The Laotian capital of Vientiane enjoys its reputation of exuding a noticeably more relaxed air than capital cities elsewhere in Asia, and is situated along the shore of Indochina’s main artery, the Mekong River, which for a significant stretch of its seaward journey to the South China Sea, also defines much of Lao’s boundary with its eastern neighbour, Thailand, over which there are several symbolic Friendship Bridges.

Friendship bridge, loas - thailand border

Especially important in the absence of a coast, the river remains a fundamental influence in the shaping of the history and character of the Lao people, and plays a profound role in travel for both business and pleasure.  

The inner core of Vientiane is peaceful and compact, highly suited to relaxed walking and cycling excursions and is centred around Nam Phou Place, a popular gathering point for both locals and visitors.

Wat sisaket, vientiane, laos

To the east of the square, Wat Sisaket, Vientiane’s oldest remaining monastery, and the only one to have survived fully intact from the flames of the Siamese invasion of 1828, together with Wat Simuang are the most visited of its religious structures. Directly opposite, the Presidential Palace adjoins Haw Pra Kaew, a former royal temple now housing the Museum of Art and Antiquities. 

Also close to Nam Phou, the Lao National Museum provides an interesting, though politically coloured, account of the Laotian struggle. Another cluster of Wats populate the eastern side of the waterfront area.

Patuxai monument, vientiane, laos

Out of the main central area, the Patouxai Monument echoes unmistakable French influence and is often described as Vientiane’s ‘Arc de Triomphe’. The likewise Parisian inspired avenue, Lane Xang, leading to the monument is also home to the Morning Market. Further afield, the golden spires of Pha That Louang sit on a historical Khmer site and are an iconic Laotian symbol. 

Pha that louang, vientiane, laos

Popular trips beyond the city often include a visit to Buddha Park, an innovative collection of cleverly aged modern concrete artistic sculptures mainly designed around Buddhist and Hindu themes.

Buddha park, vientiane, laos

 

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