Compared to the hectic, bustling capitals in other Southeast Asian countries, Vientiane's deliciously relaxing atmosphere makes it feel like the small town it is. After you've done the round of temples, the best thing to do here has always been to wander down to the riverside, relax with a cold Beerlao - the national beer - and watch the sun set over the Mekong.
Settled since at least 1000 CE, Vientiane became an important administrative city of the Kingdom of Lan Xang ("million elephants") in 1545. Ransacked in 1828 by the Siamese, Vientiane experienced a resurgence when it became the capital of the French protectorate, a position it kept after independence 1953, and was unchanged after the communist revolution in 1975. Today Vientiane is the largest city in Laos, with an estimated population of 210,000 in the city itself and some 700,000 in Vientiane Prefecture.
We explore the city by visiting the oldest wat in Vientiane, Wat Sisaket with thousands of miniature Buddha statues, and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which now serves as a museum of arts and antiques. We then travel up Lanexang Avenue you will have the opportunity to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxai Monument, which resembles its Parisian inspiration, the Arc de Triomphe. The climb to the top offers great views over Vientiane. We continue onwards down Rue Singha 23 to Laos’ National icon, and most important religious building the golden stupa of That Luang. The final visit of the morning will be the excellent COPE exhibition centre, highlighting a much overlooked aspect of Laos and a major problem many of the local people face on a day to day basis in the form of unexploded ordnance as a result of heavy bombing campaigns during the Vietnam War area.
In the afternoon we visit the quirky yet impressive Buddha Park, an enchanting collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures on the banks of the Mekong River. By no means historic – Buddha Park was built in the 1950’s by a self styled ‘holy man’ – the park features some very photogenic and unusual sculptures, including a huge reclining Buddha, and a giant pumpkin. Upon returning to Vientiane we have the optional of stopping at the Lao Disabled Womens Centre, which provides valuable training and schooling for disabled women in Laos. The women here are friendly, and its interesting to have a chat with them to find out about their lives. A spectacular view of the Mekong River at sunset is a perfect way to finish the day.
English Speaking local guide
Drinking water during sightseeing
A/C Vehicles for transportation
Local Lunch at restaurant and experience local cuisine