to breathe.
Laos is the most laid back of all the South East Asian countries and the vendors in Vientiane reflect that relaxed vibe. They are happy to let their customers browse in peace so you can pick up a bargain without feeling stressed.
The night market is open from 6pm-10pm so it’s a great location to enjoy a walk after dinner. Once you’ve shopped and soaked up the atmosphere, head to the nearby park and watch the sunset over the Mekong River.
PLANNING YOUR PERFECT VIENTIANE TRIP
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