Vientiane – A unique Asian capital

Ever heard of Vientiane? Me neither until I planned my visit to Lao. Probably for one good reason: It just isn’t as spectacular and busy as any other capital in South East Asia like Bangkok or Hanoi. But only at first sight. It feels more like a bigger village, that’s what makes Vientiane much more charming than any other big city.

The Don Chan Palace in Vientiane

No skycrapers – except for an architectural disaster at the riverside: The Don Chan Palace, a 14-story-hotel. Also the tallest building of the whole country! You see, Lao is different.

The only skyscraper in Vientiane, Lao

Actually, all buildings in Vientiane must not be taller by law than the Patuxai Monument, of the very few sightseeing spots in Vientiane. That’s right, there’s really not much to see or visit Vientiane. Nevertheless, you should pay Vientiane a visit and enjoy some laid-back Laotian city life.

Sightseeing in Vientiane

One of the advantages of such a relatively small city: You don’t have to rush from one sight to the other. Take your time and visit all important landmarks of Vientiane – and you will still have some time left to have a cup of Lao coffee in of the charming cafés in the Old Town or grab some delicious local food on the night market by the river.

Patuxai Monument

The Patuxai Monument looks like the Laotian version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but it was built much later in the 1960s. From the top you have a wonderful view over the city, and the design details like the ornamental window grids are just charming.

Afternoon is perfect for a visit, but be sure to arrive on time, the monument closes early, around 5pm.

Patuxai Monument, Vientiane, Lao

Patuxai Monument, Vientiane, Lao

That Luang

The giant stupa of That Luang is the most important religious landmark in Lao. Big and golden, it’s really an amazing building. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to enter the stupa itself. But That Luang is in fact a giant complex with some more interesting temples and buildings to visit. It’s best to come by bike, so you can drive through the whole area. (Cars are not allowed.)

Fascinating place, I’ll write more about it in of the next posts!

Pha That Luang, Vientiane, Lao

That Dam

A large old stupa right in the middle of a residential area. Nice and surprisingly quiet place to chill.

That Dam in Vientiane, Lao

 

How to get to Vientiane

By bus

Local buses at the Central Bus Station (Talat Sao), Northern and Southern Bus station for destinations in the North/South.
Private tour operators/ tourist buses will usually take you straight to the Old Town, where most of the hotels are.

By train

Yes, there’s a train to Thailand now, whooohoo! (But to nowhere else.)

By plane

Vientiane has a quite central airport (VTE), only a few kilometers away from the city.
Airlines, which fly to Vientiane are:
Lao Airlines
AirAsia
Thai Airways
China Eastern
Vietnam Airlines

There are always some good bargains, so see for yourself on sites like Skyscanner or Momondo if you want to save yourself the hassle of a bus ride.

 

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2 Comments

  • We actually really enjoyed Vientiane, especially the French-inspired cuisine. Lots of very good restaurants in the city. It doesn't get much appreciating from tourists (most of whom are of the backpacker variety) but Vientiane is an interesting city with a degree of sophistication not found elsewhere in Laos or northern Thailand.Frank (bbqboy)
    • Hi Frank, that's true... Vientiane is one of a kind in Laos. And the food - really amazing! Thank you for pointing that out :) Safe travels, Tatiana

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