Vientiane (pronounced wiang-chan) is Laos’ capital and largest city. There are about 200,000 people living in the city center, with over 730,000 in the Vientiane Prefecture. The city’s relaxing atmosphere contrasts with other Southeast Asian capitals such as Bangkok, Thailand and Hanoi, Vietnam, making Vientiane feel more like a provincial town than a capital city.
There is a legend on the founding of Vientiane. The great Laotian epic Phra Lak Phra Lam tells of a story about two royal brothers. One of them left the great Lao kingdom of Muang Inthapatha Maha Nakhon because he was denied the throne in favor of his younger brother. So, the out of favor brother (named Prince Thattaradtha) founded a city on the west bank of the Mekong River, that is today Udon Thani, Thailand. However, a seven headed naga (a human deity taking a form of a snake) told the prince to cross the river and start a new city, which would eventually be called Vientiane.
Much like the saga, Vientiane is a charming place to visit. The Lao capital is filled with tree lined roads that are dotted with temples and colonial buildings. You can easily explore Laos’ capital by foot or by bicycle and see a city with Lao, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and French influences. The backdrop of the Mekong River adds to the already soothing atmosphere of the city.
So, once you are in the capital, what should you do? On EXO Travel’s Vientiane City Tour – Full Day package, we recommend a stop at Wat Sisaket. It is a Buddhist temple built in 1818, designed with Thai architectural style. The temple’s breezy teak covered hallways are filled with thousands of miniature Buddha statues. In the center of the courtyard is an ordination hall which contains more Buddha images and statues as well as beautiful murals of the Buddha’s past lives. Wat Phra Keo is another destination we recommend you to see. This temple used to be the resting place of the sacred Emerald Buddha (which is now housed at the Grand Palace in Bangkok). It is now used primarily as a religious museum, displaying a collection of both Lao and Khmer artwork. There are also other marvelous places to visit on this tour.
If you have less time, we also have a Vientiane City Tour – Half Day package. But to fully appreciate the country, we recommend the Laos in Depth tour. Not only will you experience Vientiane, you will also enjoy the country’s spiritual capital, Luang Prabang. Stops to Kuang Si Waterfall, Pak Ou Caves and the quiet town of Vang Vieng are also included in the itinerary. You can also see our suggested Laos tour page for other options into this fascinating and enchanting country.
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