Welcome to Vientiane. Yes, this small town is the country’s biggest and capital city. Just imagine a capital city with less than 200,000 people in its downtown area and just about 700,000 in its entire prefecture. Quite a small town, don’t you think? But that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in any character and flair. Vientiane holds her fair share of relics, monuments and structures, with the occasional moment for you to just kick back at a local restaurant or café and watch the slow pace of life unfold.
First let’s get into some legend about how the city (we’ll call Vientiane a city from now on) came to fruition. Two royal brothers, with the younger one favored to take over the throne instead of his older sibling naturally became rivals because of this. So, he headed on out to find his new city, firstly crossing the river into what is now Udon Thani, Thailand. However, a seven headed serpent like deity (naga) informed him that he’d be better served to build a city on the other side of the river. That is today’s Vientiane.
This nicely sets the tone for what to expect out of the city. Not that seven headed snakes are going to appear, but Vientiane is filled with wonder, mystique and amazement.
So, what are the sites to be at? You can’t experience Vientiane without visiting Wat Sisaket. The telling feature(s) here are its hundreds if not thousands of Buddha images places in cloisters in the wall. In front of them are some bigger ones, all culminating into a fantastic temple interior scene.
Looking for a clone of the Arc d’Triomphe? Patuxai certainly comes close. Built in 1957, the victory monument was built in dedication to those who fought for Laos’ independence from France. It may look like the famous Parisian structure, but there are Lao elements in the design.
You certainly can’t miss out on Pha That Luang, the city’s and country’s main symbol. The gold stupa includes many references of Lao culture, design, architecture and identity, making it the obvious choice as the national symbol. The area is also hosts an art gallery, with fine displays of paintings by local artists.
Looking for the weird and unusual? Just 30 kilometers from Vientiane along the Mekong River is Buddha Park. Built in 1958, there are over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues there, made of reinforced concrete and designed to look centuries old. Most if not all of these images are rather strange and obscure, with pumpkins, demons, several headed and multiple faced deities and the like in attandance.
Get the complete lowdown of the capital and experience the city’s character with a full day Vientiane tour experience. But wait, there’s more. If you’re looking for a complete Lao experience, then look no further than our Laos tour page.
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