Vientiane is the capital of Laos located on a curve of the Mekong River and shares the border with Thailand. Although the largest city in Laos, it remains the feel of a sleepy, peaceful town with ancient temples and tree linear boulevards that used to be a fortified wall against foreign invasions. It’s a place for passionate pedestrians to pleasantly explore on foot.
What to do?
Vientiane’s major attractions are its serene Buddhist monasteries and significant monuments that dominate the scene on the streets of central Vientiane. Wat Sisaket is the oldest temple in Vientiane, housing hundreds of Buddha images; and Wat Simuang, the city’s most popular temple and monastery. Haw Pha Kaew is another temple of note, although with a slightly less impressive history, it was built as the home of the Emerald Buddha that is now housed in Bangkok. After being destroyed in 1828, the latest reconstruction is dated from 1942. Another big attraction is Pha That Luang, Laos’s most important religious building, best seen at sundown for the effects of the sunset on its golden surface. The Black Stupa is a more authentic ancient construction.
Beyond the temples, Vientiane offers the Patuxai or Victory Gate, which has to rival the Arc De Triomphe in Paris. Also a short distance from the city is Xieng Khuan, or Buddha Park. Buddha Park was created in 1958 and houses an eclectic selection of Buddha images. The Socialist-era Lao Revolutionary Museum is also worth a visit.
When to go?
Laos has three distinct seasons, all with their advantages and disadvantages. The best time to visit overall is the cool season, between November and February. By November, the rains are usually over, all rivers are navigable and roads are passable.
Don’t drink the tap water – stick to the bottled water available everywhere